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Galapagos Flora/Fauna

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Galapagos Flora

This section highlights the flora (plants) of The Galapagos Islands.

One of the first plants to colonize a new lava field, the Lava Cactus is found on barren black lava flows such as this one on Bartolome Island. It seems to have no food value even to the lizards, although its large white flowers may offer food for the carpenter bee and other insects. Orange and grey lava cactus are some of the first plants to inhabit a new lava flow.
Brilliantly colored carpetweed with opuntia in the background Covering the rocky terrain of many of the coastal areas is the Galapagos Carpetweed. This low-lying perennial herb has fleshy, cylindrical leaves with small, white star-shaped flowers -- a favorite food of the lava lizards. It is normally green, but during the dry season it turns orange-red.

Opuntia (prickly pear) cacti stand tall on the arid landscape of S. Plaza Island. Here, the land iguanas stake out their own cactus, and wait for the tasty fruits to fall.

A spiny branch of the Espino plant borders a beach trail on Bartolome
The espino, or spiny bush grows on inhospitable-looking beaches. In the hot sun its few leaves are curled up and inconspicuous. This one grew to about six or seven feet high on the beach on Bartolomé. It produces a sour red or brown fruit edible to both finches and humans.

This cacaotillo shrub dominates the hillsides of San Cristobal Island in the miconia zone.
The cacaotillo (Miconia robinsoniana) grows only on the southern slopes of the two islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, at about 500 to 700 meters elevation. In the Miconia vegetation zone the cacaotillo shrub is the tallest plant, reaching about 2 to 5 meters high. It is endemic to the Galapagos.

A nice dash of color on San Cristobal Island.
An unidentified plant in bloom. San Cristóbal Island.
The Passion Flower is one of nature's intricate marvels.
The intricate Passion Flower can be found on the vines climbing over shrubs or rocks or trees from near sea level to the Scalesia zone (about 300 to 600 meters above sea level). The vine produces a fruit similar to the cultivated type which turns from green to orange when it ripens.
These wild tomatoes are like candy to mockingbirds, tortoises and humans.
A veritable feast of small endemic tomatoes awaits the hiker in the Santa Cruz highlands, at least when we were there in May.  Sweeter than "Sweet One Thousands" that we grew in the Northwestern US, these tomatoes are either red or yellow, with a thick skin.  Both tortoises and mockingbirds eat the fruits and aid in the germination and dispersal of the plant.
 Goat's Head grows on the arid lowlands and is a torture to those in bare feet.
The deceptively lovely Goat's Head plant is also know as the puncture plant because of its spiked fruits which can stab right through Teva sandals!  This is a low, creeping herb found on the sea level, arid zone of islands.  The seeds (shaped like a goat's head) are carried on the webbed feet of birds, and the bottoms of expensive sandals!

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