This BioProvince (as defined by Armen Takhtajan) comprises the Canaries, a group of twelve volcanic islands situated in the eastern Atlantic and including from west to east La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote. The climate ranges from semi-desert conditions in the eastern islands, which are influenced by hot Saharan winds, to an equable oceanic climate in the western islands, with dry hot summers and warm, wet winters. Moisture brought in by the northeast trade winds creates a cloud zone between 800-1500m. The resulting fog precipitation creates cloud forest conditions in places. The vascular plant flora, which consists of about 1860 species, comprises some 20 endemic genera (including Allagopappus, Dendriopoterium, Dicheranthus, Drusa, Gesnouinia, Gonospermum, Greenovia, Heywoodiella, Ixanthus, Kunkeliella, Neochamaelea, Parolinia, Plocama, Schizogyne, Spartocystisus, Sventenia, Tinguarra, Todaroa and Vieraea, and about 520 endemic species. Most of the flora (about 80%) and most of the endemics (about 68%) have affinities with the Mediterranean flora, but like other Macaronesian island floras, it also has affinities with East Africa (e.g. Dracaena), South Africa (e.g. Phyllis), upland Africa (e.g. Canarina), East Asia (e.g. Apollonias), Australia (e.g. Picconia) and South America (e.g. Bystropogon). This clearly demonstrates the relict nature of the flora, having once had a much wider distribution, and is thought to be the remains of a humid sub-tropical flora that until the late Tertiary between 15 and 40 million years ago occupied much of Europe and North Africa. It has been suggested that this Tertiary flora was lost from the mainland due to a series of ice ages resulting in the southern expansion of the Polar Ice Cap and the desertification of North Africa creating the Sahara Desert. The Atlantic Islands were buffered against both of these climatic changes by their oceanic position. However, the South American connection is thought to be of much greater antiquity, possibly dating back to the Cretaceous.
The following accounts for this BioProvince have been written or will be written with particular reference to endemic and locally important species. Accounts available are displayed in green or yellow. Those displayed in red are either in the pipeline or awaiting expert contributions.
|Endemic Vascular Plant Flora|
Euphorbia canariensis (Euphorbiaceae) a cactus-like succulent endemic to the Canary Islands (Copyright © 2010 Peter Martin Rhind)..