Living History in The Botanical Gardens of Puerto de la Cruz

Wed, February 27th, 2013 - By Andrea Montgomery

I doubt very much, as you skirt the lethal needles of the giant agave leaves which spill over from their beds and  threaten to slash by-passers, that you have given a second thought as to how all these plants and trees got here. It seems unlikely as you contemplate the dragonflies flicking their tails between lily pads onto the still surface of the pond, that you are sitting in the second oldest botanical gardens in existence and that, for the past 200 years or so, gardeners have considered this site a Lourdes of the plant world, worthy of pilgrimage from all corners of the earth.

 

Botanico Gardens, Puerto de la Cruz

 

To look at the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz today, you may assume as you crane your neck and shield your eyes to follow the elegant line of the Californian palm trees as they reach skywards into the sun, that this is just another garden into which you’ve been dragged by your other half. But you’d be wrong.

Originally known as The Acclimatization Gardens of La Orotava, the gardens were never meant to be gardens at all but were created in 1788 just as a storage or holding pen for exotic plants and trees en route from the Far East and the Americas to the Royal Palace in Aranjuez, Madrid.

 

Botanico Gardens, Puerto de la Cruz

 

Their existence is due to King Carlos III, the Spanish royal Alan Titchmarsh of his day, who commissioned the bringing of ‘ the most unusual plants existing in the Colonies of the Philippines and America‘ to the Royal gardens. Being only too aware of the differences in climate between their origins and their destination, the King arranged for the plants to be allowed to acclimatize and having looked around the world for the place that would offer them the best chance of survival, settled on Tenerife and the little town of El Puerto with its botanically perfect climate.

It’s easy to see, as you wander beneath the giant strelitzas that make you feel like an extra from ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids’ and the strange sausage tree whose fruit looks as if it would fry up nicely alongside some eggs, that everything did indeed survive, and then flourish. Unfortunately the good King underestimated the effect of a Spanish winter on his prize exotics and the first shipment fell victim en masse to the withering frosts of Madrid forcing the plan to be abandoned.

 

Botanico Gardens, Puerto de la Cruz

 

Over the years the gardens have experienced years of neglect as funds to maintain them ebbed and flowed with the economy but the plants and trees, oblivious of the bank balance, continued to thrive in their new home, extending tendrils ever further, spreading branches wider and climbing ever higher into the Canarian sky. Today, some of these specimens are over 150 years old, battling for space amongst their 3000 peers including 150 different species of palm trees.

 

Botanico Gardens, Puerto de la Cruz

 

So next time you try to trace the tangled trunks of the behemoth Banyan tree; marvel at the Calliandra’s crimson flowers or the base of the trunk of the elephant’s foot tree which could so easily be mistaken for the real thing, just take a moment to consider that you’re standing in a rare and beautiful botanical crossroads to the world.

Calle Retama, 2; open every day from 9am to 6pm; entrance €4.50

Posted : Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 at 12:53 pm
Category : about tenerife
Subscribe : RSS 2.0



5 Responses to “Living History in The Botanical Gardens of Puerto de la Cruz”

  1. […] oleanders, passionflower and sweet jasmine that grow like weeds in every inch of earth. Having the Botanical Gardens on the doorstep is just the pollen on the stamen for […]

  2. Good news. The price has been reduced – or at least it was on the day of our visit on 5th June 2014 – to 3 euros for tourists and just 2 euros for Canary Island residents.

  3. […] over the past 12 months. On the border with La Orotava, and the place where you’ll find the Botanical Gardens, the area is taking on a different aspect and is increasingly attracting a Spanish […]

Leave a Reply