Usurped by the more glamorous figures of Tanit and Bes, trees are the often-overlooked yet steadfast talismans of island culture. The sister islands of Ibiza and Formentera are known as the Pitiusas – named by the Greeks for the profusion of pine trees covering both landscapes. The hardwearing wood of the Sabina helped build the island’s homes, towns and villages while the sap of the pine was used to make glue. Almond, carob and citrus trees fed the island inhabitants, both human and animal, throughout the year. Trees are the cornerstones of any garden and Blakstad designs celebrate Ibiza’s many trees as part of our island’s natural heritage.
Many of Ibiza’s native trees hold symbolic importance as well as decorative and ecological purposes. The fig tree and olive tree probably provoke the most ardent imaginations, taking central roles in the Anglo-Judeo creation stories. Ibiza’s most prolific poet, María Villangomez Llobet mentioned many of the trees of Ibiza in his work. The Sabina and the pine appear in addition to the fig, which he describes as existing in a sleepy shadow. The olive has sustained the Mediterranean for millennia, providing fruit, oil and wood and a sense of historical importance in its gnarled and ancient branches.
Beyond the historical importance of Ibiza’s trees is their necessity for the ecology of the island. A Blakstad landscape design is created for beauty, in addition to supporting the natural habitats of native creatures and the health of the soil and the longevity of local species. Our landscapes utilise many of the species found in the Catalogue of Singular Trees, compiled by non-profit organisation Bosques Sin Fronteras (Forests Without Borders) that lists 22 extraordinary trees located in Ibiza. Over time, long after we are gone, the trees we plant in our projects may also become categorised as singular trees.
Either due to their size or age, these trees are considered unique and are protected by law – their location often shielded to safeguard longevity. The most magnificent of the trees is an ancient olive known as n’Espanya, located on a farm in San Carlos. Thought to be more than 1000 years old, it is one for the longest living olive trees in the country. The twisted sinews of the trunk are as wide as the tree is tall having outlived both the Moorish and Roman occupations. Many of the olive trees found in our projects are known as centennial trees, reaching up to at least 100 years old.
Another proud tree listed in the catalogue is the Pi ver d’en Besuró, a pine nut tree that is 12 metres tall with a 25-metre wide crown that would take three adults to link arms and hug it. It’s a picture-perfect tree, beautifully proportioned and lushly green. The cultural organisation Colla de Balansat arranges traditional dances under the shade of its branches in memory of another beautiful pine, the Pi d’en Noguera, now passed over into tree heaven. Not far from Besuró are two more groupings of regal pines thought to be over 100 years old. The Váda de Baláfia and those on the family land of Vicent de na Blaia suffered damage during the widening of the San Juan road, yet thankfully have been saved.
The oak is a tree most associated with northern Europe but there are some scarce examples of this noblest of trees in Ibiza. The Bellotera of Can Carreró is located near Benirras. It measures seven metres high with a crown spanning 20 metres and still produces sweet fragrant acorns. Scars on the trunk indicate where people once harvested the bark for medicinal purposes. Its first branches reach to the ground offering support for the weight of this magnificent tree and also provide the best route for climbing.
The Sabina, or native juniper, is one of the most emblematic trees of the island. Its likeness is used in logos and marketing materials and its status as a heritage-listed species protects it from any interference. While still ubiquitous across Ibiza, the specimens we see now are minuscule compared to the old-growth trees that were used by previous generations to build their homes. There remains a group of old-timers near Sa Rota in Santa Eulalia. They form a unique arboreal complex, which thanks to their inclusion into the catalogue are now doubly protected.
There are many more significant trees that only just miss out inclusion in the catalogue and the Species Protection Service of the Ministry of Agriculture encourages landowners to contact them if they think they have an important tree on their property. Trees are witness to human ingenuity and human folly, silently watching as we play out our dramas under their protective branches. They provide life-giving oxygen, sustenance and a source of pride. To lay a blanket under their dappled shade in the late summer afternoon is one of life’s luxuries. While we continue to plant as many local species as we can don’t forget to look up occasionally and appreciate Ibiza’s exquisite trees.