DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Flora:  THE GENTIANALES  

 

The botanical order GENTIANALES is named for the Gentian Family, Gentianaceae.  This includes some 87 genera and 1500 species worldwide, but is of limited importance in the southern Cordillera.  The order also includes the Rubiaceae or Coffee Family which is a major player in the Neotropics, but not here.  In addition, there is the Dogbane Family (Apocynaceae) and the Milkweeds (Ascelpiadaceae), each with roughly 2000 species worldwide, but mainly tropical.  There is now a tendency to dump the milkweeds into the Apocynaceae.

 

An alpine gentian known as Nencia (Gentianella multicaulis) from the Famatina Range in La Rioja Province of Argentina. Click to see big picture (640x457 pixels; 108 KB)
A side view of the Nencia plant. Click to see big picture (444x480 pixels; 67 KB)
From 4000 meters altitude in the mountains of Aija Province, this is likely Gentianella tristicha, which is confined to western Peru. 

The RUBIACEAE or Coffee Family entails some 650 genera and roughly 13,000 species on the world stage.  In tropical America, it claims many of the larger trees, which seems odd because in the Southern Cordillera it is noted mostly for mat flowers at altitude.

 

 
IThe Andes of central and southern Chile and Argentina is home for Oreopolus glacialis. As the name suggests, it is an alpine species. Click to see big picture (639x480 pixels; 193 KB)
A closer look at the Oreopolus glacialis flowers.  Click to see big picture (523x480 pixels; 144 KB)
This mat looks a bit different, but is likely O. glacialis again. Click to see big picture (415x480 pixels; 149 KB)
From the norte Chico of Chile, Cruckshanksia montiana, which like others of the genera are known as Clavos de Olor.  That name is also applied to cloves and other items clavo de olor
The fruit of Galium hypocarpium, a small vine  that is widespread through Latin America, and here in Chile one of the plants known as Relbun.
Nertera granadensis is known mainly as a houseplant, valued for its long lasting berries.  In the wild is is largely known from alpine paramos in tropical America, but also occurs in southern Chile, such as here by Lago Villarica, where is goes by the name of Rucachucao.
In the Spring, these microflowers turn the meadows of the Maule Valley pink.  I suspect they may be Rubiaceae, several genera such as Gallium being four-petalled.  Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 143 KB)
Brachyotum rostratum inhabits the mountains of western Peru.  Alas, I have arrived too late, these are only the calyxes, purple petals having dropped.  Also, it from the Melastomataceae Family, which is almost entirely tropical.

ASCLEPIADACEAE, the Milkweed Family is better represented in North America than in the Southern Cordillera, but most species are tropical anyhow.  There is now a tendency to do away with the family entirely, and collapse it into the Apocynaceae.

 

 
Although this vine from northwestern Argentina looks a lot like one of the Swallow-worts, it is more likely Morrenia odorata, known in English as the Strangler Vine or Latex Plant, but in Argentina as Pandero. Click to see big picture (556x480 pixels; 121 KB)
And another from the semi-arid zone in northern Chile, which seems to have an unusual number of Cynanchum species. Click to see big picture (640x354 pixels; 61 KB)
An Asclepias sp. vine, somewhat similar to Scarlet Milkweed, from the eastern edge of the Cordillera near Salta, Argentina. Click to see big picture (565x480 pixels; 82 KB)

The APOCYNACEAE seems to be stuck with the name Dogbane Family, although it contains many more interesting plants than the droopy dogbane.  Alas it is sparsely represented in the southern Cordillera.

 

 
Yes, it's a Periwinkle, likely Inca minor.  This small genus from southern Europe has been widely planted as ground-cover in many parts of the world, and almost as widely has escaped.  Fast-spreading and invasive. Click to see big picture (640x405 pixels; 85 KB)
In northern Peru, the twisted flower of the Prestonia mollis vine is caught sneaking up from its Amazonian stronghold.
These unusual seeds belong to Apidosperma quebracho-blanco, locally just Quebracho Blanco.  This should not be confused with other Quebracho trees that are of a different family.  The wood is prized and the bark used in folk medicine.  Found in northwest Argentina and northward. Click to see big picture (536x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Inside the seed case of Quebracho Blanco is a stack of very then parchments, each with a seed which can be wind dispersed for some distance. quebracho
Crossing to the Atacama desert, another unusual, but very different seed pod.  This sprawling bush is the Cuerno de Cabra (Skytanthus acutus). Click to see big picture (634x480 pixels; 141 KB)
A close-up of the pods shows why they are named for the horns of goat.  This plant is well adapted to growing in loose sand. Click to see big picture (534x480 pixels; 134 KB)
A skull and twisted, dried Cuerno de Cabra pods-- this is classic Atacama. Click to see big picture (640x402 pixels; 121 KB)