On opening the door to the Botanical Gardens, I was surprised to learn it is much more than flowers and trees brought from remote places of the world. It is science, education, history, conservation, and sustainability as well as a beautiful haven of peace.
The Botanical Gardens or Jardín de Aclimatación de la Orotava (aka “JAO”) is in Puerto de la Cruz and is managed by the Canary Island’s Government. It is the second oldest botanical gardens in Spain, after Madrid and was created as a result of wanting to acclimatise plants from the tropics. Carlos III in 1788 ordered its creation, but it only became a reality after plans were drawn up by Nicolás Eduardo, an architect from La Laguna and in 1792 the first plants were established. No one knows the exact age of the oldest specimens or their origin, but some are believed to exceed 200 years.
In 2004, the herbarium was created specialising in the flora of the Canaries and today has more than 46,000 specimens. There is a bank mainly for collecting seeds ensuring the conservation of indigenous and endangered species.
The garden doesn’t look particularly big from the outside and when compared to gardens like Kew it isn´t, being only 7 acres, but it has become one of the most important botanical gardens in the world. We were immediately impressed by the entrance, accessed by steps and basalt that looks like black marble and is hard enough to resist the footfall of around 400,000 visitors a year. Once inside paths criss-cross each other, you can wander past ponds and through leafy glades or just sit on a shady bench and listen to the water playing background music as your mind drifts.
The collection of over 150 different species of palms is one of the highlights of the gardens along with Bromeliaceae, Araceae and Moraceae, coffee, bananas and maracas (that came from the brochure!). Some are poisonous others have been collected for their beauty, size, age, rarity or remote place of origin. In all, there is a huge collection of plants, something in excess of 2500 varieties in this relatively small garden.
You will need to allow a couple of hours for your visit, but it is well worth the entrance fee just for the feeling that you have escaped, even for a short while, to a different world, away from the high-rise hotels and the plethora of mainly elderly tourists.
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