BIODIVERSITY IN FUERTEVENTURA: This time we go inland where, after the short but intense rain period in the north of Fuerteventura its soil shows us its great fertility every year.

Text and photo: Alberto Sarabia Hierro

What at the end of the harsh Summer is just a deserted field with some cereal, in Springtime transforms completely, brimming with life that bursts out with just a little dampness. In rocky areas, where this dampness is retained longer, some plants find it easy to grow up. Some ecosystems like «malpaís» or also the so called «malpey» keep part of this humidity, thus creating a very particular landscape.

They’re made of lava flows and there are several kinds: AA, more viscous and irregular due to its slow pace during the eruption (usually know as «malpaís» in the Canary Islands); Hawaiian «pahoeloe», which gives place to a much softer landscape, also known as «cordadas» due to its morphology, in the shape of ropes, which are the most common.

The first beings that found this ecosystem as the idyllic one to grow up were the lichens. They were the first colonists in volcanic islands and they resulted from the association between an alga, a fungus (breeding part) and some yeast (all of them together cover the whole landscape with different species and shades. Names like Xanthoria (red and orange) or Ramalina (greenish and also called «escán») draw our attention because of their extensions; however if we go closer we’ll find out several species and colours among the rocks, like (the brown Orchilla, traded in ancient times in The Canary Islands to make dyestuffs).

Together with the lichens a great variety of vegetal species dot the landscape: hawthorns with their characteristic red fruits and spurge are the most abundant among others.

But undoubtedly, the «tojia blanca» (Asteriscus schultzii) draws all our attention to its flowers, similar to the «magarza» (anacyclus clavatus) with very thin flower heads; it’s an indigenous plant, very sensitive to the alteration of its ecosystem in the archipelago. Also growing up with them we find a true wonder of botany: «la cuernua» (Caralluma burchardii), having a subspecies in Morocco and another one in the oriental Canary Islands (Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and islets). This fleshy plant, which is not related to cactuses, is included in the Canary Islands catalogue or protected species as sensitive to habitat alteration. With purple flowers and yellow centre, it owes its name to the characteristic shape of its fruits.

Our ecosystems, unique and fragile, are full of surprises to enjoy and look after. See you in our next chapter.

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Asteriscus © Alberto Sarabia

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