Human Flower Project
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
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.”
Azulillo 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.
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!