Oxalis Eneaphylla

10 Fascinating Flowers Found in Torres Del Paine National Park

Oxalis Eneaphylla

Patagonia – the sparsely populated region of South America that stretches across Chile and Argentina, from the southern tip of the Andes to deserts, steppes and grasslands in the east– is known for its larger-than-life natural attractions.

Everywhere you go in
Torres del Paine National Park, big blue skies, massive glaciers, expansive lakes, lush fields of green, megafauna (including guanacos and Andean condors), and the majestic peaks of the Paine massif compete for your attention, providing an impressive WOW!-per-hour ratio.

But equally worthy of note are the smaller-scale wonders of the Patagonia flora. Flowers in this region tend to be tiny– many of our favorites are about the size of your thumbnail. But these miniature marvels come in a variety of vivid colors and shapes, working their way up through the arid soil of this harsh climate, where winds frequently whip at speeds of up to 80 mph.
patagonia-flora-chilean-firetree
CHILEAN FIRETREE (Embothrium coccineum)
: Alternatively known as Chilean Firebush or Notro in Spanish, this evergreen grows in the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina, with a dense root mass that allows it to access normally inaccessible forms of various nutrients. Its vidid red flowers bloom in spring, and are pollinated by hummingbirds and insects. Their color provides a striking contrast against the water and glaciers around Lago Grey.
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COMMON SORREL (Rumex acetosa): This perennial herb, also known as spinach dock or narrow-leaved dock, is common in grassland habitats and cultivated gardens. The arrow-shaped leaves are often puréed for use in soups and sauces or added to salads, with an acidic, fruity flavor that’s been compared to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries. One of the first plants to grow back after a fire, the sorrel’s brilliant red flowers create a picturesque carpet of color in the fields around Paine massif.
patagonia-flora-dwarf-paramela
DWARF PARAMELA (Adesmia salicornioides): Part of an expansive genus of flowering plants in the legume family, this tiny flower is typically found at elevations of 2,000-3,500 meters throughout Patagonia. Smaller than the bush-like Adesmia boronioides (the leaves of which are used as an anti-inflammatory in local traditional medicine), the Dwarf Paramela grows low to the ground, boasting tiny golden flowers streaked with crimson.
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FACHINE (Chiliotrichum diffusum)
: Part of a genus of flowering plants in the daisy family, this native Chilean species (which can also be found in the Falkland Islands) is locally known as Mata Verde because it grows from a lush green bush. It typically grows to a height of four to five feet, topped by hundreds of bright white flowers with yellow stamens.
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FUEGIAN EDELWEISS (Perezia azul)
: Made famous in the U.S. by The Sound of Music, Edelweiss is a hardy mountain flower in the Asteraceae family (related to daisies and sunflowers). Although Edelweiss is typically associated with the Alps of Austria and Switzerland, this tiny South American variation’s periwinkle leaves and golden stamens add a pastel splash of color to the Patagonian landscape.
patagonia-flora-ladyslippers
LADY SLIPPER (Calceolaria uniflora): Originating in Tierra del Fuego, these diminutive mountain plants typically grow to be less than four inches tall. Part of a genus alternatively referred to as a lady’s purse, slipperwort or pocketbook flower, this vivid variation boasts flowers comprised of yellow, white and brownish red. They’re a commonly seen burst of color along the hiking trails of Torres del Paine.
patagonia-flora-lupine
LUPINE (Lupinus): Seeds of this genus of flowering plants from the legume family have been used as a food source in the Andean Highlands for over 6000 years. Lupinus mutabilis (known as tarwi or chocho) was extensively cultivated by the Incas. Users would soak the seeds in running water to remove bitter alkaloids, and then either cooked them to make them edible or boiled and dried them. They’re coming back into fashion as an alternative to soybeans.
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MATA NEGRA (Escallonia virgata)
: Native to South America, these flowering evergreens are beautiful high mountain shrubs, but they’re also widely cultivated (the Royal Horticultural Society has awarded six different hybrids) and often used as a hedge plant. They love sun and can grow up to 5-10 feet in height, typically flowering in the summer and early autumn. They bloom in masses of small pink or red flowers, with a sweet honey smell.
patagonia-flora-porcelain-orchid
PORCELAIN ORCHID (Chloraea magellanica)
: Torres del Paine National Park features seven documented orchid species, with the Porcelain Orchid among the most often seen. Measuring around a afoot in height, the flower’s crackled green and white pattern earned it the nickname “Mosaic Orchid.” But it’s the bright yellow “tongue” that truly catches the eye, standing out against the greens that dominate the fields of Patagonia.
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STREAKED MAIDEN (Olsynium biflorum)
: Dormant in summer and related to the iris, this evergreen perennial is native to Argentina, growing on sunny hillsides throughout Patagonia. The delicate, bell-shaped white flowers are lined with lilac stripes leading to gorgeous golden stamens, which are small and conjoined. The flowers only last a few days: If you see these beauties in bloom, consider yourself lucky.

HOW TO GO

Ready to explore Torres del paine National Park and more of Patagonia? International Expeditions offers comprehensive Patagonia Tours, exploring both Chile and Argentina. 

 

All photos courtesy of Bret Love and Mary Gabbett, GreenGlobalTravel.com.