Bully tree (Eng); marmulano, marmulán, marmolán, mirmulano (Spa).
DID YOU KNOW...? The Spanish name 'marmulán', and all its variants, allude to marble, in clear reference to the hardness of this tree's wood.
An evergreen tree with a leafy crown and very variable in size: adult specimens can measure from 3 to 15 m in height. The trunk is fairly straight and thick, usually surrounded by trunk or root shoots (suckers), and has rough, very cracked bark that is dark brownish grey in colour. The leaves are simple, alternate, somewhat leathery, elongated oblong or elliptical, 7-15 cm in length and 3-5 cm wide, and with an entire margin. They are paler on the underside, where there is a prominent ivory-yellow main vein, and they have whitish sap, or latex, that exudes when the stalk is cut. They are usually arranged very tightly in bunches at the ends of the branches and they can sometimes be confused with those of Pleiomeris canariensis, although the leaves of the bully tree have a more rounded tip. The white flowers sprout directly from the stem (cauliflory), either alone or grouped into clusters. After fertilisation, the stems fill with fleshy, ovoid fruit (drupes) that are less than 2 cm in length and which conserve a short, thin point at the tip. When ripe, they turn black with white splotches.
It is a fairly rare species that usually grows in zones with thin substrates or little soil retention, like the foot of cliffs and steep rocky escarpments. It is typical of the interior of the monteverde zone, but can also occupy the uppermost levels of the thermophilous forest. Its range coincides more or less with north- and northeast-facing locations on the islands, and it grows at altitudes of between 200 and 800 m, sometimes even higher.
Sideroxylon canariensis is endemic to the Canaries. Until very recently it was included within the species Sideroxylon marmulano Banks ex Lowe, a species which the latest studies has restricted to the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores. This bully tree is very widely distributed around the islands: it can be found on El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura.