Book review: Natural History of Tenerife by Philip and Myrtle Ashmole

Natural History of Tenerife by Philip and Myrtle Ashmole

Natural History of Tenerife by Philip and Myrtle Ashmole

My daughter scanned through this book before I had read it and was immediately sold on Tenerife as a holiday destination for the near future. I think that sums up this remarkable book.

The book describes the colonisation of this volcanic island by wildlife from the time it rose from the sea, starting with plants and insects and up to mammals introduced for various reasons in more recent times. An excellent map at the beginning of the book displays the physical features and natural habitats on Tenerife.  The authors describe 30 or so interesting sites, one by one, within the book.

A good chunk of the book is devoted to these sites of ecological interest, which include coastal shrubland, laurel forest, pine forest and lava flows, this part incorporating creatures of some of the caves within the lava. The authors describe in detail the flora and fauna found in each site, a remarkable proportion of which are endemic to Tenerife or the Canaries. Interestingly the best routes and access points to these places are also given, making it much easier for someone on a short holiday to identify what is of most interest to them and maximise the benefit of their wildlife exploration.

The book is a botanist’s dream, detailing hundreds of different plants found on the island. I have never read a book with so many descriptive photographs identifying the many plants, which range from the smallest of flowers to tall trees. Chapters also identify the species of birds, mammals and butterflies, most of which are also photographed.

No book on a volcanic island would be complete without explanation of the geology. The book finishes with a chapter on the geology of the island and its relationship with other islands in the Canaries.

Natural History of Tenerife is a reference book that must be unparalleled in its field. In my opinion its value extends beyond the normal reference book because of its usefulness to the visitor to the island in finding and sharing the joy of its wildlife. I consider it a must for any Tenerife tourist with an interest in nature.


Natural History of Tenerife, by Philip and Myrtle Ashmole.  Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland. KW6 6EG.  £30

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