Palmen auf Fuerteventura Vulkan

Where did all the palm trees of Fuerteventura go?

Surf holidays on Fuerteventura: sun, surfing, beach, waves and relaxing in the shade of palm trees after a great surf session… but: can you find where we are wrong?

Exactly, there only a few palm trees are left on our volcanic island of Fuerteventura! Nevertheless, they are a popular motive. Artist use themas illustrations on postcards, t-shirts and Canarian ceramics. But the few magnificent, green palm groves are juxtaposed with palm stumps and withered palms on the side of the road. Yet still: palm trees belong to the landscape of the island like surfers in the waves.

Did Fuerteventura always look like this? We will find out!

Table of Contents

Palmen auf Fuerteventura

Green Fuerteventura: The past or just a myth?

Was Fuerteventura greener back in the early years? Were there maybe even forests? There are various myths and information about the past of Fuerteventuras landscape. From the 4th to the 14th century the canary island was completely isolated from the European and African mainland. The majoreros, the natives of Fuerteventura, lived without any contact to the continent and not even to the neighboring islands. And even though there are hardly any records about that time, scientist now agree that the island was once densely forested.

Did you know, that our island wasn’t always named Fuerteventura? There are different theories about various names like „Fortuite“ and „Herbaria“ from the French and “Hervania” from the Spanish settlement time. The reason for those names were the rich pastures which provided excellent milk for the nowadays famous and typical canarian (goat) cheese. But already in pre-Hispanic times the majoreros cut down the forest. They probably used the former vegetation as resources to build boats and weapons.

palmtree fuerteventura

The Canarian Date Palm

The Canarian Date Palm, the „Queen of palm trees“ is the only endemic species on the canarian archipelago. She is the symbol of nature and the pride or all Canaries. In 1991 the Canarian Government declared the Canarian Palm the plant symbol of the Canary Island and added it to a list of protected species.

The villages Ajuy and Las Penitas are the birth place of the Canarian Palm. Nowadays the Canarian Date Palm grows mainly in the valleys and barrancos around the capital Betancuria. There there is enough groundwater to secure the water supply for the palms. The palm trees you see at the coast and close to hotels and in the cities were planted there and are artificially watered. A lot of hotels use also their treated waste water to water the palm trees.

The Canarian Date Palm is well adjusted to survive in a desert like environment. It does not have a main root, but a far-reaching and widespread root system that spreads widely around the trunk. Moreover, the seeds can germinate immediately if conditions permit. But they can also persist in the soil for quite a while in cold or dry conditions.

honey and palm tree

Palm honey of La Gomera

On La Gomera, tourists not only use the date palm as a popular photo motive, but the locals have also discovered a way to extract delicious honey from the trunk of the date palm. While the dates of the date palm are unedible, the locales processed the Guarapo, the palm juice, into honey already 400 years ago. They cook the palm juice carefully over many hours until it reaches the consistency of bee honey.

To get to the palm juice, they cut off the new shoots of the palm leaves to reach the fresh bud.  Then thy scrae it off until the juice can flow out. In order to not cause lasting damage to the palms through harvesting, the locals paus between harvests for several years so that the palm can recover from the severe nutrient deprivation.

Afterwards you can enoy the honey as an accompaniment to typical Canarian delicacies such as goat cheese or roasted milk.

palmtree blueskies

Less and less palm trees on Fuerteventura

By now there are hardly any signs of what used to be a dense forest on Fuerteventura. Furthermore, environmental activist are afraid that the few sometimes artificial palm groves won’t last too long. The palm trees (some of them over 100 years old) are dying very fast and at the same time the palm groves don’t recover. The reasons are multi-layered and complex. Desertification, poor soil conditions and lack of awareness require action to save the palm trees.

Future of the palm trees on Fuerteventura

The vegetation system on the island must be protected and preserved. Not only for migratory birds who shall continue to use the island as a resting and breeding place, but also to preserve valleys like Vega de Río Palma. This popular day trip destination is also called “the valley of 1000 palm trees. It is the valley with the most water on the island. It comes to life especially after the rains in Februrary and March. Since May 2009, the entire island has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve, with the underwater diversity in particular contributing to the decision. Nevertheless, there are also a total of 13 nature and animal conservation areas on land. Is that enough to secure the future of palm trees on Fuerteventura? Unfortunately, probably not! In conferences and public announcements of demands for the protection of palm trees on Fuerteventura, environmental activists are calling for further protective measures and greater awareness among the population for the protection of the palm trees on Fuerteventura.