I posted about the Virgin del Pino who I bumped into at Teror in Gran Canaria and promised a few photos of the rest of the town. In the north of the island, it is a popular spot with tourists and islanders and has a festival in September and a Sunday market around the Basilica in the Plaza del Pino.
Leaving Teror and stopping every now and then to look at the magnificent mountain views and push my head in the undergrowth I was delighted to see one of my favourite Canarian wild flowers, one that I have found on Tenerife too, the beautiful Canarina canariensis.
This fleshy-rooted member of the campanula family is a hairless scrambler that has rather angular stems and opposite leaves with a blueish hue and red tinged stems. It dies down in spring when the weather gets too hot and dry and sprouts again in autumn, reaching 2m and more with single, bell-shaped, orange flowers at the ends of the shoots. What is odd about the flowers is that the flowers have six sepals, petal lobes and six stigma lobes – most campanulas have flower parts in fives.
In addition, the flowers are orange and full of copious, weak nectar, features that are typical of pollination by sun birds. But there are no sun birds in the Canaries, though they are found in Africa, and they are pollinated by finches. All birds like nectar and I have seen finches feeding on callistemon and calliandra on the Canaries. The large, fig-like fruits that form are edible. These were eaten by the native Guanches, the indigenous people on the Canaries.
There are two other species, both found in East Africa, and the genus seems to be most closely related to the Asian Ostrowskia magnifica, a beautiful but challenging plant with milky blue blooms with six or more petal lobes. Like many of the plants on the Canaries, canarina is a unique plant with a fascinating history and distribution.
It grows in cool, semi-shaded places in the wild but can be quite easily grown in a greenhouse in the UK and Ireland if it can be given maximum light in winter when it is in growth and is kept dry (but not desiccated) in summer. It usually sends up purple shoots in September, even without watering, to remind you to start it into growth again. It is easily grown from seed and flowers in its second year. Canarina has been cultivated in the UK since at least 1696 when it was grown at Hampton Court Palace – it is nice to know that I admire a plant that may have been a favourite of William lll, and a flower that is just the right colour for William of Orange.