Flora of Macaronesia:
An in-depth study through a voluntary work placement at Jardin Botanico ‘Viera y Clavijo’, Gran Canaria.
1 October 2018 to 3 May 2019 (7 months)
View over the Osorio valley from Osorio Peak showing Echium callythirsum, foreground, and Pinus canariensis on the slopes beyond (photo February 2019)
Viera y Clavijo botanic garden focuses on one of the hotspots of the world’s biodiversity, the Macaronesia region, comprising the Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands and Cape Verde. Working here for 7 months will give me the horticultural skills needed to work with this group of plants and the opportunity to transfer this knowledge.
I am passionate about Macaronesian flora for its diversity of habitats and variety of plants, from the native laurel forests (Laurisilva) to pines and echiums, I consider them a unique and threatened beauty. This experience will expand my knowledge of this group of plants and the opportunity to work with them has been invaluable to me. I am keen to learn more about their cultivation for both ornamental and conservation purposes.
Viera y Clavijo has the largest living collection of Macaronesian plants and is renowned for its vision in conservation. I strongly believe that the knowledge that I will gain through this work experience will enhance my horticultural skills, which I will be able to transfer into my future career aspiration to work in a botanic garden.
Under the supervision of staff in the living collections department of the garden, planting, cultivation and curation of the public collections of Canarian endemic flora, both at the main nursery and at the educational nursery which is devoted to outreach and promotional tasks, and to the exchange of specimens with other institutions.
Other general tasks including pruning of trees/shrubs, preparation of soils, preparation and landscaping of public areas, maintenance of nurseries and greenhouses, irrigation regimes, etc.
In coordination with staff at the Seed Bank, growing species of interest for the research conducted at the garden.
As part of the Ministry of Environment and as an associated unit of Spain’s largest scientific institution (the CSIC), the “Viera y Clavijo” Botanic Garden is deeply involved in the conservation and management of the Canary Islands flora through implementing the results of updated scientific and technical research. In the area of ex situ conservation, the centre is responsible (among other tasks) for the implementation and monitoring of the approved recovery plans for the most threatened endemic plants in Gran Canaria; my duties will include the cultivation of many of the nine most critically-endangered taxa for the purposes of exhibition as part of the garden’s public collections and, eventually, for reinforcement of the wild populations.(see http://www.jardincanario.org/especies-amenazadas-flora#all)
As for in situ conservation, the Garden hosts the largest Seed Bank in Macaronesia, and part of my duties will be linked to this facility and to the European projects currently led and/or participated by its staff (see http://www.jardincanario.org/proyectos#all).
Jardin Botanico Canario ‘Viera y Clavijo’
This is the largest botanic garden in Spain, and it has become a model for the role of conserving local endemic flora. The garden of 27 hectares was established in 1952 by Eric Sventenius, a Swedish botanist whose aim was to conserve and protect the rich endemic flora of the islands. He devoted many years to finding the optimal site that could successfully accommodate as many of the diverse plant species of the Canary Islands as possible. Most of the garden is laid out in a series of terraces along a steeply sloping side of the Barranco de Guiniguada, where plants grow in their natural environment and according to their own vegetation zones (i.e: Laurisilva, thermophilous (dry) forest, coastal areas, pine forest, etc). It is located in Tafira, close to Las Palmas in the North of Gran Canaria.
Viera y Clavijo’ holds the largest living collection of Macaronesian plants and is renowned for its vision in conservation. Furthermore, The Gran Canaria Declaration calling for a Global Program for Plant Conservation (BGCI, 2000), which resulted in the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (CBD, 2003), was led by this botanic garden. This garden carries out ex situ conservation projects to protect the local flora accompanied by active public engagement. It is a supporting institution for the conservation of Macaronesian plants in situ and also has a living collection of germplasm and a seed bank to protect against extinction. It is truly a centre for research, conservation and communication. The garden also has a large living collection of cacti and succulents from America and Africa, with 3000 plants representing this huge diversity.
My role in the garden: Horticulture and Science.
This garden has a scientific and horticultural approach as in the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE) where I studied for my HND in Horticulture with Plantsmanship. My work experience at ‘Viera y Clavijo’ was in four departments, chosen for my personal interests:
1. Living collection
2. Reproductive biology
3. Endangered species (conservation in situ)
4. Seed Bank
1. LIVING COLLECTION
I worked at the central nursery and in the living collection itself through different tasks that included developing the collection with new plantations and general maintenance of the garden. I collaborated with the horticultural team and a team with learning disabilities for a period of four months. This section is a brief summary noting some key species for their high ecological importance.
Seed collection: I collected seeds around the garden for later propagation, the following are some examples: