Palo blanco, paloblanco (Spa); branqueiro (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? In the diary of his journeys, the famous English explorer, Captain James Cook (1728-1779), praised the verdure of the majestic crown of this tree.
Very elegant evergreen tree, 10-15 m tall, with a trunk up to 60 cm in diameter and a somewhat open crown. It has characteristic white-grey bark that is very rough and has protuberances, giving it its common name in Spanish of 'palo blanco', or white wood. The leaves are simple, leathery, hairless, obovate to elliptical, 6-8 cm long, shiny, and dark green on the upper side. They have an entire margin that frequently curves slightly downwards. This species is easily recognised by the opposite arrangement of its leaves and the lack of galls and glands. The flowers are visibly hermaphroditic. They have four white petals arranged like the blades of a windmill that are joined into small clusters. The somewhat fleshy fruits are drupes up to 2 cm in length that resemble those of the olive tree, Olea europea, as they belong to the same family. Like olives, each fruit contains a single nutlet with a seed inside, and its greenish coloration changes to purple black when ripe.
This tree usually grows on slopes and in valleys with deep soils. It prefers open areas or somewhat sunny spots in the laurel forests, but can also be found in the Morella-Erica heath, the lower zones of the monteverde forest and, sporadically, in areas of mixed pine. Picconia excelsa can generally be seen between altitudes of 400 and 1000 m, although individual specimens may appear at lower levels, as long as there is sufficient humidity.
Picconia excelsa is endemic to Macaronesia. It can be found in Madeira and almost all the Canary Islands: El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Fuerteventura. The genus Picconia only contains one other species, Picconia azorica, which is endemic to the Azores.