The plants of the Galapagos Islands are always in the process of evolving and changing into new species.
This is why sometimes it is hard to decide if a certain plant is a new species, or a subspecies, or a variety. This is a clear example of the Islands' evolutionary growth.
Since Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands on 1835 the flora and fauna of Galapagos have been constantly researched and studied.
There are more than 500 species of Galapagos plants living in the islands, and about 40 per cent of them are endemic to these set of Islands.
Galapagos plants also play an important role in providing food to many land animals like: Galapagos Tortoises, Iguanas and the famous Galapagos Finches. These plants also feed sea birds like Blue Footed Boobies and Frigatebirds
Cactus Genus Opuntia: This plant is a good example of evolutionary process. It has six different species and fourteen endemic varieties. The Opuntia is found on every island in Galapagos and it is interesting to see the strange forms they exhibit. In some cases they can grow to more than 10 mts.
Lava Cactus: These are plants of the Galapagos Islands that grow on lava grounds. It can be found on islands that have black lava flows like: Isabela Island or Bartolome Island.
This plant is a source of food for bees and small insects in Galapagos.
Passion Flower Plant: This is another plant endemic to Galapagos. The flowers of this plant are white. It is a plant that grows creeping or climbing over the ground and bushes. Birds eat the fruits from this plant. It can be found on Floreana Island.
A good example of evolutionary changes in Galapagos and how new species are created in these isolated and remote Islands can be observed in the Scalesia group of plants.
Espino Plant: Is a spiky bush that grows mainly on the desert parts of the Islands.
The leaves of this plant are difficult to see because somehow they are bent with the hot sun.
Sometimes they can grow up to seven or eight feet high. The fruit that grows in this plant is a source of food for Galapagos finches.
Cacaotillo Plant: This plant is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It grows only on the high elevations of San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Islands.
This Galapagos plant can grow up to 5 meters high.
Plants are distributed all across the Galapagos, but the islands have a different climate that's why some species can only be found in certain Islands.
Alternanthera galapagensis is found only on the islets surrounding Floreana Island.
Palo Santo, Bursera graveolens, is present on most of the Islands except on Baltra (which is one of the driest island) Seymour, Pinzon and Rabida Island
It grows especially in the arid zones of the Islands.
Compared to other locations in the world the plants of the Galapagos Islands have a high percent of endemic species just like its fantastic animals, most of which can only be seen in these group of Islands and nowhere else in the world.
The following are some examples of endemic plants of the Galapagos Islands:
The plants of the Galapagos Islands managed somehow to establish and evolve in this sometimes aggressive environment.
I think it is because of this interesting evolutionary process that the superb flora and fauna of Galapagos continue to amaze visitors from around the world.
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