DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Flora:  ORTIGAS AND NETTLES  

 

The Spanish word for nettle is Ortiga, and in the Southern Cordillera, most plants in this category are members of the LOASACEAE or Evening Star Family.  Unlike the drab, common nettles of North America, these sport quite striking flowers, but some of them really pack a punch.  There seems some disagreement as to how the family should be broken down in classification, and some of the nomenclature is likely to change, so do not take the latin names too seriously.

 

The namesake of the family is the Loasa genus, and this one is generally known as Ortiga Blanca (Loasa triloba). Click to see big picture (298x480 pixels; 59 KB)
A closer look and the complex and colorful Ortiga Blanca (white nettle), which is mainly found in Chile, from south of the Atacama Desert down into the Lake District. Click to see big picture (640x313 pixels; 69 KB)
These red and yellow nettles tend to be called Ortiga Brava, presumably a reference their stinging power.  The Latin name puts emphasis on the three colors, meet Loasa tricolor ssp. placei It hangs out in north and central Chile. Click to see big picture (640x462 pixels; 72 KB)
While this one looks more like what is being called Loasa tricolor ssp. insons, in to some just L. insons. This variation seems to be mainly in central Chile, in this case from west of Santiago.  The name Ortiga Caballuna is sometime applied. Click to see big picture (467x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Loasa urens is now called Nasa Urens in polite company.  It seems a more or less a coastal species from the Atacama northward. Click to see big picture (424x480 pixels; 105 KB)
A closer view of the flower, from north of Lima. Click to see big picture (417x480 pixels; 71 KB)
From high in the mountains of southwestern Peru, this is likely Presliophytum arequipensis, or something closely related. Click to see big picture (607x480 pixels; 98 KB)
A very similar flower from the lowlands near the town of Salta, Argentina. Click to see big picture (497x480 pixels; 95 KB)
Also in the Loasaceae Family are the amazing rock nettles.  This white species from the altiplano of northwestern Argentina will be Caiophora coronata. Click to see big picture (567x480 pixels; 143 KB)
A closer look at the flower of Caiophora coronata.  The general term for rock nettles locally is Churra, or in Argentina sometimes Charrua. Click to see big picture (481x480 pixels; 111 KB)
A Charrua Roja or red rock nettle from near the high Argentine town of Los Cobres.  This is likely Caiophora rosulata ssp. taraxacoides. Click to see big picture (501x480 pixels; 104 KB)
The seven-prong bud of Charrua Roja shown opening.  Naming is complicated by the quite variable Caiophora chuquitensis, another red rocknettle that spreads into Argentina from the Chilean altiplano. Click to see big picture (640x322 pixels; 100 KB)
Rocknettle leaves and pods, showing their armament. Being so well protected with spines, these plants do not seem to need much in the way of a chemical sting. Click to see big picture (640x405 pixels; 119 KB)
A scrambling red nettle from near the town of Ocros in the mountains of west-central Peru.  This is likely part of the Caiophora cirsiifolia complex. Click to see big picture (436x480 pixels; 73 KB)
This seems to be from the same complex, a striking vine flower from 4000 meters in the Cordillera Chila of southern Peru.  Then again it looks a lot like C. pentlandii, but has not been widely recognized as a different species. /caiophora
Before leaving the Loasaceae Family, a look at a non-nettle member, the beautiful Monjitas Vine (Scyphanthus elegans).  This may be found in south and central Chile. Click to see big picture (640x443 pixels; 129 KB)
Known as Ortigilla (little nettle), this small but armed plant from the steppes of Southern Argentina is an Amsinkia of the Borage Family.  This actually looks like A. tessellata, which has voyaged to Patagonia from North America where it is known as the Bristly Fiddlehead of Devil's Lettuce.  It might also be the native A. calycina, however. Click to see big picture (299x480 pixels; 61 KB)
From the mountains of Western Peru, a huge nettle plant with leathery leaves.  Click to see big picture (591x480 pixels; 97 KB)
Here are photos of the flower and the plant itself.  The locals called it Chilte. Click to see big picture (640x318 pixels; 92 KB)
The abundant sap from this bush in the Atacama Desert gives it the name of Lechero (milkman).  The sap is both stinging and flammable.  This is Euphorbia lactiflua of the Euphorbia Family. Click to see big picture (303x480 pixels; 70 KB)
But when it comes to chemical warfare, by far the biggest problem is with the Litre tree (Lithraea caustica), which like poison ivy and poison oak is a member of Anacardaceae, the Cashew Family. Click to see big picture (640x394 pixels; 112 KB)
Litre is a major species in the forests of central and southern Chile.  While not everyone is susceptible, many people break out in a rash from just brushing against the foliage. Click to see big picture (640x407 pixels; 81 KB)
Oh Yes, then there is the common nettle (Urtica dioica) which has invaded wet areas (here in central Peru) from its strongholds in Europe and North America. common nettle