When researching ‘Things to do in Tenerife’ before my visit (like a typical tourist) I came across a botanical garden in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is the capital city and beautiful as it is (a concrete paradise), I was curious where this botanical garden was located. To my surprise Palmetum is right on the coast of the city centre next to a car park and a short walk from the big chain stores! I browsed the website for more information and was pleasantly surprised to find out Palmetum was built by the community and transformed from a rubbish dump! With excitement and intrigue, I made the trip to Santa Cruz on a beautifully sunny day perfect for strolling gardens.
Behind the car park are the entrance gates and the visitor information centre. Inside you can buy your tickets (a reasonable €6 and €3 for locals) and buy souvenirs from the gift shop including locally produced Aloe vera skin care products great for soothing sunburnt skin. The lady that gave me a ticket and a map (€0.50) explained the routes I could take around the garden starting from the spiral staircase.
Walking along the bridge at the top of the staircase, I could see Banana trees across one side and the tops of palms on the other. I felt mixed emotions seeing the multi-story flats and car parks in the distance. I felt a sense of achievement that I found an oasis in amongst the hustle and bustle of city life, but also, I was sad knowing the whole island was once covered with fertile land.
The garden was finally open to the public in 2014 after over 20 years of hard work (see timeline). In 1983, the Landfill where the garden now stands was closed and €4 million was invested to clear all the waste, re-turf, and build paths. In 2007 the government-funded this project and local charitable organisations came together to finish the project. It’s a fantastic example of commitment to the community. Looking at the exotic garden myself in 2020 it’s difficult to imagine it being a smelly landfill 20 years prior.
I followed the map that took me around, but there were also helpful signs in English directing me to different continental palms and other plants from around the world. The walk around took 2hrs at a leisurely pace on flat ground so it’s suitable for most fitness levels. The variety of plants and trees was immense and fascinating. In the collection are around 3,000 species of plants and 600 species of Palm trees. Obviously, the garden specialises in Palm species, it’s in the name Palmetum, but also, they have a nice collection of non-Palm plants mainly for educational and conservation purposes.
Did you Know Palm trees are used in many ways, to make rattan, sugar, oil and for medicinal purposes?
Just a few of these are species of Aloe, cacti, Hibiscus, and succulents. With all that this little piece of paradise has to offer, I would recommend Palmetum to anyone interested in botany and gardening, but, also to those who just want a peaceful pretty place to relax away from the shops. If you are interested in learning more about the story of this garden please visit the Palmetum website or even better why not book a guided tour* for your visit and connect with the locals that look after this amazing place? you won’t be disappointed!
Written by Charlotte Taylor