DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Flora:  BIGNONIA FAMILY & KIN  

 

The Bignonia Family (BIGNONIACEAE) is one of moderate size, roughly 700 species, but many are outstanding in their floral displays.   Most are trees, shrubs, lianas or vines, but even many of the shrubs are scramblers or climbers.  An alternate name is the Trumpet Creeper Family.  There is a center of diversity for the family in South America, but alas it is tropical.  Most of the species which may be claimed by the Southern Cordillera, are found on the eastern slopes of the Andes chain in Peru, Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, struggling up from their jungle heritage. 

Also included in this page are two other families from the same Botanical Order, Lamiales; the ACANTHACEAE and the GESNERNIACEAE.  Both of these are considerably larger than the Bignonias, but have a rather small footprint in the Southern Cordillera.

 

Perhaps the best known of the Begonia Family is the Jacaranda, and in particular Jacaranda mimosifolia, which is widely planted.  It is native to northwestern Argentina and northward along the Andes flank to 1700 m. altitude, but more likely to be encountered in parks. Click to see big picture (444x480 pixels; 81 KB)
A side view of the flowers.  There are some 49 species of Jacaranda, the most popular is called mimosifolia because the leaves are fine, resembling those of the Mimosoid members of the Pea Family. Click to see big picture (640x390 pixels; 94 KB)
Another widely planted shrub, native to the the same parts of the Cordillera as Jacaranda mimosifolia, is Tecoma Stans.  This goes by various names, such as Golden Bells.  It naturalizes easily, and has become invasive in some areas. Click to see big picture (597x480 pixels; 89 KB)
Higher in the ranges of Peru and Bolivia, there is Tecoma sambucifolia.  This is reputed to have anti-inflammatory and other medical properties, and the native name Huaranhuay as been corrupted to Waranway in some English promotions for herbal medicines. Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 74 KB)
Another high altitude relative is Tecoma garrocha, known to range to almost 3000 meters in Peru, Bolivia and northwestern Argentina.  This, however, is from the Univ. Berkeley Bot. Gardens. Click to see big picture (429x480 pixels; 88 KB)
The Catclaw Climber vine is now Dolichandra unguis-cati, but the genus is still thought of commonly as Macfadyena and it has been published under dozens of names.  It prefers the jungles northeast of the Cordillera, but can be tempted up over 2000 meters elevation.  It can also be a pest, albeit an attractive one.  Locally, Uña de Gato. catclaw
Another vine from this genus is Dolichandra cynanchoides, known as Sacha Huasca.  It is largely at home in the Amazon, but gets up to 2000 meters altitude in the eastern Andes from Ecuador to northern Argentina. sacha huasca
Lapacho amarillo (Tabebuia lapacho) may be found in Bolivia and northwestern Argentina.  There are about a hundred species in this genus, but the great majority do not climb into the Cordillera as this one does. Click to see big picture (495x480 pixels; 88 KB)
It used to be known as Pithecoctenium cynanchoides, but is now properly addressed as Amphilophium cynanchoides.  With a distinctive bent flower, this vine ranges from Peru and Bolivia south to northwestern Argentina, in this case in the mountains of Mendoza Province.  Click to see big picture (570x480 pixels; 110 KB)
Amphilophium cynanchoides has a distinctive seed pod which, along with several other items, is called a monkey comb.  Inside are unusual seeds in clear membranes for wind dispersal.
The Red Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) is native to the southeastern United States, but has escaped cultivation here in Salta Province, Argentina, and likely elsewhere. Click to see big picture (514x480 pixels; 106 KB)
Argylia uspallatensis blooms under the difficult conditions of the Altiplano and high Atacama Desert.  This genus is locally called Triaca. Click to see big picture (628x480 pixels; 95 KB)
And finally Eccremocarpus scaber, a flowering vine in the forests of south and central Chile and Argentina.  It goes by the name of chupa-chupa, or by the more intriguing chupa-poto. Click to see big picture (604x480 pixels; 82 KB)

The Acanthus Family, ACANTHACEAE boasts some 2500 species and about a tenth that number of genera.  It is also widespread in tropical settings of the world, but it is rare in the Southern Cordillera. Only one photo to share.

 

 

Stenandrium dulce is an unassuming, but wide-ranging flower, found in various areas from Central America down into southern Argentina and Chile, where it is known as Hierba piñada.

Click to see big picture (613x480 pixels; 140 KB)
Justicia jujuyensis, at least so labeled in the botanical gardens in Phoenix. This is named for Argentina's northwestern province, but is more widespread in Bolivia.  There are those who would submerge this species into the otherwise more tropical J. Corumbensis.

The GESNERNIACEAE is usually called the African Violet Family, and with about 3200 species, it is well represented throughout the tropics.  Flowers tend to be brightly colored, although most are not large or showy.  There are only a few species native to the Southern Cordillera.

 

 
Mitraria coccinea is a woody vine with flowers called Botellita (little bottle).  In the tropics it would likely be described as a liana with "goldfish" flowers.  It is native to southern Chile and Argentina, but this one is rooted at UC Berkeley Gardens. Click to see big picture (640x360 pixels; 84 KB)
At Caleta Tortel in Chilean Patagonia, we catch up with Botellita in its natural habitat.  The local name is Vochi-vochi, an indigenous term.
And here is a fuller view of the vine-like or scambling bush of Mitraria coccinea.
A more slender vine with small, thick leaves marks Medallita (Sarmienta scandens-- also called Sarmienta repens). Endemic to the southern half of Chile. Click to see big picture (371x480 pixels; 112 KB)
A closer look at the delicate flower of Medallita near Lago Villarica.  This is a species that needs wet conditions. medallita
And here is a mystery.  In the lowlands of La Rioja Province of Argentina, a flower that looks a lot like the tropical epiphytes from the Columnea genus. Click to see big picture (426x480 pixels; 64 KB)
In view of its similarity to Columnea and to the Asteranthera genus, I put it here, although in truth I have no idea what it is.

MARTYNIACEAE is a small family variously known as Unicorn Plant and Devil's Claw.  It is not well represented in the Southern Cordillera, but its flowers tend to be unusual.

 

 
From San Juan Province of Argentina, intruducing what is likely Ibicella lutea (although there is another species of this genus lurking in the region).  Widely known as the Unicorn Plant, it is becoming a common roadside weed in northwestern Argentina. unicorn
The Unicorn flower is striking and rumored to be carnivorous, but I suspect that the caterpillar on the right has the upper hand. unicornflw
The pods of the Unicorn Plant are unusual, swinging up into a pointed end.  Perhaps this is where the unicorn and claw names came from.