A spectacular oasis on top of a hill: the PALMETUM is the place to visit
Tenerife turns up surprise after surprise not just for the visitor but local people as well and the incredible Palmetum in Santa Cruz is one of them.
This is a place everyone has to visit, a beautiful 12-hectare botanical garden that specialises in palm trees.
This project is unique in the world. It has transformed a municipal rubbish dump into a recreational space for plant lovers, bursting with spectacular plant life brought here through partnerships with institutions from all over the world.
The Palmetum is located on the south coast of the city, on land claimed from the sea. Its name, “The Lazaretto”, bears testimony to the fact that people with contagious diseases were originally housed here; later it was home to various industrial facilities. The hill, with a surface area of 12 hectares and a height of 40m, was formed by the disposal of Santa Cruz’s municipal waste up until 1983, when it was closed.
As the city grew, it became necessary to close the rubbish tip. Proximity to this inhospitable place, where fermenting waste released polluting gases and fumes, became a problem that was extremely tricky to resolve.
At the beginning of the 90s, the town council decided to transform this mountain of waste. Manuel Caballero’s proposal, with the approval of the artist César Manrique, led to technical experts putting their minds together to plan the conversion of this wasteland to a botanical garden for recreation and culture, which would be a welcome asset for the city of Santa Cruz.
The Santa Cruz Palmetum Gardens are home to the greatest collection of palms in Europe, thought to be the largest botanical collection of tropical island palms in the world.
The coming autumn is perhaps the best season to enjoy the Palmetum though there is much to see all year round. Tropical species peak during these months, after the heat of summer. Most palm species bear colourful fruits at this time.
In September and October, typical summer species are still blooming. With the fresher weather of November cooler weather species begin to thrive, usually coinciding with the first rains after summer. It is at this time that the vegetation becomes lusher and most tropical species are at their most vibrant. The Palmetum becomes awash with flowers and fruits.
In the Africa section, the beautiful Hibiscus schizo-petalus may be seen almost every day. In the Caribbean section, different species of Plumeria continue to bloom, white andscented, almost until the end of the year. The Barringtonia asiaticaadorns the Asia section with magni-ficent flowers that can only be seen in the morning, as they are ephemeral and fall to the ground shortly after noon. The Hyophorbe indica palm scents the Mascarene section with its highly fragrant flowers. In the Octagon, we are entranced by the bromeliads with their flam-boyant inflorescences and the Brazilian Clitoria fairchildiana is in bloom. In the stream water, hyacinths (Eichhornia) open up their petals almost daily.
In autumn, many palm species bear fruit. It is easy to spot palms all over the park with colourful, sometimes spectacular, drupes (stone fruits). The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) fruit can usually be seen growing in bunches. Various edible tropical fruits may also be seen during this period. Fruits grow on the breadfruit tree (Artocarpus camansi) in the section dedicated to the flora of Melanesia, and will mature by the end of the year; acerolas (Malpighia emarginata) in the Caribbean, orangeberries (Glycosmis) in Asia and nonis (Morinda citrifolia) in various areas. In the main lake, the curious fruits of the mangroves ripen and fall into the water in late winter.
In mid-autumn birdlife is also on the increase as many migratory birds come to the Palmetum. The most eye-catching among them are the purple heron and the egret, which regularly visit the lakes.
The Palmetum is more than just a reclaimed rubbish dump, more than a botanical garden with important plants: it has wonderful landscapes that were shaped through years of developing and improving designs. The hill has great views of both the sea and the city as well as several landscape features, like the three waterfalls and the rockeries created from huge volcanic rocks.
The Santa Cruz Palmetum opened its doors to the public in 2014 and has been enjoyed by many thousands of people of all nationalities.
There are extensive facilities, including services for the disabled and hugely affordable admission prices. It’s a day out you just have to arrange.
Jardín Botánico del Palmetum
Avda. de la Constitución 5
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Open everyday from 10:00am to 18:00pm (last entree at 17:00pm)