DixPix Photographs



  Flora: PEA Family- WOODY FABOIDS  


The Pea Family is known as FABACEAE, or sometimes as Leguminosae.  It is huge, and commonly split into three sub-families.  The largest of these divisions is the FABOIDEAE (also called PAPILIONOIDEAE), which at roughly 14,000 species is almost twice as large as the other two divisions combined.  This page treats some of the genera from the Southern Cordillera which are shrubs, trees, or at least have woody parts.

By far the most numerous genus in this category locally is Adesmia, with almost two hundred species recognized in Chile and Argentina alone.  These range from mats to shrubs in habit, and tend to have their highest diversity in semi-arid environments.  With that level of taxonomic confusion, only variations of interest will be presented, along with some educated guesses at a few of the more distinctive species.  Adesmia tends to go by names such as Añagua and Varilla (or Jarilla) in Chile, while Acerillos seems common in Argentina, along with Cuerno de Cabra for the thorny species.


This is a typical Adesmia flower from an alpine species in La Rioja Province of Argentina.  With few exceptions, there is little variation in flowers between species.  Habit, location, leaves, pods and thorns (if any) are usually more distinctive. Click to see big picture (514x480 pixels; 74 KB)
The pods of some species have red or white hairs, which draw more attention than the flowers.  This is from the lowlands of La Rioja. Click to see big picture (591x480 pixels; 122 KB)
Several high mountain species form low mats.  Thorny varieties like this are betimes referred to as "mother-in-law's mattress".  These do tend to have large, woody root systems which are used for firewood at those elevations. Click to see big picture (608x480 pixels; 200 KB)
And in this example, the plant has aspects of a vine in habit. Click to see big picture (548x480 pixels; 87 KB)
The "Norte Chico" of Chile is one of the centers of greatest Adesmia diversity.  This example with silvery stems is likely A. argentea. Click to see big picture (640x471 pixels; 101 KB)
While this coastal species in the form of a small tree is typical of Adesmia bedwellii. Click to see big picture (494x480 pixels; 103 KB)
From the Ovalle area, Adesmia argyrophylla (approx.). Click to see big picture (497x480 pixels; 106 KB)
Moving south and into more alpine terrain, this appears to be Adesmia corymbosa, which may be found in the central and southern Andes. Click to see big picture (638x480 pixels; 102 KB)
From near Valparaiso, one of the more scrawny species, quite likely Adesmia filifolia. Click to see big picture (207x480 pixels; 44 KB)
Turning to the mountains of Salta Province, Argentina.  This species, with flowers sprouting from thorns, is likely Adesmia trijuga, which occurs in northwestern Argentina and into Bolivia. Click to see big picture (534x480 pixels; 82 KB)
Another thorny wonder from southern Argentina, central Rio Negro Province in fact.  This one seems to be Adesmia volckmannii approx. adesmia
And finally, from the Patagonian steppes of Argentina, Adesmia guttulifera (approx.).  Looks a lot like A. salamancensis also. Click to see big picture (474x480 pixels; 77 KB)
From 4000 meters altitude in central Peru, this looks a whole lot like the purple phase of Adesmia parvifolia, but that is supposed to be confined to the mountains of Chile and Argentina.
We catch up with the yellow form of Adesmia parvifolia (approx.) on the flanks of Volcan Osorno in the Chilean Lake District.
In the steppes of Patagonia, you may think you are looking a the biblical 'burning bush'.  In fact it is known as Matafuego (fuego means fire) and is of the genus Anarthrophyllum. Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 169 KB)
Alas Chubut Province here seems to be a center of diversity for Anarthrophyllum, with several species and varieties.  This orange variety may well be A. rigidum.  On the Chilean side of the Andes there iseems a tendency to call these Mataguanaco. Click to see big picture (640x424 pixels; 168 KB)
A Matafuego with silvery leaves, Anarthrophyllum desideratum.  Matafuego in Argentina, Mataguanaco in Chile. Click to see big picture (640x432 pixels; 161 KB)
And from the same part of Patagonia, what is this? Click to see big picture (640x479 pixels; 193 KB)
Most species of Crotalaria in southern South America hang out in the tropical forests.  Here, however, are two unidentified varieties which have made their homes in the mountains of Peru. Click to see big picture (640x359 pixels; 103 KB)
Also Peruvian, from a dry section in the north of the country, what appears to be a species of Camptosema sp., with extremely long, linear beans. Click to see big picture (640x369 pixels; 98 KB)
Central and southern Chile is home to Otholobium glandulosum, widely known as Culen.  The name has changed in some books to Psoralea glandulosa. Click to see big picture (410x480 pixels; 77 KB)
Culen is rapid-growing with weedy habits.  Some people make a drink from the leaves, but others break out in a rash from just touching it. Click to see big picture (549x480 pixels; 79 KB)
Geoffraea decorticans may be found from Peru down into northern Chile and Argentina.  In English it has become known as the Chilean Paloverde, while local names include Chañar and Kumbaru.  These fruit are edible and form the basis for cough syrups. Click to see big picture (398x480 pixels; 84 KB)
Chañar is also noted for its peeling, madrona-like bark, and its slightly bluish foliage. chanar
The spectacular Ceibo or Seibo is not exactly a mountain species, but as the national flower of both Argentina and Uruguay, Erythrina crista-galli deserves a chance to show off. ceibo
Erythrina falcata, is a cousin of the lowland E. crista-galli.  This one is known as Ceibo Salteño or Ceibo Jujeño, referring to Argentina's two most northwesterly Provinces. Click to see big picture (640x461 pixels; 123 KB)
Robinia pseudoacacia is a Locust Tree, introduced from southeastern USA into central Chile.  Unlike the locust beans that Jesus ate, sweetened with honey, to meet the devil in a Palestine desert, the beans of this species of locust are not hallucinogenic, they are poisonous. Click to see big picture (328x480 pixels; 63 KB)
Bauhinia forficata, the Pata de Vaca (cow hoof) is named for its cloven leaves.  These are considered medicinal, but for what seems to be poorly defined.  This tree is mainly found to east of the Cordillera from Peru to northern Argentina, but does struggle up to 1500 meters, so it sort of belongs here. pata de vaca
Sophora macrocarpa is the the most common of its genus in central and southern Chile.  The local name is Mayu or Mayo. Click to see big picture (457x480 pixels; 70 KB)
Sophora flowers are attractive, but its large, highly constricted pods draw just as much attention. Click to see big picture (353x480 pixels; 76 KB)
Sophora cassioides has much the same range, but smaller leaves.  Where differentiated from mayu, it is called Pelu. Click to see big picture (623x480 pixels; 128 KB)
The leaves of S. cassioides may be smaller, but the flowers appear larger.  Here is a closer view from the Chilean Lake District. Click to see big picture (555x480 pixels; 91 KB)
Sophora microphylla has a native range restricted to southern Chile, but here it is showing off in the San Francisco Bot. Gardens. Click to see big picture (383x480 pixels; 92 KB)
Spartium junceum has been introduced into parts of the southern Cordillera from southern Europe, where it was once used as a violent emetic.  It is known as Spanish Broom, but locally is one of the plants termed Retama. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 119 KB)
Another variety of Retama from the mountains above Medoza. Click to see big picture (485x480 pixels; 78 KB)
There are several types of Broom from Europe, some of which are seriously invasive.  The one which is making inroads in central and southern Chile is Genista monspessulana, known as French Broom. Click to see big picture (513x480 pixels; 126 KB)
French Broom, with its furry pods, is often called Lluvia de Oro (golden rain) in view of its bright flowers, but it is becoming a serious pest in places. Click to see big picture (640x438 pixels; 105 KB)
When it comes to serious invasions, however, none is a overwhelming as Gorse (Ulex europaeus).  Locally it is called Corena, usually prefixed with some choice profanity. Click to see big picture (518x480 pixels; 118 KB)
By the early 1990's Gorse had already over-run the fields of the Island of Chiloe, and it is now galloping northward through the mainland.  Someday much of southern Chile may look like this. Click to see big picture (374x480 pixels; 103 KB)