Red List habitat classification > RLF - Heathland and scrub > RLF7.4d Canarian mountain hedgehog-heath

Canarian mountain hedgehog-heath

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLF7.4d
Threat status
Europe Least Concern
EU Least Concern
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


Canarian high-mountain volcanic semi-desert scrub, restricted to the subalpine zone of Tenerife and La Palma. The main occurrence of this rare and unique habitat type concerns the Cañadas del Teide on Tenerife, where it covers several square kilometers of the comparatively flat bottom of this huge caldera, one of the largest in the world. The dominant shrub species here is the striking hemispherical ‘hedgehog’ species Cytisus supranubius (up to 2 m), accompanied by a set of smaller species from different plant families showing a similar growth form, e.g. Nepeta teydea (Lamiaceae), Pterocephalus lasiospermus (Dipsacaceae) and Descurainea bourgeana (Brassicaceae). Every year, during its flowering period in May, Cytisus supranubius is painting the lava landscape in a bright white, in honor of its Spanish name ‘retama blanca’. Another prominent species in this open habitat is the pillar-shaped Echium wildpretii, which appearance reminds us of the Senecio and Lobelia communities in the arid belt of East-African tropical mountains above the timber line. The caldera is situated above 2,000 m and almost never gets any precipitation. It is thought that the dead remains of the flower stalks of the various species are able to catch and transport water during periods with fog. In addition to the limited supply of water, the extreme soil conditions strongly determine plant growth in this bare volcanic landscape.

The habitat type further comprises two scree communities at the summits of the Canaries, one on Tenerife and one on La Palma. On Tenerife, Viola cheiranthifolia is found on the flanks of the Teide, above the caldera, and on La Palma, Viola palmensis is growing in the highest parts of the island. Both the hedgehog and the scree communities are permanent natural vegetation.

This mountain habitat type is of particular conservation value as it houses a set of endemic and extremely rare species, which even do not (or hardly) occur outside the range of the habitat. Another conspicuous feature is that these communities do not support the occurrence of more widespread species, as is the case in other endemic ecosystems. Where the endemic habitat types of the Canary Islands at lower altitude are generally accompanied by many mediterranean species, this is not the case in these high-altitude hedgehog and scree communities. As a consequence, the habitat type is rather poor in species (5-10 species in general).

Indicators of good quality:

  • Presence of rare and endemic species.
  • Absence of ruderal, often more nutrient-demanding species.
  • Absence of alien species (grasses and shrubs).
  • Long-term habitat stability, with no successional trends.

Characteristic species
For full habitat description, please download the habitat factsheet.

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

In spite of its very restricted geographical area, the habitat is assessed as Least Concern, because of stable trends in quantity and quality. It may become endangered (EN) in the future however, if negative effects will occur from climate change.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Least Concern -

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Human intrusions and disturbances
    • Outdoor sports and leisure activities, recreational activities
    • Circuit, track
    • Interpretative centres
    • Trampling, overuse
  • Invasive, other problematic species and genes
    • Invasive non-native species
  • Geological events, natural catastrophes
    • Collapse of terrain, landslide
  • Climate change
    • Temperature changes (e.g. rise of temperature & extremes)
    • Droughts and less precipitations

Habitat restoration potential

The habitat type is permanent vegetation and probably does not depend on sucessional processes to establish. Colonization by seed from nearby sites containing the component species will be sufficient if disturbances disappear.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Stable No occurrence
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Stable Stable
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Keeping local, regional, national and EU conservation regulations as well as keeping the actual protected areas will guarantee habitat type persistence.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
    • Legal protection of habitats and species


For each habitat a distribution map was produced from a wide variety of sources indicating known and potential occurrences of the habitat in 10x10 km grids within Europe. Occurrences in grid cells were given in two classes: actual distribution from relatively reliable sources (surveys, expert knowledge), and potential distribution based on models or less reliable indicators. Please download the fact sheet to see the map.

Geographic occurrence and trends

EU28 Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Canary Islands Present 140 Stable Stable
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 6600 18 140
EU28+ 18 140
AOO = the area occupied by a habitat measured in number of 10x10 km grid cells.
EOO = the area (km2) of the envelope around all occurrences of a habitat (calculated by a minimum convex polygon).

Characteristic species

The full list of characteristic species and genus are available above from the Summary. The species available in the EUNIS database are shown here.
Flowering Plants Bencomia exstipulata
Flowering Plants Echium gentianoides
Flowering Plants Genista benehoavensis
Flowering Plants Silene nocteolens
Flowering Plants Stemmacantha cynaroides
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Bencomia exstipulata Flowering Plants
Echium gentianoides Flowering Plants
Genista benehoavensis Flowering Plants
Silene nocteolens Flowering Plants
Stemmacantha cynaroides Flowering Plants

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

Not available
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