Fuerteventura

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Fuerteventura Flora - Aloe Vera - Hibiscus - Mimosa - Palm Trees
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 Lagarto Gigante - Gran-Canaria - Picture by Alex Bramwell



Fuerteventura Flora

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera in flower - an annual occurrence

Despite its cactus-like appearance, the Aloe Vera is in fact a member of the lily family - lilacae - which includes garlic. There are over 400 species of Aloe Vera but the species which has the almost magical healing qualities is ALOE VERA BARBADENSIS which is the type most prevalent in Fuerteventura.

It is not known for sure how the plant arrived in the Canary Islands, although it is widely believed it came from Africa originally, but what has been known for centuries by the island's people is the healing properties of the juice of the Aloe Vera plant. The island's people refer to the Aloe Vera gel as Savia.

Even Christopher Columbus was aware of the myriad uses of the Aloe Vera gel, and whilst in the Canary Islands he stocked up his vessels with the Aloe Vera plant. It is generally accepted that the American plantations are descended from the Canary Islands.


A hardy plant, Aloe Vera needs little water and plenty of light, which makes Fuerteventura an ideal place to grow Aloe Vera Barbadensis, and over recent years the plant is becoming as important a crop to the island's economy as the tomato - especially now that natural medicine is becoming more popular and often more effective. Indeed, recently the Canary Island's Government have announced financial aid of up to 50% to encourage the cultivation of the plant on Fuerteventura.

Currently the main Aloe Vera plantations are in Tiscamanita and Valles de Ortega - between Antigua and Pájara.

ALOE VERA BARBADENSIS looks like a small agave plant, and when adult grows to about 60-70 cm. Small plants often have white marks on the leaf which disappear as the plant grows. When the plant is about 2 or 3 years old a leaf grows in springtime which then stems off into one or two smaller branches which produce yellow flowers.

It is from the inside of the leaf that the most important part of the Aloe Vera plant is extracted - the gel. The skin, or outer leaf is of no use and should be removed. It is also important to drain off the juice "aloin" which lies between the skin and the gel. This is a yellow/red sap which keeps the gel of the plant cool, therefore protecting the valuable minerals and vitamins within. Even on the hottest of days if you cut open the leaf of an Aloe Vera plant the gel will be quite cold. Aloin, however, will stain skin and clothing, it is bitter and should not be taken internally - it used to be marketed as a laxative (You have been warned !)

Research into the Aloe Vera gel continues and some element of mystery remains, although most research agrees that Aloe Vera is particularly effective in the treatment of burns, cuts, grazes, bruises, allergic reactions and dermatological conditions. This is due in part to the fact that the Aloe Vera gel acts as a natural anti-histamine and contains an aspirin like compound called Salicylic Acid.


Aloe Vera also speeds up the healing process (some studies show healing is increased to eight times the normal rate), which is attributed to the fact that Aloe Vera gel provides 20 of the 22 amino acids required by humans, including 7 of the 8 essential ones which are not produced by the body itself.

Aloe Vera gel contains Vitamins A,C,E (antioxidants), B12, Choline and Folic Acid, all in a completely natural form, plus 9 minerals including Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Sodium and Potassium.


The cosmetic industry is well aware of the healing properties of the Aloe Vera gel, and with its antioxidants and increased cell-regenerating properties it is reputed to be an effective anti-ageing aid and is often an important ingredient in cosmetic products.

Cactus

Cactus Flower

Cactus plants usually consist of spiny stems and roots and thrive in climates such as Fuerteventura. The stems of cacti are usually swollen and fleshy, adapted to water storage, and many are shaped in ways that cause rain to flow directly to the root system for absorption. The roots form extensive systems near the soil surface, assuring the plant will absorb the maximum amount of water from a wide area.


There are many types of cactus on the island. The most popular being the 'Canary island thistle' (Caldron canard) a large sturdy plant with hefty spikes that prevents them being eaten by goats.


Another rare type of cacti is the Jandia thistle mainly found in the south of the island (Jandia) in the 'thistle fields(cardonales).


In the past fields of Cactus were grown to raise the Cochineal beetle which was used for food and drink dye.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus

The Hibiscus is native to warm, temperate regions such as Fuerteventura. The Chinese hibiscus, or China rose grows mainly around the many hotel and apartment complexes because of its huge, showy flowers and bright colour. This plant flowers all year through.

Mimosa

Mimosa - Fuerteventura Plant

The main vegetation on Fuerteventura is the thorny scrubs (furze) found on the plains and lower hills. This hardy bush has survived the harsh climate making it one of the most common species of plant on the Island.

Another type of scrub 'Tabaiba' , which has a very similar appearance to the Furze, are mainly found growing on on the slopes of larger hills and has recently taken root in the lava fields and areas affected by ocean breezes.

Palm Trees

Palm Tree

Palms on Fuerteventura (palmeras) have a characteristic growth form, and can be seen growing in ravines, valleys and areas where there is plenty of water.
There are more in the main towns and villages but these are mainly 'hand planted'. There are around 120 types of palm in this region.

Although there are over 130 species of plant most go unnoticed, including 'Lichens' which adhere to the volcanic rock in the malpais (lava fields) and cover most of the island with their multicoloured appearance.


 

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