A Week of Flowers – #Day4

I’ve not posted for a bit (busy and distracted, sorry), but Cathy’s lovely idea for celebrating a week of flowers, to cheer and inspire us at this time of year, was too welcome an opportunity to miss without applauding it and joining in. I’d recommend heading over to her blog to get a big blast of happiness!

One of the things that has been both fascinating and worrying me recently, is the volcanic eruption on La Palma, Canary Islands. We lived on this island for six years while we worked at the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes and it has many happy memories for us. We were based on the eastern side, near the capital city, Santa Cruz de La Palma, but we spent a lot of leisure time hiking, exploring, surfing and relaxing on what is assuredly the sunnier western side. This is where the (as yet unnamed) volcano on Cumbre Vieja is currently causing most havoc. Our favourite surfing beach is now under a new lava fajana and probably the biggest seaside resort on the island, Puerto Naos, is closed due to its proximity to the volcano and a thick coating of ash. As of this week, its closure has been re-enforced due to high concentrations of toxic gases.


A selection of volcanic pebbles arranged ‘horticulturally’ on the black sand of the playa at Puerto Naos in safer times, four years back

Lava flows have destroyed roughly two thousand nine hundred homes and vast tracts of banana plantations. The road network has been badly disrupted, not just from the flows closing roads, but from deep ash deposits and from continuous earthquake activity causing landslides and rock falls all over the island. This eruption has lasted longer than almost all previously documented events on La Palma and has surprised people with its cycle of fading, but then vigorous re-activation. Currently, the volcano seems fairly quiet. Let’s hope this marks its final wind down, for the sake of the islanders.

So, for day 4 of Cathy’s week of flowers I would like to contribute a photo of one of the beautiful signature plants of the island, Tajinaste rosado, Echium wildpretii subsp. trichosiphon, which grows high on the sides of La Palma’s extinct volcano, the Caldera de Taburiente. The plant forms large rosettes of silvery leaves, which eventually send up tall spikes of bright pink/red flowers, although this subspecies can also produce plants with blue or white flowers.


Echium wildpretii subsp. trichosiphon (Tajinaste rosado, Red Bugloss or Tower of Jewels) growing precariously on the edge of the Caldera de Taburiente


Forests of Tajinaste rosado growing amongst the scrubby yellow Hierba pajonera (Descurainia bourgaeana) on the mountain slopes below the observatory

Meanwhile, if you are curious about what the new volcano on La Palma looks like, this is a screen grab from drone footage taken by Instituto Geológico y Minero de España on 30th November 2021.

cumbre vieja volcano

Have a good weekend folks!


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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20 Responses to A Week of Flowers – #Day4

  1. Kris P says:

    I’d heard about the eruption in the Canary Islands vut didn’t realize how extensive the damage was.
    Echium wildpreti has a magnificent form even without its blooms. I’ve tried to grow it twice in my garden in Southern California only to have it abruptly die. I know a lot of gardeners in the Pacific Northwest have had success with it so it may be that my soil is just too sandy and dry. I grow other Echiums without a problem but, regrettably, not this one.

    • Funnily enough I read yesterday that someone in Wales (!) photographed black volcanic ash from La Palma on their car yesterday. The amount of material output the volcano has been really incredible. Fortunately, the decrease in activity (all bar S02 levels) is currently holding, so I keep my fingers crossed.
      Sorry to hear that E. Wildpretii hasn’t succeeded for you. It is a rather glorious plant, but sometimes there is no fighting conditions. I’ve not tried it here yet, but now I am thinking I should. I get my nostalgia kicks when E. pininana flowers for me.

  2. Cathy says:

    I also hadn’t heard how bad the devastation has been and it was interesting to read about it. The Echium is really impressive and I love those photos. Amazing what will grow on an albeit extinct volcanic mountainside. Let’s hope the new volcanic activity really is coming to an end and nature can start the recovery process.

    • Yes, I hope so too. One thing that struck me as an interesting dilemma that they (the islanders) face, as they clear roofs and roads of ash, is where to put it all? It’s not like it will melt like snow!
      Doesn’t it seem amazing that these echiums are designed to grow so tall in such precarious positions? Although, I have to say from my own experience of removing the dead E. pininana plants that they are remarkably tenacious ! 😉

      • Cathy says:

        I have grown Echium vulgare before, and they grow by the roadsides in places here too. Clearly not quite as tall nor as impressive as E. pininana. They are pretty tough plants though.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    I’ve seen the news and it is devastating to see how much loss there has been. I liked the news that hives of honeybees that were buried in ash survived when they were uncovered. I think they only lost one hive after being buried for a month!
    I’ve seen Echium on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean in northern California… a landscape that looks similar to your photos. So you must be fluent in Spanish?

    • The bee story was truly remarkable. Clever little things!
      I used to speak passable Spanish, but it is a long time ago now and I tend to confuse Spanish and French when I speak either language these days! 🙂

  4. What a wonderful experience that must have been, do you mind me asking – are you a scientist or astrologist? I find these landscapes fascinating and beautiful. I went to Mt Etna in Sicily a few summer ago (the volcano erupted while we were there!) and was amazed by the plant life growing in such a seemingly inhospitable place. Didn’t see any Echiums on Etna though.

    • I’m a physicist, but did a PhD in radio astronomy at Jodrell Bank. The Canary Islands are beautiful. La Palma (The Pretty Island) is quite similar to Madeira I am told. Lots of aqueducts and green vegetation, especially in the north. The best thing for me living there was that it never got too hot in the summer. 🙂

  5. Pazlo says:

    There is a denied reality when living on a volcano, which describes so many south sea islands.
    It’s only a matter of time.
    The name of the game for mankind: Let’s Hope We Fool The Clock.
    Thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Mother Nature’s loving but often clumsy great hands. She is a giant, and sometimes cannot even see the tiny ants on which she walks.
    The photos of the island are beautiful.
    How can we blame people for taking a gamble for a chance, however brief, to live in paradise?



    • It is a gamble of course, living on a volcanic island. Fortunately, it is well monitored and the evacuation process was timely and efficient. It did feel like living in paradise when we were there. Returning to England was like coming back to the real world, but we still miss it!

  6. Lovely plant. Thank you for the La Palma information. It is sad.

  7. shoreacres says:

    I can’t believe I hadn’t heard a thing about the eruption there. Our news is full of the volcano in Indonesia and snow in Hawaii, which isn’t really so unusual, since it falls atop their mountain(s) occasionally. Anyway, I’m sorry to hear about the Canary Islands, and glad for your note that the evacuation process was carried out well.

    I had to laugh at this: “Returning to England was like coming back to the real world, but we still miss it.” When I got back to the U.S. from Liberia,during my first trip to a grocery store, I looked around and said, “Everything in this country is covered in plastic!”

    When I left Liberia, I traveled overland by money bus and taxi until I reached Daka; then, I flew up to Gran Canaria. I spent one night at a hotel; I don’t know which one, I only remember it had been recommended because foreign airline employees liked it. I still remember following the porter up to my room, and being aghast when I walked in and found flowers, pristine linens, and cobalt and white towels in the bath. I was exhausted and — something. I looked at the guy and said, “I’ll bet you have hot water, too.” It’s one of my favorite travel memories ever.

    • shoreacres says:

      That would be “Dakar.”

      • Funny your story is about a grocery store, because I too remember my first visit to a supermarket after returning to the UK. In fact I wandered around it so bemused by the choice of goods on display that I ended up walking out with nothing (too overwhelmed)!
        The Canary Islanders certainly know how to do hospitality and meticulous housekeeping! 😉

  8. susurrus says:

    It does look very beautiful from your pictures. I love the flower pebbles. I can’t imagine what it must be like on the island at the moment for humans or for wildlife. It’s not as if there isn’t enough to deal with already without a volcano.

  9. Cathy says:

    Thanks for sharing this Allison

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