Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wildflowers from El Pais de Poetas

As spring begins in Northern Chile, Alain de Trenqualye shares the wildflowers of his homeland.


Ochagavia litoralis (Calilla) at Playa Tuman, Chile

Photo: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Chile is the longest, skinniest nation in the world: the Andes Mountains running down the east, a narrow central valley where most of the Chilean people live, and to the west, 3000 miles of Pacific coastline. This variation in moisture, latitude and altitude makes for huge floral diversity which .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) is avidly documenting. The strange, effulgent bloom of Ochagavia litoralis first knocked us over the head and we’ve been looking at Alain’s Chilean Flora all morning.

He writes, “Had you seen or heard about the Ochagavia litoralis before finding it on my page?” Heavens, no, Alain—not even in our dreams.

“Here in Chile very few people have seen it. I just recently found it (Feb 2006), and learned through the web that it is cultivated in some European countries near the sea. Revealing our underdeveloped nation status, I think that not many people here grow it or even care about it.” All the more reason why your Human Flower Project is exciting and important—though, of course, Chileans are not the only folks unaware of the flowering bounty around them. We have that problem in the U.S., too.

Alain recommends this site about Calilla (as it’s known in Chile) by Uncle Derek. To our very non-botanist eyes, this amazing plant looks like a cross between a teddy bear, a cactus and a pizza.

Wildflower season, “is just beginning in Chile,” Alain reports, “being at its height in September-October in our sunny North, and moving south until December. But you can find Calillas even in February,” which is when he snapped this giantess in Playa Tuman.

“Every two or three years, when the desert around Copiapo receives a minimum amount of rain, we are able to witness the ‘Desert Flowers in Bloom’ phenomenon, or Desierto Florido as it is locally known. You can find an excellent introduction here.” One of the authors of that intro, Michael O. Dillon—Chair & Curator of Flowering Plants, Department of Botany, The Field Museum—spent several months in Chile this summer and presented a number of lectures in Santiago, Alain says.  “He told us that the word sacha that he chose for his site is the local name for ‘tree’ among some tribes near the Amazon, sacha sacha’ meaning forest. They called himself ‘sacha gringo,’ the American man fond of trees.”

imageAzulillo at Playa Blanca, Chile

Photo: A. de Trenqualye

By the same token, we might call you “the flower man,” Alain. One especially fine aspect of your photos is that so many manage both to show us wildflowers in detail and to give a sense of the larger landscapes where they grow. And what landscapes these are! Check out the Cerra Mirador or how about this view: a delicate Pasithea coerulea (azulillo) overlooking the Pacific at Playa Blanca.

For Norteamericanos, Alain’s site has wonders aplenty: check out Zorro’s ear and for you orchid enthusiasts, how about flor de bigote with little green warts in its mouth.

We must add that our outlook on Alstroemeria has been forever changed by seeing this Chilean native in the wild. Here are just two photos of about a score.

Many thanks, Alain. Let the spring show begin!



Posted by Julie on 08/17 at 03:48 PM
Art & MediaEcologyGardening & LandscapePermalink