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A prickly subject

Cactus - gardening
Cactus - gardening

Fuerteventura Botanical Garden of Cacti and Tropical Plants – yes, of course this featured on our recent trip to this Canary Island!

I have always had an interest in Cacti and succulents. Adapted to drought, very few species of these will happily survive in our climate outside, but they do make very tolerant houseplants. Needing little in the way of care, most are killed by ‘kindness’ – as in over-watering – as they suffer little in the way of pests or diseases.

So the Botanical Garden of Cacti and Tropical Plants just had to be visited whilst we were on Fuerteventura…

This is a very ‘new’ botanical garden. The first trees were only planted in the late 1980’s, where previously only a few palm trees grew. The Cacti and Succulents have only been added since the turn of the century – yet it all looked fantastic! Thousands of specimens, in over 2,000 species, not only from the Canary Islands but also from the arid areas of Peru, Mexico and Chile, the United States, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Morocco, all planted in the most wonderful ‘naturalistic’ style on the slopes of a valley – with scenery to die for.

Volcanic rock with very little in the way of soil, yet the planting gave the impression that they had been growing there forever. It may be a strange comparison, but if anyone has been to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, and walked through the jungle-like valley you may understand; good planting that looks as though nature meant it to be so.

This botanical garden boasts the largest Cacti collection in Europe, and my camera certainly overdosed that day. Thank goodness for digital.

Enormous columnar cacti many metres tall, contrasting with the “mother-in-laws seat” barrel cactus types (illustrated) such as Ferocactus and Echinocactus.

Euphorbias abounded; these look nothing like the herbaceous ones we grow in the UK, or the Mexican Poinsettia. No, these resemble trees. (In fact, we decorated the one outside our apartment with some tinsel and baubles for Christmas!).

Agaves and Aloes, Kalanchoe and Yuccas, plus a myriad of other exotics adorned the hillside.

I have to admit to looking at them purely from an aesthetic point of view, as would most visitors to the garden. Impressive, architectural plant forms, with flowers and inflorescences (flower spikes) that appear out of this world.

We tend to forget that many of these plants have edible and medicinal properties as well as being used for making everything from ropes and buildings, to paper and clothing for many thousands of years.

Tequila, for example, has been produced for over 500 years from the blue Agave.

Aloe vera is the most well-known of the 500 or so Aloes of the world and was certainly used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans to treat wounds. It is now thought to be extinct in the wild.

Needless to say, I could have spent far longer amongst these spiny beauties – but as we had left the children in the zoo down the hill we could stay no longer. But as the Oasis Park Zoo is host to the ‘other part’ of the botanical collection – the tropical and sub-tropical plants – I managed to tear myself away…

n Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre)

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