Bugloss: discover what
makes it a unique plant!

 

The bugloss has already flourished. Every month of May, when Spring is in its noon, many natural spaces of Tenerife are filled with the color that this endemic species brings. You can find the bugloss in every island of the archipelago, but it is especially common in Tenerife. Because of its beauty and because of how exclusive it is, in StarExcursions we would like to introduce you this splendid specimen of the canarian flora.

 

The Bugloss – main characteristics

 

red bugloss tenerifeThe bugloss is a group of species which belong to the genus Echium, which means “viper”. This is due to the fact that its seeds have a triangular shape, which resemble the head of this snake.

These species are endemic, which means that they only grow, in a natural way, in a very specific place of the Earth -in this case, in the Canary Islands-.

In Spanish we call them “tajinaste”. This word belongs to the Guanche, an ancient language that was spoken in the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquer of the archipelago. Concretely, the word was “tainast”, which means “needle”.

They grow individually, and there are long spaces between them. However, they can also grow in extensive group formations, as some kind of little forest. These groups are called “tajinastal”.

 

Species of bugloss that exist in the Canary Islands

In our archipelago, the bugloss exists in different forms. Some are more remarkable and more common than others. According to the Wikipedia, theses species are the following ones:

Red Bugloss (“Tajinaste Rojo”). Echium wildpretii, endemic from Tenerife (ssp. wildpretii) and La Palma (ssp. trichosiphon).
Tower of jewels (“Arrebol tajinaste”; “Orgullo de Tenerife”). Echium simplex DC., endemic from Tenerife.
Echium callithyrsum (“Tajinaste azul de Gran Canaria”). Endemic from Gran Canaria.
Echium decaisnei (“Tajinaste blanco”). Endemic from Gran Canaria. In Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, you can find it too, along with the subspecies purpuriense.
Echium gentianoides (“Tajinaste azul de cumbre”). Endemic from La Palma.
Echium auberianum (“Tajinaste azul o picante”).
Echium handiense (“Tajinaste azul de Jandía”). Endemic from southern Fuerteventura.
Echium acanthocarpum (“Tajinaste azul de La Gomer”). Endemic from La Gomera.
Echium brevirame (“Tajinaste blanco”). Endemic from La Palma.
Echium aculeatum. Endemic from El Hierro, La Gomera and Tenerife.
Echium hierrense (“Tajinaste del Hierro”). Endemic from El Hierro.
Echium pininana. Endemic from La Palma.
Echium webbii. Endemic from La Palma.


From this list, we will talk about only those which grow in Tenerife, which are the following ones:

red bugloss tenerife

Red Bugloss (“Tajinaste Rojo”):

It is the most famous of all of the different species of bugloss that exist, because it is the most visually astonishing. As a result, when somebody talks about the bugloss, this person is probably referring to the red bugloss. This bush has no branches and its shape resembles a big spear, which can be more than 2 meters high. It is a biennial plant, which means that it takes 2 years to complete its biological cycle.

During the first year, it develops a dense rosette of lanceolate leaves, which can be up to 30 cm long. During the second one, flowers appear, and with it does the red color which have made bugloss worldwide known. These flowers form an erect inflorescence which can be 1 to 3 meters high.

After it has completed its biological cycle, it dies. This is a fact that makes the red bugloss an even more interesting species, and it can be interpreted as some kind of poetical gesture of nature. After this has happened, the floral skeleton remains erect for a period of time, until it ends up collapsing.

red bugloss tenerife In this photograph you can see the skeleton of a dead bugloss

 

It is worth mentioning that the bugloss is the main plant that bees of Tenerife use to produce honey. This is due to its big concentration of pollen and nectar, which strongly attracts these insects. This type of honey has a pale color, almost transparent, with an amber touch. These characteristics make this type of honey worthy of having its own designation of origin.

In Tenerife, the red bugloss is characteristic of Las Cañadas del Teide National Park, being Las Cañadas, La Fortaleza viewpoint and El Llano de Ucanca the best places to observe this species, although it can also be found in others places, such as Vilaflor, Arico or Arafo.



Echium auberianum (“Tajinaste azul o picante”):

blue bugloss tenerife

For many reasons, this endemic species is less known than the red bugloss, but, mainly, because it is less eye-catching, quite smaller and also less common. It can be found in the subalpine area of Tenerife, where it grows up to 1 meter high. It has blue flowers and it is also known as “stinging bugloss”, because its leaves produce some itch when you touch them.

The biological cycle of this bugloss is another big difference: it lasts only one year and the bugloss does not die after it, so it can reflower for many consecutive years.

One of the most remarkable facts about this two species is when the combine and give a hybrid specimen. Normally, this bush has the height of the red bugloss, but the inflorescence is a mixture of them, having a color between blue and violet.

 

Tower of jewels (“Arrebol tajinaste”; “Orgullo de Tenerife”):

bugloss tower of jewelsThis species is more similar to the first one we have exposed, because it is a biennial plant which can grow up to 3 meters high.

This endemism can be found in the area of el Macizo de Anaga, between 100 and 400 meters above sea level.

As well as the red bugloss, the tower of jewels has a dense circular rosette formed by leaves, which is developed during the first year of the biological cycle.

During the second one, the inflorescence appears and it is an erect one. With it, the bush grows up to 3 meters high. As it happens with the red bugloss, bees use the tower of jewels too, in order to produce honey. Its flowers are white, and they can be seen between February and April. After this phenomenon, the bush dies as well.



Echium aculeatum:

bugloss echium aculeatum

This specimen is very tiny and its color is deep green. Its leaves have little spines and, because of that, it is called “aculeatum”, which means “stinging”. On the other hand, its inflorescence is white, which grow in all the different branches that this species has -unlike the other ones, which have no branches-. Its common name is “ajinajo”.

This has been our approach to the different species of bugloss that grow in the island of Tenerife. All of them are endemisms, but they are not equally eye-catching. Although all of them have their charm, we must agree that the red bugloss is the most remarkable of all. During May, it lives its flowering noon, so it is the best time to travel to Las Cañadas del Teide National park to watch them -if you are interested, here you have more information about the excursion that we offer to visit El Teide-. What are you waiting for? Do not miss the chance to witness this ephemeral natural phenomenon!

red bugloss tenerife


Photographs:

Featured image: Jose Mesa (link to license).

In text images 1-4, 7: Jose Mesa (link to license).
In text images 5,6: Wikipedia.