The forests here include the Valdivian temperate rainforest of the central coast of Chile, and the Magellanic subpolar forests of southern Chile and Argentina. The latter are the most southerly forests in the world. There are also other closely associated habitats: in and along the edge of the forests are more open grasslands and moorlands. The mix of closed and open habitats, interesting endemic diversity, lower temperates, and lack of dangerous or annoying animals, makes for a pleasant ecosystem to explore...
The more southerly 'Magellanic forest' often grows despite steep slopes around areas such as the Chilean fjords. It's growth is assisted by receiving sufficient rain from the constant westerly winds.
The more southerly 'Magellanic forest' also grows despite the low temperatures; icebergs can be seen floating past the forested slopes throughout the Chilean fjords...!
One of the most striking parts of the vegetation in this ecosystem is Cyttaria darwinii, 'Darwin's Fungus', 'Indian Bread'. It grows as very obvious lumps on Nothofagus Beech trees. The tree reacts by developing large galls (the wooden round lumps erupting from tree trunks), on which the fungus may produce it's fruiting body; these look like golf balls. The common name is because it was first collected by Charles Darwin. He noted that this fungus was eaten by indigenous people, and that the locals barely seemed to eat any other vegetation besides this. The fungus is edible, but apparently tasteless.
Another obvious fungus becuse of it's colour is the ‘Calafate Rust Fungus', Aecidium magellanicum. It grows on the locally common Berberis microphylla, ‘Magellan Barberry’ or ‘Calafate’.
In spring and summer there are some flowers to be seen in the forest, including:
The southern forests also seem to have a lot of red coloured flowers! These include:
The more southerly forest of temperate South America is dominated by a number of species of ‘Southern Beeches’. Beeches are usually tall trees with distinctive tiered layered structure. Their leaves are small with 'potato chip/crisp' crinkle-cut edges.
Another feature of the trees you might notice are the 'Feathery Mistletoe' Misodendrum punctulatum. It is usually growing on Nothofagus 'Southern Beech' as a hemi-parasite. Unusually for a mistletoe, this genus is the only type where the fruits are wind-dispersed, rather than spread by birds. It is endemic to the forests of southern Chile and Argentina.
There is not a huge range of species of birds in these forests compared to those further north in the Neotropics, but many of them are endemic to southern South America.
Tiera del Fuego National Park is in the extreme south of Argentina. It is a short drive from Ushuaia, and a convenient place to explore before or after a trip to Antarctica - it will be your last chance to see flowers, insects and songbirds!