Friday, October 12, 2012

Poisoned Palms After Fire On La Gomera

44 palm trees found dead in Valle Gran Rey

La Gomera is home to the largest number of the Canarian palm tree (Phoenix Canariensis)  in these islands and the species is protected and cherished. More than 100.000 specimen have been counted on La Gomera and they are also a source of income for local farmers. From animal fodder to the the sweet palm 'honey' (miel de palma), they play an important part in our economy. Palm honey is not really honey, but the syrup obtained by first cutting the crown of the palm tree, then collecting the sweet and watery sap (called 'guarapo') that rises up the trunk and further boiling the sap down to a syrupy consistency to obtain the 'honey'. This liquid is delicious, full of minerals etc., and highly valued. A Canarian palm tree may be exploited in this way only once every five years without doing damage. Palms may not be cut down for any reason without a permit that is extremely difficult to obtain, as they are a protected species.
 Phoenix Canariensis  rises from the ashes and after the recent fires most of the palms were showing new green shoots sprouting from blackened trees even though shortly after the fire they appeared to be dead. There are large numbers of these palms in Valle Gran Rey, often clustered in groves, in all parts of the valley. 
Palms damaged by fire, but recovering
in El Guro, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

On the positive side, hundreds of  

burnt Phoenix are rising from the

ashes and are recovering rapidly !

After receiving a number of complaints by locals about dying trees in several parts of the upper valley, the authorities discovered that more than 40 palms had one or more large round holes about a foot deep drilled into the base of the trunk. These holes contained a strong-smelling liquid that appeared to be an agricultural herbicide and samples were taken for examination. 
Why anyone would have done this remains a mystery and the action has been widely condemned. There are fears that more dead or damaged palms will be discovered.
The investigation is continuing and the authorities are appealing for witnesses to come forward.    
(Update: A subsequent survey discovered a total of 121 poisoned palm trees in Valle Gran Rey and a man will be charged with the poisoning of 21 of them, see new post).                                       

Phoenix Canariensis at sunset in lower Valle Gran Rey

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