Gabriella’s choice….Aeonium arboreum
In the first week of February I was travelling in the hilly northern part of Gran Canaria. There I saw a huge number of big plants with yellow flowers growing in the wild. It dawned on me that this was a plant I’d seen previously in the glasshouses in Fota. It was the Aeonium Arboreum, which had been presented to Fota’s Frameyard by Mrs Reiker.
Aeonium Arboreum is a succulent subtropical shrub of the flowering plant family called Crassulaceae. It is native to the hillsides of the Canary Islands, where it is known in Spanish as “Bejeque Arbóreo”. This plant bears bright yellow flowers in the Spring. Naturally, in our temperate regions it has to be cultivated under glass. It has fleshy leaves and racemes of small, star-shaped flowers with numerous petals. The purple cultivar Zwartkop is also a beautiful plant which has won the R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit.
I was stunned by the way this beautiful plant grew in the wild. It is always a pleasure to come across a familiar glasshouse plant, as we know it in Ireland, growing wild in its natural habitat. It’s like meeting an old friend in new surroundings, and then realising that he or she really belongs in this setting. Incidentally the purple variety did not seem to be as abundant as the other.
We have a large collection of plants in Ireland, some of them brought here by plant collectors over the centuries. Indeed the various owners of Fota collected many plants and brought them home to be cultivated here in the Arboretum. Mrs Reiker was a German lady who developed a wonderful garden near Midleton. She always admired the Fota Estate and when the Frameyard was refurbished in 2011 she presented the Aeonium to Fota.
It now sits in the glasshouse, to be appreciated by everyone.
Photo of Aeonium growing in the wild: http://www.botanicalgardenphotography.com/canary-island-flora.html