Garoé Tree, the sacred tree of El Hierro

The Garoé tree is located in a place full of magnetism in the herreña locality of San Andrés. Adored by the bimbaches, the ancient inhabitants of the island of El Hierro, it is today a symbol of the island's identity.

The original Garoé tree was a tree capable of collecting enough water to supply the entire Herreña population of the time, which made it become a sacred tree. In the 17th century a hurricane knocked it down and in 1949 it was replaced by the current one.

Garoé tree in El Hierro

Garoé in the insular Tamazight language, ancient Guanche languages, means "lagoon" or "river". The Garoé tree appears in the coat of arms of the island of El Hierro represented as a green tree on water and whose top is surrounded by clouds from which water drops fall.

The Garoé tree, source of water

The Garoé was venerated and protected by the Bimbache people because it was the source of one of their most precious commodities: water. This particularity is due to the fact that when the humidity of the trade winds hit the green tree, its branches and leaves collected the water that the clouds carried and distilled it drop by drop, depositing it in a well under the tree created for storage.

Garoé tree in El Hierro

Canarian legend has it that when the Castilian conquerors arrived on the island of El Hierro, the Bimbache people tried to keep the location of the Garoé secret in order to avoid supplying the conquerors with water, since this tree was the only source of fresh water on the island, and thus encourage their departure.

Garoé tree in El Hierro

However, the conquistadors discovered the location of the sacred tree with the help of Agarfa, a young Bimbache girl who fell in love with a Castilian soldier who was part of the expedition, and soon took possession of the tree. This led to the establishment and conquest of the island by the Castilians, as well as the disappearance of the Bimbache people.

The til, a tree endemic to Macaronesia

It is one of the trees of the laurel forest with greater coverage. It has a tall stature of between 20 to 30 meters high, a slender trunk that branches frequently from the base and a wide, very leafy and more or less rounded crown. Its bark, dark gray-brown in color, is covered with small round, somewhat whitish protuberances that, when very abundant, give it a very rough appearance. Often, we can see the main trunk surrounded by many shoots.

Garoé tree in El Hierro

The leaves are persistent, simple and alternate. During the summer, its flowers sprout in not very dense clusters. They give off a soft and pleasant smell. This tree differs from other species because its fleshy olive-shaped fruits are covered almost halfway by a persistent dome, so they look like small acorns. They are deep green at first and turn purple or blackish when ripe, which is when they detach from the dome and fall to the ground.

Garoé Tree Interpretation Center and Water Route

This place, a source of legends, now has a small interpretation center where you can findall the information related to the sacred tree, from its historical and archaeological importance to the phenomenon of horizontal rain, responsible for the Garoé tree distilling water. Such is the love that the Herreños have for the tree that a few years ago they paid tribute to it with the creation of the Water Route, a 16-kilometer trail that informs about the history of water on the island.

Interpretation Center

The phenomenon of horizontal rain

Horizontal rain is a natural phenomenon typical of cloud forests present in high altitude areas. This is the result of the constant collision of low clouds or mist with the vegetation present in these areas. This causes the plants to condense the humidity of the environment forming water droplets, which precipitate and swell groundwater flows, rivers and streams.

Garoé tree in El Hierro

If you are interested in the festivities, culture and traditions of the Canary Islands, here is a link to our section on Culture and Traditions at Marca Canaria.

Paula Vera



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