The Aguagarcía Forest, the elixir of life
Andy Tenerife Walker smashed it again last Sunday when he took me to one of my favourite places here – the Aguagarcía forest near to Tacoronte.
I find it hard to express in words the beauty of this natural paradise; you need to see it and experience it first hand to truly appreciate it. The outskirts of the forest are covered in flowers in such an array of colours, they almost hurt the eye. Not only is it very beautiful, this enchanted forest is also very important to Tenerife, one of the most important forests on the island as without it, we would not have a big part of our natural water supply.
This fairy tale forest is lush with laurel trees, some of which are very old and these trees are called the Guardians of the forest. There are also many other species of tree here for example eucalyptus and delfino and the forest floor is carpeted with ivy, mosses and lichens which cling to the rocks and bark adding differing hues of green to the forest floor. The paths are very good in this area which allows you to look around with confidence and take in its beauty. There are wide paths and narrow paths, paths carpeted with leaves and others a tangled web of knotted roots. We saw a Bolle’s laurel pigeon, and many butterflies on route. As always here, there was a gentle breeze as we walked keeping us cool as we bobbed in and out of the sunshine in more open areas.
In 1508, 12 years after the Spanish Conquest, the countryside of Tacoronte and the natural springs therein were granted to a Spanish settler, Garcia de Morales. Over 500 years later, this area is still known as Aguagarcía, “Gar-cia’s water”. From the C16 until a few decades ago, the life of the people depended on the water and the trees, but for a long time it suffered from intensive and uncontrolled logging. The wood was used for firewood, furniture, house and ship building and of course tools. The deforested land was used for farming, firstly sugar cane and then grapes, potatoes and cereal crops. By the 1950s the forest was reduced to a village of trees besieged by houses and farms, so the Government decided to replant the forest without giving it much thought or taking into account the ecological effects this might have. They planted fast growing species of laurel and eucalyptus which overtook the indigenous laurel. Conservation of this forest is crucial and an on-going job but fortunately it is now well managed and a beautiful thriving forest once more.
All the species of the laurel forest have an important role to play in trapping and keeping the wáter.
It contains over 20 ever-green tree species like laurel and the Canary island ebony, but many smaller species now fight for light between its branches.
The Aguagarcía forest owes its success mainly to the Trade Winds which blow from the north east in between the tropics, as without these winds and the forest’s warm dark climate, we would not have the water, the elixir of life that the inhabitants so depended on 100s of years ago and today. There is one particular very old ebony tree in the Toledo Ravine known as the guardian of the forest. This tree sits on an old spring where water used to rise. Known as “La Madre del Agua”, the mother of the water it still supplies some of the public fountains in Tacoronte.
By Lynne Scaife