Spanish Gardens - Tenerife's El Botanico. The fertility of the soil was one of the reasons for the creation of the Jardín de Aclimatación de La Orotava.
When we visit the island of Tenerife in the heart of Canary Islands archipelago, we are surprised by the majesty that the peak of Teide offers us and it is not surprising to know that its summit is the highest point in Spain. The variety of microclimates that are present on the island is truly amazing and the mass of this dormant volcano has played a part in this geographic curiosity. The trade winds, which prevail over the island, coming from the northeast are full of moisture and while islands with few mountains are passed over by these winds carrying their valuable cargo of much wanted rain. This is the case for the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. Once these winds reach the island of Tenerife, they are met by an impassable wall that makes the wind, loaded with moisture after its trip across the water, rise up along the mountainside of Teide. The moisture then condenses and produces a generous gift of much appreciated rain making the northern end of this island a subtropical garden of exuberant vegetation. The southern face of the volcano is, however, very similar to what we would find to the islands to the east since the rain was discharged on the on the northern slope of the island.
The fertility of the soil was one of the reasons that during the enlightened reign of Carlos III he issued a royal order creating the Jardín de Aclimatación de La Orotava. This was also during the time that he ordered the creation of the Botanical Garden of Madrid. Playing a very important role in the process of creating this garden would be Don Alonso de Nava y Grimón, at the time the 6th Marquis de Villanueva del Prado. He convinced the king and his botanists the importance of Tenerife as a place where the plants brought from America and other places from around the world could acclimatize to their new home before being sent to the royal gardens in Madrid and Aranjuez and, later, to the rest of continental Spain.
Today the garden in is referred to as Orotava El Botánico (The Botanical in English) and is located in the northern town of Puerto de la Cruz. In 1788, when the garden was founded, this port city formed part of the Villa de La from which it would later split from. Because of the garden's official name, confusion sometimes arises among visitors as to where the garden is located today.
After the order was given to create the garden and land was set aside for it, the first plants began to arrive in 1792. El Botanico is, strictly speaking, the second oldest botanical garden in Spain after the one in Madrid. This garden has attracted the attention of important people from the world of botany like the Frenchman, André-Pierre Ledru and Prussian, Alexander von Humboldt amongst others. From the beginning this garden has been frequented by many wanting to study its flora with great assiduity.
The original size of the garden, that is still preserved to this day, is almost five acres (20,000 m2) and with plants brought from all over the world organized following the classification created by Linnaeus (which continues to be the system used in taxonomy to this day) In this garden the visitor will find centenary plants like monkey puzzle tree from the Andes, Canary Island Pines and a giant fichus that rises up pompously like a living cathedral with buttresses that support its enormous canopy full of foliage. It is impossible to not stand open-mouthed before the loveliness of this emblematic specimen.
The visitor this garden will also be able to enjoy an excellent collection of orchids and, while letting the calm and silent surroundings take you over, a nice stroll the paths that cross this Linnean garden, observing camphor plants, coffee bushes and breadfruit trees among some of the hundreds of exotic plants.
The part farthest from the entrance, to the south, you will find a pond full with water lilies and lilies that is also host to a varied collection of turtles and frogs that sing out inviting the visitor to be carried away by the calm and tranquility.
There is also in the southern end of the garden a 10 acre (40,000 m2) plot of land that will be soon be open to the public showcasing an artificial tropical river ecosystem and a small forest with endemic flora. This expansion will triple the area that the gardens now occupy and will also include a visitor's center, cafeteria and renovated areas for their magnificent collection of plants that have they have been collecting since the gardens have opened. There will also be a seed bank and resources for the study of evolutionary biology both of which will help guarantee the survival of endangered species and permit experts from the Canary Island government-supported Instituto de Investigaciones Agrarias (Agricultura Research Institute), the caretakers of this garden since 1983.
Not far from here, not quite three miles (4.5 km), in the center of La Orotava directly behind the city hall we will find La Hijuela (the young daughter). This charming garden, managed by the town of Puerto de la Cruz, has many notable examples of Canary Island dragon trees that are hundreds of years old. Seeing these trees will make you yearn to see the monumental example that reached more than 65 feet (20m) that is mentioned in past chronicles from La Orotava but, lamentably, disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century.
It shouldn't be strange to know that this garden attracts 400,000 visitors each year. When one comes to Puerto de la Cruz from La Orotava or Santa Cruz, the Jardín de Aclimatación de La Orotava is waiting with its centenary tree branches extended like open arms ready to welcome visitors wanting to calm, quiet and an excellent nature experience.