Mount Atlas mastic
Mount Atlas mastic, Persian turpentine tree (Eng); almácigo, lengua de oveja (Spa).
DID YOU KNOW...? The resin of this tree used to be chewed to fortify the gums and give the mouth a pleasant smell.
A branching tree with a wide crown that reaches 12 m in height. Its bark is greyish, almost blackish, and very scaly in older specimens. Unlike the mastic (Pistacia lenticus), the leaves are deciduous (they drop in autumn and sprout again at the end of winter), and comprise an uneven number of leaflets (odd-pinnate). Each leaf has 5-9 leaflets up to 5 cm long, oblong-lanceolate, sometimes somewhat asymmetrical at the base, and frequently deformed by showy purplish-red galls. There are male and female trees, both of which bear flowers that are not showy and have no petals. The male flowers are grouped into short yellowish-greenish catkins, whereas the female blooms grow in elongated reddish-pink clusters. The fruits are quite fleshy (drupes), reddish at first turning brown or black when ripe, arranged into clusters up to 15 cm long. They are slightly 'cucumber shaped', unlike those of the mastic, which are round and measure 4-6 mm.
The Mount Atlas mastic is a tree of the thermophilous forests, located at altitudes of between 150 and 600 m. Sometimes it is so abundant that it forms a woodland formation known locally as an almacigar. It is typical on the northern slopes of the islands and sporadic in the south, where it takes refuge on the sides of ravines and inaccessible crags. It is very tolerant of water stress and can grow in very barren environments.
This tree is native to northern Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as the Canary Islands. In the Canaries it can be found on La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura.