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Re: [aroid-l] Dracunculus canariensis

  • Subject: Re: [aroid-l] Dracunculus canariensis
  • From: Bjørn Malkmus malkmus@gmx.net
  • Date: Wed, 11 Sep 2002 22:41:33 +0200 (MEST)

Dear Sean,

> (...) Since this is such a good
> plant for mediterranean climates (my horticultural focus) I'd like to
> collect more information about its nativity, habitat, etc., and any other
> anecdotal information that might be interesting.

Dracunuclus canariensis is native of all western Canary Islands (El Hierro,
La Gomera, La Palma, Tenerife) including Gran Canaria. It is becoming
increasingly rare in nature. And as far as I was able to discover on various
occasions in the last 10 years, only on the island of Tenerife there are a couple of
"larger" populations left with some 20 to 50 individuals each. From these
three major populations (with some 120 specimens altogether) vanished on
grounds of land cleaning and construction areas in the last seven years alone (if I
had known this, I would have digged them all, but landscape is changed just
too suddenly). On El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma the species seems to be
close to extinction, as from these islands there have been reported only
single specimens or populations with few individuals each. It was reported from
Madeira only once some decades ago from two sites, east and west respectively
of the capital Funhcal in the south, and these sites where it was said to be
growing are now paved and built with houses by the rapidly expanding city,
thus it should be regarded extinct on this island. Its possible habitat on the
Azores is completely degraded, and as far as I know it had never been
localized there with certainty, but the locality was stated erroneously. There are
only very few, highly vulnerable populations with few individuals (less than 30
each) on the island of Gran Canaria, the most degraded island of this
archipelago in the sense of deforrestation and soil erosion. 

Dracunculus canariensis usually inhabits the more fertile and slightly moist
soils in open scrub formations in the south parts or open spots in the
laurel forest zone in the center or the north, and especially these sites are
widely used for plantations and/or are cleaned for ongoing housing construction
on the Canaries. On the other hand local people sometimes cut down the flower
and/or seed heads, as they believe that the plant will bring them bad luck
(imagine this in the 21 century in Europe ...). Fortunately this species
increases not only by means of seeds, but by stonoloniferous offsets as well,
especially in rich and moist soils. And in cultivation it increases very well by
seeds, however in the northern hemisphere it is not widely grown as it is
summer dormant and winter green, i.e. it has to be grown under frostfree
conditions in a cool wintergarden or slightly heated greenhouse.

Best wishes

Bjørn Malkmus

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