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The Chilean Flora

Articles: The Chilean Flora

The Chilean Flora

I arrived in Chile a few days ahead of the Pacific Horticulture tour group I was escorting in 2001. With a rental car from the airport, I headed due north, avoiding the hustle and bustle of Santiago. My destination was La Campana where I would see the Chilean palms (Jubaea chilensis) that I so loved in California parks and gardens. They covered more of the landscape than I had expected—from streamside to mountain ridges here in the park, one of only two preserves where they can still be found growing naturally. The surrounding plant community looked just like the chaparral of Southern California, but with terrestrial bromeliads (Puya) and tall, columnar cacti mixed in with the typical sclerophyllous shrubs and oak-like trees

I made a spontaneous decision to drive to the top of the Andes on the road that heads east out of Santiago. After more than forty switchbacks, I was in ski resort territory at between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. It was early January, nearly the peak of summer in the high Andes, and the wildflower displays were unlike anything I had seen in the Rockies or the Sierra. Rocky, treeless meadows spread in every direction, filled with an astonishing...

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