Forest of the Araucaria

19 02 2009
Monkey puzzle

Monkey puzzle tree

The Araucaria District of Chile (just north of the Lakes District) has many volcanic peaks, in addition to ridges of basalt from volcanic activity and hotsprings. The soil is dark and fertile, supporting a diverse temperate rainforest and highland forests. Lower elevations have many types of southern beech (coigue, roble, etc) and canelo (from the magnolia family) trees, which look like hardwood trees from rainforests, and often have vines climbing on them.

Decaying araucaria trunk

Decaying araucaria trunk

The araucaria (monkey puzzle) trees are the main type of evergreen trees here, with their unique umbrella shape and large cones that provide large pine nuts, pinoñes. They are called monkey puzzle trees because the bark resembles a puzzle. The araucaria tree is the symbol of CONAF (Corporacion Nacional Forestal, kind of like their park service), and is a protected tree in Chile. These trees can be up to 2,000 years old and 150 feet tall. They shed their branches as they grow, and their trunks have many knots where the old limbs were. When the trunks decompose, the knots remain longer than the core and the rotten trunks look like spinal cords.

Alexa in bamboo thicket

Alexa in bamboo thicket

In many areas where the forest has been disturbed, or light can get through the canopy, a bamboo like grass (quila or colihue) grows thickly. Familiar plants also seen in North America include quince/rose hips, blackberry, wild strawberry, fuchsia (called chilco as a native plant here), hydrangea, fox gloves and alstroemarias. They also have a type of huckleberry and a plant that looks like a flowering holly bush, but is not holly (notro).

<click on the photos to enlarge them>

Native alstroemarias

Native alstroemarias

Fox glove

Fox glove

Notro: leaves look like holly, but with flowers

Notro: leaves look like holly, but with flowers

Beech forest

Beech forest

Beech trees and lake

Beech trees and lake

Mixed beech and araucaria forest

Mixed beech and araucaria forest

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

Fuschia

Fuschia


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7 responses

19 02 2009
Sean Williams

This place looks amazing. I would love to spend a week hiking around in this forest.

20 02 2009
Jason and Alexa

Make sure you look at the photos in the Huerquehue Park post, it has some photos from the surreal araucaria forest also.

20 02 2009
Mike Burke

On the news tonight there is a report of volcanic activity in Chile. Are you near this? We have been enjoying your tour.

21 02 2009
Jason and Alexa

Yes, I think we saw the cloud from the eruption yesterday from down here on the Island of Chiloe, near the city of Castro. It´s right across the bay from the volcano, but there´s no danger here We were going to take a ferry to Chaiten and then take the bus over into Argentina, but that’s not really in the cards anymore.

20 02 2009
Leslie B

That’s some really beautiful forest — you guys are quite the botanists out there! I love the Monkey Puzzle tree.

20 02 2009
Christine

It’s fascinating how the patterns in the bark of the monkeypod tree echo the shape of the tip of the branches and the spinal cord looks similar to me, too. Thank so much for the photos of the flowers. It is so surprising to se the old familiar fox glove in such a different ecosystem. The leaves of the fox glove look very similar to “ours”, too. Beech trees have edible nuts, have you seen any sign of them in cooking?

22 02 2009
Susan

I remember a Waldorf instructor from Sacramento who came to Eugene and gave a talk (or maybe it was a class, because he brought bones to demonstrate… do you remember this Christine?) …on how patterns in nature and “patterns” in the body repeat themselves … just like the resemblance of the decaying araucaria tree trunk to the spinal vertebrae. It’s really fascinating.
What a beautiful area this is.

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