Chile Tour 2011: UWBG Professor Sarah Reichard reports on a plant-filled tour of Chile

January 6th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard

We’re off to Chile for gardens, forests, wine, and adventure! Dan Hinkley and I are taking a group of 12 free spirits to this beautiful South American country for two weeks of adventure and camaraderie.

It has been 23 years since I was last in Chile, doing field work for my Master of Science degree on Drimys winteri. It was a very different place politically, under the leadership of the military dictator, Augusto Pinochet. The country is now a democracy that elected a woman president in 2006, so I am expecting social change, but I hope the country is still as beautiful as I remember it. We will be going to many of the same places I visited in 1988, such as Volcan Osorno, where I recall seeing the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria auracana) silhouetted against the dramatic snow-topped mountains – I expected to see dinosaurs come wandering by!

Volcan Osorno in Chile

Volcan Osorno looks little like Mt. Rainier, but the vegetation around it is totally different!

We have worked with Holbrooke Travel to provide a diversity of experiences for our group. We will start out in Santiago, where we will meet noted landscape architect, Juan Grimm. He will be taking us to several special award-winning private gardens, some of which he designed. While in the north we will also be spending a day in Maipo Valley tasting wines, including those of Vina Undurraga, one of the oldest wineries in Chile.

We then head south to the Lakes District, including Valdivia, where I spent much time while working on my thesis, so I am really excited to see it again. The emphasis on this part of the trip will be on the amazing forests of this region. We will be visiting a 160 coastal private reserve, where we will see rare native plants, such as Fitzroya cupressoides (alerce), which is related to our western red cedar.  We will also visit several national parks and see the Philippi Botanical Gardens at Temuco University – it is the oldest botanic garden in Chile.

Fitzroya photo

Fitzroya has been overused for wood and is now considered rare

Our final destination is one of the most beautiful spots on earth – Torres del Paine. This huge national park has spectacular rock formations and an amazing flora and fauna. The diversity of plant forms leads to large mammal populations, like guanacos, a few species of fox, and pumas. We may also see the Andean condor!  The weather there can be a little unpredictable, but we are hoping to hike and possibly kayak while we are there. We are going to be staying in yurts at Patagonia Camp, which sound really fun. The camp has been built to have minimal impact on the environment, while allowing guests to fully experience the nature that surrounds them.

Torres del Paine massif photo

This is the iconic Torres del Paine massif, which gives the National Park its name.

Technology permitting, and with the help of UWBG tech whiz, Tracy Mehlin, I will be blogging about our trip on this page, so check back starting around January 18th to join us virtually on this trip.

Sarah Reichard, Professor and UWBG Associate Director

Share