DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Flora: BUCKTHORNS & CUCERBITALES  

 

The RHAMNACEAE or Buckthorn Family was once the standard bearer for the botanical Order Rhamnales, but it has now been demoted to a family in the Order named for the Roses.  One of its tribes, known as Colletieae, has a moderate representation in the Southern Cordillera.  They consist mainly of thorny shrubs, which have made few friends and drawn much blood.

Also included on this page are three families of the Order Cucurbitales, which are genetically related to the Rhamnales, but only minimally represented in the Southern Cordillera.

 

Colletia hystrix is also widely known as C. spinosa, in fact it has been called some 24 different names by published authorities-- such is taxonomy.  This genus is often called Crucifixion Thorns in English and Cruceros locally.  You may be unlucky enough to run into it through most of Chile or in southern Argentina. Click to see big picture (640x475 pixels; 114 KB)
With red flowers and shorter thorns, Colletia ulicina is at least more attractive. It is mainly found in central Chile where it goes by the name of Cunco Rojo. Click to see big picture (640x355 pixels; 92 KB)
Those red flowers of Cunco Rojo are worth a second look. Click to see big picture (640x445 pixels; 105 KB)
Another Crucero Colletia Spinosissima has a wider range, including northern Chile and Argentina up into Peru and Bolivia.  With this range comes more local names, including Junco Minero, Barba de Tigre and in Argentina, Coronillo. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 114 KB)
These are two high-altitude Colletia from two different ranges in Peru, with more or less pink flowers.  In Peru there is a tendency to call cruceros Roque, or Roq'e for the Quechua purists. Click to see big picture (640x359 pixels; 83 KB)
The Discaria genus tends to be less thorny than Colletia and go by the name of Chacay.   This is Discaria chacaye. Click to see big picture (364x480 pixels; 83 KB)
A closer look at Discaria chacaye, showing the four-petal flowers of its genus.  This is said to be a variable species and is native to southern Chile and Argentina. Click to see big picture (507x480 pixels; 107 KB)
But is it variable enough to include these Discaria-looking flowers in globular clusters from northwestern Argentina, or is this something else entirely?
Discaria serratifolia is considered in some quarters as just one of some 28 names that have been given to Discaria chacaye,  but the leaves look different, having the marginal serration for which the species was named. Click to see big picture (623x480 pixels; 98 KB)
And the flowers of Discaria serratifolia also do not look the same.  To the local's they are all just Chacay. Click to see big picture (566x480 pixels; 94 KB)
Retanilla ephedra of central and southern Chile, is noteworthy largely for its fruit, which gives it the local name of Frutilla del Campo. Click to see big picture (640x445 pixels; 128 KB)
When it comes to fruit, the Mistol tree (Ziziphus mistol)? is the buckthorn of importance in Bolivia and down into central Argentina.  It is used for making syrups and an alchoholic drink.  The fruit will be redder when ripe. mistol
Retanilla trinervia is still widely referred to as Trevoa trinervia, and in the field cursed as either Tevo (Tebo) or Trevu Click to see big picture (640x418 pixels; 102 KB)
A better look at Tevo's thorns.  This bush mainly infests central Chile, and has adapted well to the widespread pine plantations.  Thickets can only be crossed with a machete. Click to see big picture (284x480 pixels; 62 KB)
There is a type of large flies that appreciate the Trevoa genus, which otherwise has few friends.  There is also a moth which lays eggs here, and the resulting Gusanos de Tevo grubs are a favorite for fishing bait. Click to see big picture (242x480 pixels; 45 KB)
Tralhuen is the usual name for Trevoa quinquenervia, which has much the same range and thorny habit as the more common Tevo.  It does, however, have more interesting flowers which sport a sort of tongue. Click to see big picture (510x480 pixels; 91 KB)

BEGONIACEAE, the Begonia Family is found in warm, moist climates around the world, by some estimates boasting as many as 1400 species, all but one of which are in the genus Begonia.  Alas it is a very tropical genus, with little interest in harsh environments such as the Southern Cordillera.

 

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Begonia boliviensis, however, can thrive as high as 2000 m., making it a certified Cordilleran plant of Bolivia and northwestern Argentina.  Its relative hardiness has also made it a garden favorite, in this case the garden at Univ. Berkeley.  It was introduced into England by 1864. Click to see big picture (333x480 pixels; 59 KB)

The CORIARIACEAE is a small, albeit widespread, family with a single genus and perhaps 30 species.

 

 
 Coriaria ruscifolia is a small bush residing in southern Chile and Argentina.  It carries at least three local names; Deu, Huique and Matarratones.  This last name arises because the seeds are used as a rat poison. Click to see big picture (631x480 pixels; 137 KB)
And here on Volcan Osorno in the Chilean Lake District, the poisonous seeds of Coriaria ruscifolia are ripening to a purple black color. matarratones

The Melon or Gourd Family, CUCURBITACEAE, has roughly 125 genera and somewhat more than six times as many species, but is very poorly represented in the Southern Cordillera.

 

 
Momordica charantia, the Bitter Melon, originated in Africa, but is now pantropical.  It has been widely planted, both as a bitter food and for its widespread use in folk medicine, especially Chinese medicine. Click to see big picture (560x480 pixels; 110 KB)
When ripe, the melons burst open to reveal the seeds.  This plant has escaped cultivation in northern Peru. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 110 KB)
From the drylands of northern San Juan Province, Argentina, a vine of the Melon Family sprawls across the parched ground.  This is likely Cucurbitella asperata. cucumber vine
And another unidentified vine from central La Rioja province, climbing through bushes of the semi-arid terrain.  Micro-melons such as this are sometimes called Sandia del Zorro (fox melons).