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SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  FLORA:  OVERVIEW  

 

The widely varied habitats of the Southern Cordillera discussed under Fauna are also applicable to the Flora, although the variety is nothing like the diversity of tropical jungles. So where does one turn for classification?  The heavy-weight in this department is the 2008, three-tome, Catalago de las Plantas Vasculares del Cono Sur, which weighs in at about seven and a half kilos (16 lb.).  This is a publication of the amazing Missouri Botanical Gardens.  However, its compilation does not cover Peru or Bolivia, but does extend into Paraguay, Uruguay, northeastern Argentina and southern Brazil, which is not part of the South Cordillera definition.  They also give no species descriptions, only references.  What they do show is the horrendous number of alternate scientific names which have been applied to many long-suffering species by different authorities, in some cases dozens of different designations.  This at least makes identifications appear less definitive, and hopefully most of those given in this web site will be reasonably close to the mark.  This is important, for in truth, it is often not possible to identify a plant to the species level from a photograph, even if one is a botanist, which the writer is not.

For those looking for guidance in species identification, the texts available at the Missouri  Botanical Gardens is a good place to start (www.mobot.org).  For anyone who really wishes to dive off the deep end and view the actual unraveling of the existing order in botanical nomenclature, this group hosts the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.  Something stronger than an aspirin is recommended.

For Chile, there are a number of floral guidebooks illustrated with photos or drawings.  Those covering major regions include Adriana Hoffmann's Flora Silvestre de Chile, Zona Central and Zona Araucana (ie. South).  She has also collaborated with four other authors to compile an excellent book on the alpine flora by the name of Plantas Altoandinas in the Flora Silvestre de Chile.   Paulina Riedemann and Gustavo Aldunate have also produced books for the central and southern parts of Chile under the title of Flora Nativa de Valor Ornamental, and in conjunction with Sebastian Teillier have more recently come out with a third book of the series for northern Chile.  Other relevant books and a journal are available through www.chlorischile.cl.  On line there is www.chileflora.com which devotes an entire page to each species, and also offers seeds; and the very informative Enciclopedia de la Flora Chilena at www.florachilena.cl.  Through www.chilebosque.cl there are connections to many other sites of botanical interest.  There is a large photo-stream available from the National Botanical Gardens at Viña del Mar.  And the University of Grenoble through its Station Alpine Joseph Fourier has several photo-streams relevant to the southern Cordillera.

In the case of Argentina, such publications as are at hand tend to be limited in extent.  Robert Kiesling's Flora de San Juan has proved useful, volumes 1, 2 and 4 being out at time of writing. There is also a helpful website known as Flora Mendocina.  San Juan and Mendocino are two Argentine Provinces, but as they are situated in the central part of that nation's Cordillera, they are applicable more widely for many species.  An ambitious program to present floral photos and information is underway at Flora Argentina and also under the auspices of the Universidad Nacional del Sur.  There is also a website devoted to Argentine cactia at Cactus Argentina.  The Argentine government is collecting biodiversity data, which is accessible to the public.  For other publications, it would be best to start with the Darwin Institute, and their increasingly impressive databank at www2.darwin.edu.ar.

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For both Bolivia and Peru, the resources aimed at the general public seem even more limited.  The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has published many papers on Peruvian botany across the years, but these are on a technical level.  Resources available from Mobot include An Illustrated Guide to the Trees of Peru by T.D. Pennington, C. Reynel and A. Daza; and A Catalogue of Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru by L. Brako and J.L. Zarucchi.  It should be recalled, however, that the vast portion of species in Peru are from the Amazon, rather than the Cordillera.

While fauna may run and hide, flora cannot, and as a result the number of floral photos is large.  Vistors interested in a specific group or species may enter either through the list of Botanical Families, or via the Master Index.