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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Canary Islands Date Palm

Canary Islands Date Palm in the El Palmar Valley

Phoenix Canariensis is one of the most grown and appreciated ornamental trees of the world. Its native habitat, the Canary Islands, is renowned for its richness in climatic diversity and its endemic flora.

The wild populations suffered a dramatic decrease during the early centuries of the Spanish colonization of the islands, which started at the end of the 15th century. Today the Phoenix canariensis is sparsely and un-evenly distributed on all the seven islands.

A description of the island of Tenerife of the 16th century said: " . . . the northern side of the island is completely covered by enchanting forests of palms and dragon trees." Now, here in the El Palmar Valley and at other places in and near Teno are among the few places you will still see these majestic trees growing in the wild in Tenerife.

Phoenix canariensis in the Wild

Only the female palms produce the fruits. The fruits are not edible and look like small dates, up to 1.5 inches long (3.5 cm). They are not poisonous, but are very astringent.

Canary Islands Date Palm

Canary Islands Date Palm Abroad

Several species of palm thrive in the Bay Area's Mediterranean climate. One of them, the Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), graces the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

"The most regal, large-scale (palm) tree," the Canary Island date palm was brought to California from the Canary Islands by Spanish missionaries in the 18th century, said Damon Hull, sales and operations manager at Jurassic Palms in Albany. Junipero Serra planted them at each of the missions he established.

Some of the oldest Canary Island date palms in the state can be found at the historic Presidio in San Francisco. The Claremont Hotel in Oakland also has numerous Canary Island date palms.

San Francisco Chronicle - Palms up!

Massive and imposing, the Canary Island date palm is the center of attention wherever it is planted, growing up to 60' tall. In areas of high rainfall, like Florida, these palms are often seen with ferns growing from among the old leaf stems.

Floridata - Phoenix canariensis

PACSOA (Palm & Cycad Societies of Australia) show
some Phoenix canariensis with the famous backdrop of Sydney Harbour Bridge

Monday, July 25, 2005

Nelson's Failed Attempt on Santa Cruz

Ataque británico en Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Jul 25, 1797 – British naval commander Horatio Nelson's right elbow is shattered by grapeshot during an assault on Tenerife; the arm had to be amputated. After the English requested terms of surrender, "Don Antonio Gutierrez, the Commandant General of The Canary Islands acted as a gentlemen and, with great generosity, accepted these terms. It went further than this; the Spanish helped to ferry British wounded back to their ships and invited the officers to dine with them that evening."

But, don't go thinking that they kissed and made up and promptly forgot all about it!

The city of Santa Cruz takes great pride in displaying the gun with which the famous arm was reputedly shot. Also ...
"It was claimed that Nelson's arm was kept behind the altar in the Cathedral in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. So far as I know no-one has refuted this. Anyone going on holiday to Gran Canaria might want to check out if it's still there. It would be one hell of a holiday souvenir."
Whilst the above claim is unlikely, if you visit Tenerife (not Gran Canaria) you will find many real souvenirs from the battle. Paintings depicting the battle can be found in the collections of the Municipal Museum of Fine Arts and the Regional Military Museum.

The heraldic arms of the City, Port & Square of Santa Cruz de Santiago de Tenerife has a green cross, symbol of the Foundation of the Cross, which gave name to the city. Behind the cross, in red, appears the Sword of Santiago (St. James, Spain's Patron Saint), on whose day it was the city trounced Horacio Nelson. Under this sword appear three lion's heads, which symbolize the victory of the city over the English pirates.

July 25, 1496 is also the date of the end of the conquest of Tenerife by the Spanish.

The date of Nelson's attack, 25 July, is still a public holiday in Santa Cruz, along with the town's foundation day, 3rd May.

"El Brazo de Nelson" (Nelson's Arm) is also the name of a wargames club, Club of Games of Strategy and Modelling in Tenerife.