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Saturday, 18 September 2010

CEDRO CANARIO (Juniperus cedrus): "A High Altitude Tree"

Juniperus cedrus is a species of juniper native to the western Canary Islands and Madeira. It is a large shrub or tree growing to a height of 5-20 m (rarely 25 m) with slightly hanging branches. Its evergreen leaves are needle-like, flat and green to glaucous-green. They are also tiny, 8-23 mm long and 1-2 mm broad. The seed cones are berry-like, reddish-brown when ripe after 18 months. It is known as “Canary Islands Juniper” (Spanish: Cedro Canario). This juniperus is included in the Canary Islands catalogue of endangered species, as endangered on the island of G. Canaria.

Nowadays this species is not as common in the landscape as it must have been in the past, mainly due to its prized wood; however, that illegal logging fortunately stopped.

This species adapts to a wide range of bioclimatic zones, from the thermophile forest boundary, certain areas of laurel forest, pine forest, and even areas above 2000 meters. At that altitude, the Juniperus cedrus is, along with Canary Islands pine, the unique species of tree size.

It is just in the highlands of Tenerife, around and across Teide National Park, where more specimen of Canary Islands Juniper we found. In fact, there is an ancient and twisted specimen in the hillside of “Montaña Rajada”, near “Teide”. It is known as “El Patriarca del Teide” and is protected by law for years.

Despite the fact that there is not much information about large-scale ecosystem rehabilitation helping this species, Juniperus cedrus is beginning to be introduced in reforested areas, along with pine woods. Furthermore, a few reforestations have been carried out in some places inside Teide National Park. Nevertheless much work remains to be done to restore the species natural domains that were seized; it is a challenge to get. Certainly names like “Degollada del Cedro”, “Montaña del Cedro” o “Monte del Cedro” attest to the importance of this species in the past.

In addition, its natural regeneration is hampered by the disappearance of species of birds corvis in the Canary Islands. Normally, the seeds are dispersed when birds eat the cones, digesting the fleshy scales and passing the hard seeds in their droppings; an essential process so the seeds are able to germinate.

Definitely there is no doubt about the necessity of this species to avoid extinction; helping these trees is our responsibility.