Patagonia, Vegetation. The Southern Forests
Austin W, www.south-darom.com.ar.
Cold Humid Weather - Its influence
Patagonia is divided into two distinct regions. The Patagonian "Andean Region" is very different from the "Steepes Region" as it is an area with abundant rainfall which fosters the growth of the Southern Andean forests. The Steepes, on the other hand are arid and covered with scanty vegetation.
The predominant westerly winds are humid and bring the clouds (and rain) from the Pacific Ocean. The mountains intercept these winds and the rain falls on them. Rainfall drops off rapidly eastwards (the arid steepes begin about 70 km west of the high Andean peaks!).
So, taking into account these climatic and geological conditions, we can define four separate areas in the Andean Region:
Western zone: Spans from the frontier between Chile and Argentina (which lies roughly on the highest Andean Peaks) up to 20 km east of it.
It is the area where rainfall is highest (3 to 4 meters of rainfall per year) and its forests are very humid: here we find the Valdivian Jungle.
It has two levels of vegetation: The lower level, from the lake level (about 750 meters above sea level) to about 960 meters altitude. There are abundant coihues, ñires, and in damper places in the west, the alerce (lahuán) and the cypress of the Guaytecas, male and female maniú (not a matter of genders, but two different species), laurel, canelo, palo santo, as well as colihue, notro, maqui, chilco (fucsia), liuta, pangue and ferns. There are many lichens, as well as a certain mushroom, the llao llao, that causes knots in the coihue branches.
The higher level See photo. -left- reaches up to 1.500 meters and has abundant lengas and ñire.
Mid Zone: Follows the Western Zone, and reaches the eastern end of the large lakes (about 70 km west of the Chilean border).
It is drier than the Western zone, but has deep forests with : cypress, ten and radal as well as coihue, lenga, ñire.
Eastern Zone: Follos the Mid Zone, and is actually the transition into the Steepes it is very dry and has a predominance of calafate, neneo, chacay, and the hills are covered with sturdy cypress.
Alpine zone: Extends from around 1.600 meters altitude to about 2.000 meters (which is the edge of the barren rocks and eternal snows).
In humid spots, there are mallines or peat bogs, with reeds and moss. In the drier areas there are grasses with lovely flowers and pigmy bushes.
Plants All the information
1. Nothofagus: Lenga, Coihue, Raulí, Pellín, Guindo, Ñire.
2. Cypress: Ten, Cypress of the Andes, Alerce.
3. Other: Maiten, Maniu, Notro, Coihue, Radal, Arrayán.
The Nothofagus genus is the most widespread and abundant.
It is one of the oldest flowering trees in the world. It once covered South America, South Africa, Anctartica, New Zealand, Australia and New Guinea. When these areas were joined into the Gondwana continent.
Gondwana split into separate continents 100 million years ago. The Nothofagus died out in Anctartica 20 million years ago.
The genus Nothofagus is composed of 40 species and some natural hybrids. Some of these species are evergreen, others deciduous. The species of this genus are found only in the Southern Hemisphere, and most of them are found in central and southern Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, southern Australia including Tasmania, at high altitudes in mountainous regions of Papua New Guinea and in New Caledonia. The genus Nothofagus forms part of the family Fagaceae, and the species are closely related to those of the genus Fagus. The trees are monoecious and can be easily identified by the dome-formed fruit with two or four valves, which generally contains three, sometimes one or two, occasionally up to five, nuts (Donoso, 1978).
It has several species, which cover all the ecological niches in the Patagonia forests :
Distribution of the Nothofagus genus in Argentina
Western (Andean Region) Patagonia is the habitat of the Nothofagus, it shares this region with other species.
Coihues cover the northern range of the genus. Lenga and Ñire cover the whole range.
The Guindo is found in the southern tip of Patagonia, which it shares with the Lengas and Ñires.
The Raulí and the Pellín are found in the northern tip of Patagonia, which they share with Coihues, Lengas and Ñires.
Also: coigue or coygue.
Reaches a height of 45 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 2 meters.
It has an imposing height and large branches, and its leaves are small, shiny and dark green colour, 3 cm long and 1,5 cm wide.
It lives only in Southern Argentina and Chile, where it is the predominant species in the Andean Patagonic forests.
Its branches are frequently affected with a mushroom (which is found on all Nothofagus trees) called llao-llao (Cyttaria darwinii) which causes rough rounded growth [photograph] in them.
Also: Tierra del Fuego oak.
Reaches a height of 30 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 1,5 meters.
Its leaves are small, shiny and dark green colour, 4 cm long and 2 cm wide.
It lives only in Southern Argentina's and Chile's subantarctic forests. It grows at higher altitudes than the Coihue, but, high in the mountains it grows as a bush ( 1 meter high), it is further down that it grows into trees.
Its leaves turn yellow and red in autumn.
Far in the south, it reaches a height of 15 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 40 cm. In the north, it grows at high altitude as small trees or bushes.
It grows in humid places, and forms forests of ñires, called " ñirantales ". Its leaves are small, 4 cm long and 2 cm wide, which turn yellow and red in autumn.
It lives only in Southern Argentina's and Chile's subantarctic forests.
Also: coibo, upaya.
Reaches a height of 25 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 60 cm.
It lives only in Southern Argentina's and Chile's subantarctic forests, in cold and humid spots. In poor soils, it grows as small trees or bushes.
Its leaves are perennial 2 cm long and 1 cm wide.
Reaches a height of 35 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 1,4 meters.
Its leaves are the largest of the Nothofagus: 12 cm long and 4 cm wide. They fall in autumn.
It lives only in Southern Argentina (central and southern Neuquén province) and Chile. It grows in humid areas and not higher than 1350 meters altitude.
Also: coyan, hualle
Reaches a height of 35 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 1,5 meters.
Its leaves are 3 to 6 cm long and 2 cm wide, they fall in autumn.
It grows only in Southern Argentina (together with the Raulí) and Chile.
Also: cypress of guaitecas
Cypress, which reaches a height of 20 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 80 cm.
It is the coniferous tree that grows furthest south in the world.
it grows in very rainy places. And prefers peat bogs (sphagnum gerra moss).
It grows only in Southern Argentina and Chile.
Cypress, which grows to a height of 20 - 25 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 30 - 50 cm.
It is a coniferous tree that in Southern Argentina and Chile. It extends into the drier patagonic steppe.
A large cypress, which can grow to a height of 70 meters and a trunk with a diameter of up to 4.5 meters (on an average 30 mts. and 1.2 mts.)
It can reach an age of 3600 years, and grows in very rainy places, only in Southern Argentina and Chile.
Also: patagonian willow
Reaches a height of 20 meters. Grows only in Southern Argentina and Chile.
Small tree and bush, grows to a height of 8 meters, with a 20 cm diameter trunk. Grows only in Southern Argentina and Chile. Has lovely red flowers.
Only species of this genera in Argentina. Has an average height of 10 - 15 mts, but can grow to 30 mts. It is abundant in the Blest region of Nahuel Huapí National Park.
Grows to a height of 10 - 25 mts with a trunk of 90 cm diameter. Likes humid areas.
Grows in Southern Argentina and Chile, to a height of 15 mts with a trunk of 80 cm diameter.
A cane of the bamboo family. Grows in thickets. Forms a dense undergrowth, can be found up to 1200 meters altitude. Solid trunk -not hollow- the native " araucano ": indians made their 4 meter spears with them.
Grows from 2 to 12 mts. with a trunk of 20 - 35 cm diameter. This tree has a redish - cinnamon colour trunk which is cool and flat. It only grows in Argentina and Chile.
Maqui - Aristotelia maqui
Bush with many branches which grows in dense thickets. Produces black coloured fruit, which is used for local jam manufacture.
Calafate - Berberis barilochensis
Thorny bush which only grows in the Nahuel Huapí area. with yellow flowers, produces a bluish - black fruit. Local folklore says that if " you eat its fruit, you will come back to Patagonia "
Michay - Berberis darwinii
Bush which grows to a height of 3 meters.
Amancay - Alstroemeria aurantiaca
Typical flower, grows high in the mountains (in the lenga forests), has a lovely golden - yellow flower.
Mutisia - Mutisia decurrens
South american plant, with large 8 - 10 cm white or yellow flowers. It is a creeper.
Pangue or Pangal - Gunnera chilensis
Has large roundish dark green leaves. Grows in humid spots.
Retama - Diostea juncea
Bush that reaches 5 meters height. With long upright branches and yellow or white flowers.
 Derrotero del Lago Nahuel Huapi. 1st Edition, 1972 Servicio Nacional de Parques Nacionales, República Argentina.
 Donoso, C. (1974). Dendrologia Arboles y Arbustos Chilenos. Manual no. 2, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad de Chile. Santiago de Chile.
Donoso, C. (1978). La Silvicultura de Nothofagus en Chile. Departamento de Silvicultura y Conservacion.
La Silvicultura de Nothofagus en Chile. Departamento de Silvicultura y Conservaci