FLORA AND FORESTS OF TIERRA DEL FUEGO
Precipitations in Tierra del Fuego diminish from south to north, fact that explains the difference between the luxuriant forest the covers the coasts of the Beagle Channel and the drier and open forest that extends to the north of Lake Fagnano.
The soils are young, permeable and rich in organic matter. They come from the modification of the bed rock or the morainic sediments (left by the glaciers). In general, they are acid and shallow, what limits the development of certain vegetable species causing the roots to grow superficially and ramified.
The ages and sizes of arboreal samples vary from well developed in areas close to sea level, they become twisted and very ramified at higher altitudes. These forests never surpass 700 meters over sea level; which is considered the limit of vegetation.
The forest masses occupy about 30% of the area of the island and
comprise mainly lengas, guindos and ñires, species belonging
to the fagaceous family. These trees flourish profusely during a
few days in the spring, presenting masculine and feminine flowers.
The lenga is a tree with deciduous leaves with two lobes
between each nervure. Adaptable to extreme conditions, they can
be found up to the limit of vegetation. With good size, straight
trunk and grayish bark, they adopt bushy and short shapes as they
grow higher in altitude.
The guindo, on the other hand, has perennial leaves hard to the touch with regularly sawed edges. It is also known as the "magellanic coihue". It develops best on the coast of the Beagle Channel; it is found in more humid places, reaching the southern bank of Lake Fagnano. Sometimes it grows in groups inside the lenga forest with a similar size requiring low temperatures to survive.
The ñire has deciduous leaves, resistant to adverse conditions like excess of water, wind or drought, they prefer the low lands. It presents a great quantity of branches, the bark is grayish and small in size.
Other three trees that can be found in the forests, but in less
proportion in this area adopt bushy shapes.
The canelo with large, shiny oval leaves and a grayish bark, even and aromatic. It has flowers of long stems, white and slightly pink that appear in bunches during the summer. Its fruits are of dark green color.
The notro is common in the south of the island, reaching a good size depending on the protection they get where they grow. The bark is even and the leaves vary in shape with an even edge. They are dark green on the upper face and clearer underneath. It is very flashy by the beautiful flowers in bunches of intense red that bloom at the beginning of the spring and end of summer. The fruits are presented in golden husks with many seeds.
Lastly, the maitén, or hard firewood, is typical
of the rainy coast of the Beagle Channel. It generally measures
from 2 to 3 meters and sometimes more in protected areas. Its flowers
appear between winter and spring, they are very small and of dark
Given that there are more than 500 species of plants with flowers, a variety of fern, lichen, fungus and certain species of moss, and it would be impossible to describe them all, we have selected only a few that, by their characteristics will surely call your attention.
The flower representing Tierra del Fuego is the bellflower. It grows close to the sea, in dry and sandy terrain, presenting flowers between November and January. It has a long stem with groups of 2 to 7 flowers, white or cream in color, with purple grooves and yellow center.
The drosera is a miniature insectivore plant, measuring 4 to 5 mm. that grows only in very humid areas blooming in December and February. Its very small tentacles, of extreme attractive red color, segregate a sweet substance that helps trapping insects.
There are also several plants that offer delicious eatable fruits. When picking the fruits, it is necessary to take precautions and avoid any damage to the plants so you can come back for more the following year.
The calafate is a thorny bush of evergreen leaves that can reach 4 meters in height and develops in dry and sunny terrains. Its flowers that appear between October and January are very abundant, of intense yellow color and a strong but pleasant perfume. Its small fruit of violet blue color when ripe; appears in February. A legend says that when someone eats calafate comes back for more.
The chaura is a bush with small leaves that end into a thorn;
it grows near the coast and in the not-so-humid clearings, producing
flowers and fruits twice a year. Its flowers are small and white.
The michay is an evergreen bush, with thorny leaves are similar to those of the mistletoe. It presents orange flowers before the end of winter while its bluish fruits mature in the fall.
The parrilla is a large bush that grows in low areas, specially near the coast and in humid gullies. During the spring it presents hanging bunches of red or yellow flowers in the shape of bells, that during the summer they turn into round red or black fruits.
Lastly, the frutilla de magallanes grows in the clearings of forests and on smooth slopes. Its white flowers of five rounded petals, appear between October and February and in the summer they turn into delicious strawberries.
The frutilla del Diablo is a plant that grows in humid soil and with shade, with meaty leaves, bright and circular in shape. The fruits are similar to strawberries, but are not edible.
The mata negra es an evergreen bush, quite ramified, that grows in the plains as well as in the mountain and you cannot miss it because of its abundant flowers similar to small daisies that last well into the fall.
The flor de chocolate is the most interesting high mountain flower and found generally near crystalline courses of water. During the spring is green and thorny, and in summer it is covered with very small white flowers with a string chocolate odor.
Among the hundreds of attractive flowers that cover the ground
in the most varied colors we can mention white, green and yellow
orchids, the topa-topa, violets, fueguine edelweiss, murtillas and
|Barba de viejo|
Among the parasite plants and the different fungi that affect the fueguine forest we find the barba de Viejo (old man's beard) that is a lichen found in all the fueguine forests, being more common in the north, specially on the ñires. It has the shape of a group of light green hanging strings. It does not hurt the plant, it just uses it as support.
The pan de indio (Indian's bread) is a parasite fungus, white or light yellow that matures from November to December. In this period it shrinks, hardens and its surface gets full of holes. Its strings adhere to the plant and segregate a substance that causes an excessive cellular multiplication which originates the characteristic shape that resembles a "knot".
There is a group of fungi that weakens the plant's resistance, converting the wood into a dusty mass known as podredumbre (rot). This acquires reddish tones when the fungi affects the cellulose, or white when they attack the lignin.
The peat bogs or turbales, great extensions of terrain of spongy consistence, soft texture and red and orange tones, are found all around the province, fundamentally in the great southern valleys. Roughly, the turbales consist of vegetal material accumulated in very slow decomposition: successive layers of moss (specially of the Sphagnum genre) that have the characteristic of absorbing great quantities of water.