DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Flora:  THE PURSLANE FAMILY  
 

The PORTULACACEAE or Purslane Family is of only moderate size, with perhaps 20 genera and 500 species globally.  It tends to have its centers of greatest diversity in semi-arid regions of the Southern Hemisphere, however, so it is no surprise to find it well represented in the Southern Cordillera.  Alas, when there are many similar varieties which may or may not be separate species, it is tempting to translate biodiversity as taxonomic confusion.

 

The family is named for this plant, Purslane or Verdolaga in Latin America (Portulaca oleracea).  Appreciated since prehistory in Europe and Asia, it has been widely planted and gone weedy.  Sprawling and small-flowered, it will never win a beauty contest, but for a plant it is high in omega 3 fatty acids and other goodies. Click to see big picture (461x480 pixels; 114 KB)
Same genus but what a difference.  Portulaca grandiflora, is known as Flor de Seda (silk flower).  It is native northwest Argentina and to the north and east thereof.  This form with the very succulent leaves is generally known as Portulaca gilliesii, which may or may not be a distinct and separate species. Click to see big picture (538x480 pixels; 148 KB)
A closer look at the flower of a Flor de Seda, from Mendoza Province.  This is likely a true Portulaca grandiflora, which has been widely appreciated in garden circles.  Click to see big picture (573x480 pixels; 54 KB)
On dry and rocky ground in La Rioja Province, this lovely flower with the hairy leaves appears to be Portulaca confertifolia.
Portulaca grandiflora and kin have been thoroughly bastardized into many cultivars by the horicultural industry, but for sheer beauty and simplicity I don't think it is possible to impove on the wild species.
Not all of the genus are so attractive.  This easily overlooked species with the white hairs and pointy folliage appears to be Portulaca mucronulata of northwestern Argentina.
A change of color, but not genus.  Again from the drylands of La Rioja, this is Portulaca echinosperma, a handsome flower entertaining beetles of a matching color.  It is endemic to northwestern Argentina, but would add zest to any garden. echinosperma
Again from the lowlands of La Rioja, another Argentine, Grahamia bracteata. Click to see big picture (281x480 pixels; 62 KB)
Although of a different genus, this plant is similar to Flor de Seda in having rounded, succulent leaves. Click to see big picture (568x480 pixels; 119 KB)
Switching to the high ranges, this is Calandrinia affinis which can be found in the central and southern Andes on both sides of the border.  Plants of this type tends to be called Quiaca. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 182 KB)
A very similar Quiaca from the mountains of Peru. Click to see big picture (562x480 pixels; 155 KB)
And yet another species from those mountains, in this case from the Aija area of the Cordillera Negra.
Quiacas also come in purple.  This is l Calandrinia colchaguensis. Click to see big picture (517x480 pixels; 155 KB)
The purple Quiaca may be found in the mountains of central and southern Chile and Argentina. Click to see big picture (640x440 pixels; 103 KB)


There is a great variety of this sort of flower, especially in central and northern Chile.  Originally they all went be the surname Calandrinia, but then the Cistanthes got spit off and then the Montiopsis genus and things get messy.  Locally they go by names such a Pata de Guanaco, Doquilla and Renilla.

Click to see big picture (285x480 pixels; 72 KB)
This is probably Calandrinia compressa, a small member of the genus, but with a reputed range from Peru to southern Chile. Click to see big picture (402x480 pixels; 80 KB)
The leaves especially of this species look like Calandrinia litoralis, although it is growing beside the Cogoti Reservoir in Chile's "norte chico", rather than on the sea shore. Click to see big picture (438x480 pixels; 102 KB)
And it has another trick, some flowers are four-petalled.  Not unknown in the family, but odd. Click to see big picture (640x384 pixels; 150 KB)
Another of the clan with distinctively patterned leaves.  No guesses on a name. Click to see big picture (640x388 pixels; 88 KB)
One of the largest and most striking of the group, this is probably Cistanthe grandiflora, whose range extends well into southern Chile. Click to see big picture (640x404 pixels; 114 KB)
It is to C. grandiflora that the name Pata de Guanaco is most firmly applied.  Click to see big picture (491x480 pixels; 102 KB)
Cistanthe celosioides is a child of the Atacama desert, and spends most of its life with its dried seeds awaiting rain.  What is most distinctive is the arrangement of its leaves. Click to see big picture (485x480 pixels; 114 KB)
Cistanthe amarantoides is also well adapted to the the deserts of northern Chile, and likely into Peru. Click to see big picture (525x480 pixels; 149 KB)
Montiopsis umbellata ranges through central and south Chile, but in this case is located in the Denver Bot. Garden.  Has been known as Rock Purslane. Click to see big picture (640x473 pixels; 108 KB)
Many of this flower group are locally called 'Vinagrillos', a name more usually applied to members of the Oxalis (wood sorrel) genus.  In fact, without the leaves, it is easy to see how they could be casually classed together. Click to see big picture (625x480 pixels; 107 KB)
And then there is the "mystery Cistanthe" which clings to the coastal rocks in the Los Molles--Pichidangui sector of the Chilean coast.  This appears to be a coastal form of Cistanthe grandiflora, but may be assigned a different name in the future. Click to see big picture (632x480 pixels; 138 KB)
A closer look at the very handsome mystery form of Cistanthe grandiflora, a coastal Pata de Guanaco. Click to see big picture (640x447 pixels; 124 KB)