Plants of the Galapagos Islands

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

Most Important Plants of the Galapagos Islands:

galapagos opuntia plant

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.

galapagos lava cactus

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.

galapagos passion flower

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.

galapagos scalesia plant

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.

For example the Lecocarpus pinnatifidusspecies is found only on Floreana Island the lecocarpoides species is found only on Espanola Island and on the beautiful San Cristobal Island

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:

  • Darwiniothamnus
  • Macraea
  • Scalesia
  • Lecocarpus
  • Brachycereus
  • Sicyocaulis
  • Jasminocereus
  • Malacophylla

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.

Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides). Click to order from Amazon

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading!

There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.


Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands. Click to order from Amazon

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands

Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers.

Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!


Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in.

Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!


Moon Spotlight Galapagos. Click to order from Amazon

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands

If you're a seasoned Galapagos regular, then you will probably prefer something weightier.

But for first-timers looking for simple, down-to-earth advice on where to go, what to see and the best shopping and eating on the islands, this is the book for you.

Small, well-priced, and reliable!


Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

The 10th anniversary edition of this photographer's tour of the Galapagos Islands is a stunning book, worthy of anybody's coffee table.

This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!


More About Galapagos

Galapagos Flowers

Information About the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands National Park

Galapagos Islands Snorkeling Adventure

If you have questions about the Plants of the Galapagos Islands, You can post them on our Galapagos FAQ Page and if you'd like to request more information and details about our Economic Galapagos Trips to visit these Islands, You can Contact us here

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