5 Fascinating Flowers of Patagonia

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Patagonia – the sparsely populated region of South America that stretches across Chile and Argentina, from the southern tip of the Andes to deserts, steppes and grasslands in the east– is known for its larger-than-life natural attractions.

Everywhere you go with International Expeditions in Torres del Paine National Park, big blue skies, massive glaciers, expansive lakes, lush fields of green, guanacos, Andean condors and majestic peaks compete for your attention, providing an impressive WOW!-per-hour ratio.

Equally noteworthy are the smaller-scale wonders of the Patagonia flora. Flowers in this region tend to be tiny – many of our favorites are the size of your thumbnail. But these miniature marvels come in a variety of vivid colors and shapes, working their way up through the arid soil of this harsh climate, where winds frequently whip at speeds of up to 80 mph.

CHILEAN FIRETREE: Alternatively known as Chilean Firebush or Notro in Spanish, this evergreen grows in the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina, with a dense root mass that allows it to access normally inaccessible forms of various nutrients. Its vivid red flowers bloom in spring, and are pollinated by hummingbirds and insects. Their color provides a striking contrast against the water and glaciers around Lago Grey.

COMMON SORREL: This perennial herb, also known as spinach dock or narrow-leaved dock, is common in grassland habitats and cultivated gardens. The arrow-shaped leaves are often puréed for use in soups and sauces or added to salads, with an acidic, fruity flavor that’s been compared to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries. One of the first plants to grow back after a fire, the sorrel’s brilliant red flowers create a picturesque carpet of color in the fields around Paine massif.

LADY SLIPPER: Originating in Tierra del Fuego, these diminutive mountain plants typically grow to be less than four inches tall. Part of a genus alternatively referred to as a lady’s purse, slipperwort or pocketbook flower, this vivid variation boasts flowers comprised of yellow, white and brownish red. They’re a commonly seen burst of color along the hiking trails of Torres del Paine.

LUPINE: Seeds of this genus of flowering plants from the legume family have been used as a food source in the Andean Highlands for over 6000 years. Lupinus mutabilis (known as tarwi or chocho) was extensively cultivated by the Incas. Users would soak the seeds in running water to remove bitter alkaloids, and then either cooked them to make them edible or boiled and dried them. They’re coming back into fashion as an alternative to soybeans.

FUEGIAN EDELWEISS: Made famous by The Sound of Music, Edelweiss is a hardy mountain flower related to daisies and sunflowers. Although Edelweiss is typically associated with the Alps of Austria and Switzerland, this tiny South American variation’s periwinkle leaves and golden stamens add a pastel splash of color to the Patagonian landscape.