Monday, August 5, 2013

Flora of Eagle Rock: Canary Island Pine, or Pinus canariensis

On Dahlia
If you're like I was before writing this post, you have a vague idea as to the location of the Canary Islands.  Somewhere off the coast of Spain.  Maybe near the island of Mallorca?  Or is that the wrong side?  The Canaries are in the Atlantic, right?

The long needles of the tree help capture moisture from mist and fog; the water then drips to the ground, is absorbed by the soil, and then eventually makes its way into aquifers.  This moisture-capture feature of the tree has played a vital role in maintaining the water supply of the Canaries.

The Canary Islands, I learned while looking up the Canary Island Pine, or Pinus canariensis, are located just off the coast of Morocco, near the border with Western Sahara.  (And here I have to admit that I had no idea that there was a country called Western Sahara bordering Morocco.)  How these islands off the coast of Africa came to be part of Spain is a long story.  In any event, this tree is native to the Canaries.

The tree is highly adaptable and very drought-tolerant.  These qualities have made it a successful import in Australia, South Africa, and California, where it is a popular street tree.  You see these trees, which can grow to eighty feet or more, all over Eagle Rock.  You also see their large cones all over the place.

Interesting historical note: the Canary Islands take their name from the Latin word for dog: canis.  "According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the Mauretanian king Juba II named the island Canaria because it contained 'vast multitudes of dogs of very large size.'"  Wikipedia.  Also, the name of the islands doesn't derive from the bird of the same name; in fact, it's the other way around, with the bird getting its name from the island.  Id.  So, etymologically speaking, canary yellow is really dog yellow.