Chile Tour 2011: Exciting Days in the Lake District

January 25th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard
Araucaria forest in Chile by S. Reichard

Monkey puzzle trees frame Volcan Lanin

Auracaria! Embothrium! Drimys! Oh my! We have had exciting few days in the Lake District, seeing old friends from our gardens and being captivated by new ones. We arrived in the area and nearly immediately went into the Andes to see Auracaria auracana in the wild. While this species brings both love and hate in Seattle, including among our group, everyone agreed it looked splendid in the wild, silhouetted against Volcan Lanín. We also did a short hike in the area, seeing lots of Alstroemeria aurantiaca (a weed here, though native) and Mutsia spinosa. Embothrium coccineum was flowering too.

Araucaria photo by S. Reichard

Nita Jo Rountree and Shelagh Tucker take photos of Susie and Jennifer Marglin

Yesterday we did a fantastic hike most of the day in a private conservation area that is designed to preserve Aextoxicon punctatum, a rare tree that almost does not exist in the wild because of its harvest for wood. The Valdivian rain forest here was really exciting and we raced from plant to plant exclaiming over the Luma apiculata, the ferns both huge and tiny, and sweet-smelling Myrceugenia. As we walked, we spotted the orange flowers of Mitraria coccinea on the path – this epiphyte was up high and we mostly saw it this way. I grow it in-ground in Seattle and it does VERY well for me. The forest was thick with vines of the Chilean national flower, Lapageria rosea, which may be my very favorite flower of all time. I grow it in Seattle and cherish the flowers, though it may be hard to grow in the colder parts of our area. Sadly, we were about six weeks too early to see it flower, though if all those vines had been dripping in flowers, you would probably never see us again. This hike would have been outstanding for the fabulous forest, but the fact that it was also set among the spectacular scenery along the Pacific Ocean did not hurt.

fitzroya photo by S. Reichard

Fitzroya cupressoides (alerce) is related to our native western red cedar and is considered rare due to overharvest

We also did a hike in Lahuen Nadi Park, which is set aside to protect Fitzroya cupressoides (alerce) another tall tree now rare because of over-harvest. This forest was also a humid forest, but very different from the other. The underbrush was thick with native bamboos (Chusquea species) and some of my beloved Drimys winteri. Lapageria relative Philesia magellanica was just opening here (Dan impishly tucked one behind his ear and tried to convince me that it was Lapageria – he had me going for about 2 seconds). It is similar to Lagageria, but smaller and less deeply colored. We also saw the wonderful flowers of Desfontainia spinosa, another favorite of mine, though only very high up. These flowers look like orange candy corns dangling from branches with holly-like leaves. I grow this in Seattle, but have not gotten it to flower and recently my mountain beavers attacked it, so I don’t know if I will ever get it to flower.

Philesia magellanica photo by S. Reichard

Philesia magellanica is a beautiful shrub that grows both in the ground and as an epiphyte

Herbarium in Santiago photo by S. Reichard

Children working the vegetable gardens of Herbarium, near Santiago

I would be remiss if I did not recount our last day in the north as well. We visited an inspirational place near Santiago called “Herbarium” which has nothing to do with herbaria such as our Hyde Herbarium. Instead, they focus on horticultural therapy and the use of plants to heal those with physical and mental problems. Perhaps most important, they work with kids 3-14 that are from families with problems. Somewhat similar to Seattle Youth Garden Works, a collaboration we share with Seattle Tilth and work with at-risk teenagers, this program provides children with healing and learning.

Wine tasting photo by S. Reichard

Our group tastes wines at the De Martino winery

We also spent time in the wine country, especially at a winery called De Martino. We had probably the best wine making tour I have ever had and then tasted three wines. The signature wine of Chile is the Carménère. The story is fascinating. The vines have been grown as merlot for years, about 15 years ago a French viticulturist was visiting and recognized it as different. DNA testing showed it was a different variety and now it is a very popular red wine.

We have been blessed with absolutely spectacular weather – crazy good, actually. Here in the Lake District it has been sunny and just perfect for hiking – warm, but not so hot that you overheat as you hike. I hope this continues the rest of our trip!

photo by S. Reichard

The new Chilean miners emerge! From left, Mary Palmer, Joanne White, Susie Marglin, Jennifer Marglin, Denise Lane, and Debby Riehl stand in a soil pit at the De Martino winery. The pit is used to monitor roots and water movement subsurface.

 

photo of hikers in Chile by S. Rechard

Our group of hikers in the coastal forest preserve for Aextoxicon punctatum, a tree edenmic to the Valdivian rain forests.

Tomorrow we head south for our final, and perhaps most exciting adventure – a visit to Torres del Paine National Park. None of us, including Dan or me, have been there before. Dan and I had to bear keeping a terrible secret from the group for a few days – when we first got here there was civil unrest over an increase in the cost of natural gas and tourism to the Park was blocked! It was resolved a few days ago and the adventure is on!

I hope you  guys are all good.

Sarah

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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

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