Monday, 9 January 2012


This was my fourth visit to southern Chile and floristically the best so far with good rains in the drier northern deserts and amazing weather courtesy of El Nina.  I was travelling with professional photographer Heather Angel who is working on an exciting new book on pollination for Kew (Royal Botanic Garden) and there were some key plants we had to find.  The first was the remarkable Puya bertroniana a large spiny-leaved terrestrial bromeliad that is actually very common in Chile but erratic in its flowering.  The areas south of La Serena yielded few good puyas, but there was the amazing cactus Eriosyce aurata with rings of purplish-red and white flowers that looked like marshmallows and raspberries and because of the rains the remnant cloud forests of Fray Jorge National Park has many gorgeous Alstroemeria magnifica all over the place.  We did catch up with an amazing specimen of Puya bertroniana at Siete Tazas a park near Curico, which had huge spikes crowded with turquoise-blue flowers with prominent ‘bird-perches’ poking out and several times we watched Austral Blackbirds feeding on the flowers, sitting comfortably just as the plant intended. 

The Embothrium coccineum were the best I’d ever seen with shrubs absolutely hidden beneath scarlet flowers and the orchids were as sensational as ever too especially Chloraea magellanica and I finally caught up with Chloraea nudilabia a stunning golden species at Nahuelbuta.  However, the highlight of the trip was the discovery of a new pass which was awash with amazing flowers with gravely flats studded with hundreds of clumps of Oxalis adenophylla in perfect condition.  There were also the handsome straw-yellow flowers of Pachylaena atriplicifolia, incredible tall stands of deep-pink and golden-orange Schizanthus grahamii that marched along the roadsides, sprawling stems of golden-yellow Tropaeolum polyphyllum snaked across the screes and tall pink Alstroemeria ligtu was in super abundance carpeting the slopes mingled with bushes of bright yellow Calceolaria thyrsiflora as thousands of chirping cicadas filled the airwaves.  Finally at Torres del Paine National Park on one occasion we awoke to a perfectly calm morning with the magnificent sculpted peaks of Cuernos del Paine perfectly reflected in the limpid mirror waters of Lago Pehoe, a rare event at this time of year.

As a flower destination Chile is right up there with the best and I can't recommend it highly enough despite the appalling road signing.  However, I'll be back to Asian flowers soon enough with half a dozen trips planned for the spring/summer period.

Alstroemeria ligtu

Alstroemeria magnifica 

Araucaria araucana woodland

Chloraea nudilabia

Conanthera bifolia

Cuernos del Paine

Embothrium coccineum

Eriosyce aurata

Oxalis adenophylla

Pachylaena atriplicifolia

Puya bertroniana

Schizanthus grahamii

Tropaeolum polyphyllum

Azorella monantha in habitat


We knew it would never be easy to find our publisher, although for a time it did seem that Timber Press were interested, but in the end they decided it wasn’t for them!  But we’ve certainly not given up and will contact more publishers during the next couple of months as we want this unique collection of images to be available for all to see.