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May 28, 2023



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First names


The first six primary mirror segments for the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) have been named. OP-M1-SG-003-0006 is one example. It won't mean much to you, so we have also given them a christian name. The segment referred to here is ADERNO, which is a tree. The other five are called Cardón, Guincho, Saltona, Timanfaya and Lanzarote. We are going to get to know them a little better.


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The aderno is a tree native to the laurisilva slopes and other humid forests of the Canaries, although it is not common on any of the islands and is completely absent from Lanzarote. Few tree species reflect the ground they grow on to such an extent: the aderno grows no bigger than a shrub when it is on cliffs and precipices, but can reach heights of six metres on laurisilva slopes. Only at Mazizo de Teno, in the far northeast of Tenerife, can large amounts of this hardwood tree, which was often used for furniture making, be found. Furniture is one of the few uses of this indigenous species, whose closest relatives are in the tropical zones of Asia and America, but its fruit, a berry that is black when ripe, has a sweet flavour. The historian Juan Bethencourt Alfonso refers to 'aderno' as a word originating from Tenerife and La Gomera, although he describes it only as 'a tree with very hard wood', which can be found in the transition zones between different types of forest.


The cardón is a common sight in many Canarian gardens, but at one time it was used for fishing. The islanders would put pieces of this plant, which looks like a cactus, into rock pools, where the latex in its sap would irritate the fish and make them come out of their hiding places. Examples of this endemic species can be seen in coastal areas together with sorrels (vinagrera), margaritas (magarza) and euphorbias (tabaibas). They are best seen in spring and summer, when they produce small red or yellowish flowers.


In the Canary Islands and Madeira 'guincho' means osprey (pandion haliaetus), a huge fish-eating bird which grows to a size of up to 1.5 metres. It feeds on both freshwater and sea fish and is the most skilled surface fisher. Until several decades ago it could be found along many of the islands' coastal areas, but today it has completely disappeared from Fuerteventura (except on the islet of Los Lobos), Gran Canaria and La Palma. Its main strongholds are now el Hierro, La Gomera (Majona National Park), Lanzarote and the Parque rural de Teno in Tenerife, areas where it is protected.

The osprey's alarming decline has been caused by urban expansion, illegal hunting and overfishing. The birds reach sexual maturity at four years and build nests on cliff faces during the breeding season (when they produce between two and three eggs), carrying enormous branches to their chosen sites which are normally natural fissures in the rock. Incubated by both parents, the osprey fly the nest not much more than a month after they are born although they maintain close ties with their family for a long time afterwards.

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To explain the Saltona, a kind of dance, we must first talk about the Seguidilla. The Seguidilla is a folksong and dance form with origins in literature - it is the method used to structure the Cantigas, or medieval poems, of Alfonso X El Sabio. Together with the romantic it is the most common strophic or chorus form (a way of structuring a piece of music based on the repetition of one formal section or block played repeatedly. It is the musical analogue of repeated stanzas in poetry or lyrics: where the text repeats the same rhyme scheme from one stanza to the next, the accompanying music for each stanza is either the same or very similar from one stanza to the next) 1 in the panhispanic world. These forms first made made the leap from poetry to music in the La Mancha region, from where they spread throughout Spain. Found in the Canaries from the 18th century, the most popular examples are variants like the Saltona or Tanganillo.

They are found in the Canaries from the 18th century. The most popular are variants like the Saltona or the Tanganillo. In the 'Baile de Cunita', a Christmas carol from the village of Guía in Gran Canaria, the dancers divide into men and women and dance around the baby Jesus lying in a wooden crib. The "Seguidillas corridas", an energetic and colourful dance from the western islands, are also very popular.

The Saltona is a kind of seguidilla that has a three-part structure (the first and third parts are identical, or very nearly so, while the second part is sharply contrasting)2. Typically, the singers "steal" the sections they are singing, giving rise to the name "stolen seguidillas" ("seguidillas robadas").


In 1730 Lanzarote suffered a series of eruptions which completely changed the orography in some areas, creating 25 almost perfectly-aligned craters of which the best-known are those between the mountains of Timanfaya and Montaña Rajada.

In 1974 a 5,107 hectare region of volcanoes and lava (in the municipal areas of Yaiza and Tinajo) was declared a National Park. The area is also a biosphere reserve and a ZEPA (Special Zone for the Protection of Birds), as the coastal area serves as a refuge for huge numbers of marine birds (like the great shearwater, which is in danger of extinction). Naturally, though, there are many different species in this magical desert-like place including ravens, kestrels and egyptian vultures as well as reptiles like Harí lizards and perenquén (types of gecko), which feed on insects and some plants. 

There are many species of flora adapted to conditions in Timanfaya like the aulaga majorera (launaea arborescens), a spiny shrub which is present in all of the islands and very common here, and the botón de Lanzarote (nauplius intermedius, a type of daisy) which is endemic to the island. However, the landscape is dominated by lichens. There are more than 200 species, especially on the surface of the volcanic badlands (malpaís).

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Lanzarote is the most northerly of the islands in the Canarian Archipelago. Around eighty thousand inhabitants live in its 850 km2, where art and nature exist side by side thanks largely to the hand of César Manrique. Lanzarote is comprised of seven municipal areas: Arrecife - the island's capital - Haría, San Bartolomé, Teguise, Tías, Tinajo and Yaiza. Another island, La Graciosa, which has around half a thousand inhabitants, comes under the municipality of Teguise.

Lanzarote was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993, the first entire territory to be awarded this status. It received the accolade not only because of the the island's areas of natural interest but also because of the highly-developed environmental awareness of the island's population, the extensive catalogue of unique works developed in harmony with the landscape and the conservation of a model of agriculture. Together they make up one of the most beautiful and unique legacies to be found in any of the extensive island cultures on the planet.

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José Manuel Abad, Natalia R. Zelman

[1]Strophic form, (last visited February 9, 2007).

[2]Ternary form, (last visited February 9, 2007).

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