The ancestors of these thick-leaved plants probably already grew in the laurel forests on the European mainland about 60 million years ago. Their descendants have evolved in many ways on the Canary Islands, where most of the 40 species are found. Otherwise, they also grow on Madeira, the Cape Verde Islands, in the southern Mediterranean and Morocco.
Aeonias can store the CO2 in the air in their leaves at night and then use it for photosynthesis during the day. This enables them to survive in dry, hot locations in narrow crevices in canyons and between roof tiles, because they can reduce water evaporation without giving up carbon dioxide. The "bejeques" are thus particularly able to survive and thrive where other plants would wither. Their constant adaptation to the inhospitable and cut-off areas of the islands are the fundamental cause of their diverse development on the Canary Islands within their genus. Canarios often identify with this resistant plant, which has different strategies for survival depending on the challenge it faces.
Photo: Ines Dietrich