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Friday, 21 August 2009

Los Tilos: Ancient Forest

Laurel forest at Los Tilos

One of my favourite bits of tourist feedback about La Palma island was the disgruntled Brit who described Los Tilos as: "Just a load of trees."

Well yes. And Beethoven's Ninth is just a load of notes, and the Mona Lisa is just a load of paint.

Los Tilos, in San Andres and Los Sauces, is home to one of the best surviving laurel forests in the world. (The other one is Garajonay, in La Gomera).

The river bed at Los Tilos

What's so great about a laurel forest?

It's what the dinosaurs walked through. To be fair, if you can't tell an oak from a birch, then it's just a pretty, shady walk.

Stag's head lichen

On the other hand, if you're a professional plant scientist, like my father, you feel like a small kid in a sweet shop, because the place is full of plants that grow nowhere else. My father got too excited to finish his sentences, and it took him twenty minutes to walk a hundred yards.

An aeonium

The plants are rare enough that whole place is a World Biosphere Reserve. The original 511 hectares were declared a reserve in 1983, but this wasn't big enough to do the job properly, so in 1998 it was extended. They didn't muck about. The new reserve is 13,240 hectares. That's 5% of the island!

The restaurant at Los Tilos

There's also a friendly bar, which is great if you work up a thirst. There are very tame little birds, which I believe are Canary Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs tintillon). If you know better, please let me know!

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