Thursday, 2 April, 2015
Although not nearly as pronounced as in Europe, also on the Canaries we notice the change of the seasons. Last winter we realized it more than ever: January, February and also the first half of March were rather cool for Fuerteventura. Countless seeds germinated on the wide plains, mountain slopes and fields of the island after the strong rains at the end of November, and the small plantlets took advantage of the cool, moist weather growing better than in other years. At the end of the winter, when the days are already clearly longer and the sun burns stronger, profuse blooming can be observed in many parts of Fuerteventura. A conspicuous plant of a maximum height of ca. 30 cm is Rumex vesicarius, the rosy dock or country sorrel, which can be found on wasteland and roadsides.
In the Canaries, the plant is called “vinagrerilla roja”. “Vinagrerilla” containd the word “vinagre” (vinegar), an indication of the sour taste of the leaves. And “rojo” is red. So, the name designs a red-flowering, sour –tasting plant, which is related to the many sorrel species found in Europe.
Rosy dock is an annual plant. There are also other annual sorrel or dock-species on Fuerteventura, as for example Rumex bucephalophorus, the red dock, which however only occurs on somewhat shaded, north facing mountain slopes above 400 m in height. This is a smaller plant than the rosy dock.
Moreover, all these herbs have a bigger relative on the islands, the endemic (that means, occurring naturally only here) tree sorrel (Rumex lunaria). This shrub grows in the coastal and mountainous areas of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera and Hierro, but is surely not indigenous on Fuerteventura, where it can only occasionally be seen near peasant’s houses and on field margins, most likely planted or naturalized. On Lanzarote, this species was also not originally present, but later introduced as a fodder plant for goats and sheep from El Hierro, where the species is called “calcosa”. The same name was then applied in Lanzarote. Here, the shrub has spread as an invasive plant over large parts of the island, including the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya.
The tree sorrel may not be native on Lanzarote, but it colonizes mostly young lava fields, where plant life is scarce anyway and where for this reason it cannot threaten native species so easily.