DISTRIBUTION OF PHOENIX CANARIENSIS IN THE CANARY ISLANDS
In Europe, there are only two native species of palms: Chamaerops humilis and Phoenix theophrasti. Chamaerops humilis is distributed along the seaboard of the Iberian Peninsula, from southern Portugal to Catalonia, and in a few coastal areas in southern France, where it has almost disappeared. This species grows also in North Africa. Several subtropical palm species are cultivated in Europe, especially Trachycarpus fortunei and Phoenix canariensis. Phoenix canariensis is cultivated mainly in the south and T. fortunei is commonly planted in temperate regions of northern Europe.
Among the palms native to subtropical regions, Phoenix canariensis, the Canary Island date, is probably the most popular and the most cultivated throughout world. It is widely cultivated in Central America, southern United States, Mediterranean region of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. This is the only endemic palm in the Canary Islands.
A new species, Phoenix theophrasti, recently has been described from an island in southern Greece and in the southern coast of Turkey. Another species, P. atlantica, grows in the Cape Verde islands. These two species and P. canariensis are closely related. They probably originated from an ancestral species that grew in the former tropical and subtropical tertiary forests of southern Europe about 20 million years ago. These three species also have important relationships with P. sylvestris, native to Asia, and P. dactylifera. This last species is widely distributed in North Africa and sometimes cultivated in the Canary and Cape Verde islands. These three species are probably more distantly related to other Phoenix species from tropical Africa.
Phoenix canariensis is one of the 600 plant species endemic to the Canary Islands. The native flora of these islands has about 1200 species. More than 600 are endemic to the archipelago. There is an important group of species from the Canary Islands that grow also in the Madeira Islands. Very few species are endemic to Madeira, Canary and Cape Verde islands. A still more limited number of species grow only in Canary, Madeira and Azores islands. These archipelagos are in the region known as Macaronesia, but there are important climatic differences in the islands, mainly between the Azores and Cape Verde. The Azores receive 2000 to 3000 mm of annual rainfall in some areas. The amounts of rainfall in the Cape Verde islands are very low.
The vegetation of the Canary Islands changes greatly from the eastern to the western islands. There are also changes of temperature and mainly of rainfall. Populations of Phoenix canariensis occur in the lower and middle zones (200–600 m) of all the Canary Islands.
In the coastal regions of the eastern Canary Islands, Phoenix canariensis is part of the natural vegetation where many species of this vegetation are related to the flora of Sahara desert. Succulent species of Euphorbia predominate and can reach 2 or 3 m of height. The annual