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.
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' often grows despite the low temperatures; icebergs can be seen floating past the forested slopes throughout the Chilean fjords.
Fungi is most common in moist environments. There are many interesting species in the temperate forests of southern South America...
Cyttaria darwinii, 'Darwin's Fungus', 'Indian Bread'. Grows 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.
Aecidium, ‘Rust Fungus’ include over 600 species, and are found all around the world. Pictured above is ‘Calafate Rust Fungus', Aecidium magellanicum. It grows on Berberis bushes, and is often seen on the locally common Berberis microphylla, ‘Magellan Barberry’ or ‘Calafate’, the latter espanol name giving the rust fungus it's common name. The fungal growth can cause a growth defect called ‘witches broom’; due to the effect it produces of an excessive growth of stems from a single point on a branch.
Drimys winteri, ‘Winters Bark’, ‘Canelo’. Before vitamin C was isolated, the bark of this tree was used to prevent scurvy.
There are 2 living species in this genus.
Embothrium coccineum, 'Chilean Firebush', 'Ciruelillo' and 'Fósforo'. When producing the prolific and bright red flowers, this tree becomes very noticeable. Pollinated by the hummingbird species the 'Green-backed Firecrown'. The following fruits are dark grey banana shaped pods. Endemic to the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina, but popular as a garden plant in other temperate areas around the world.
Fushia magellanica, 'Hummingbird Fushia', 'Chilco'. Endemic to southern South America. Introduced & naturalised in Australia
Berberis, ‘Barberry’. A genus of bushes that often have spines on the stems. Berberis microphylla, ‘Magellan Barberry’, ‘Calafate’ (Spanish). Bush with spiney stems. Yellow flowers are followed by edible blue fruits. Local legend says if you eat the fruit, you will return.
The forty three species of ‘Southern Beeches’ are a different group from the ‘Northern Beeches’ of the genus Fagus. They are related to the latter, but not closely, being in a different family.
Beeches are usually tall trees with distinctive tiered layered structure. Their leaves are small with 'potato chip/crisp' crinkle-cut edges. As suggested by the common name, 'Southern' Beeches are found in the southern hemisphere, including Australasia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Australia) and southern South America (Chile & Argentina).
Misodendrum punctulatum. 'Feathery Mistletoe'. A walk around the Magellanic rainforest will reveal how common this plant is locally, growing on Nothofagus 'Southern Beech' as a hemi-parasite. It does well on south facing or shady locations. Unusually for a mistletoe, this genus is the only type where the fruits are wind-dispersed, rather than spread by birds. Endemic to the forests of southern Chile and Argentina.
Asteranthera ovata, 'Estrellita', 'Forest Starlet'. There is only species in this genus. Climbing vine, growing along logs and up tree trunks. Small rounded leaves with scalloped edges. Bright 'raspberry' red flowers. They have a deep tube and the top petals are 'two-lipped'. Like many species in the family, the flowers grow in pairs (a 'pair-flowered cyme'), although the second flower may remain a bud. Often found growing on Desfontainia spinosa, Chilean Holly'. Flowers have evolved for bird pollination, including hummingbirds. Endemic to the forests of southern Chile and southern Argentina.
Rhionaeschna variegata. Since species in this genus are called 'Blue-eyed Darners', and this dragonfly is seen along the Andes, I am going to call this species the 'Andean Blue-eyed Darner'. This is the only type of Odonata I have seen in the extreme southern part of South America.
With over 400 species, they are the largest family of birds in the world. Some species look and act superficially like the true Old World Flycatchers, but they are not related. They are confined to the Americas.
Xolmis pyrope, 'Fire-eyed Diucon'. Distinctive bright red eyes.
Lessonia rufa, 'Austral Negritos'. A small but striking bird of various open habitats around southern South America, including the edge of the Magellanic forest in summer, especially around boggy patches.
Aphrastura spp., 'Thorn-tails'. There are three species. The spiny tail is not used for climbing, but for display to females. All three species are only found in southern South America and surrounding islands. Two are rare, one species (below) is locally common.
Aphrastura spinicauda, 'Thorn-tailed Rayadtio'. Common bird of the southern forests and shrublands of southern South America.
Zonotrichia capensis, ‘Rufous-collared Sparrow’. Found in huge range of open habitats all across Neotropics, including edge of forest.
Sierra Finches are not finches, but in the tanager family. The four species are found in southern South America and in the Andes mountains.
Phrygilus patagonicus, 'Patagonian Sierra Finch'. Found in temperate forests of southern South America.
Curaeus curaeus, ‘Austral Blackbird’. Glossy black, with sharp bill. Found in open habitats, including edge of forest. Endemic to western part of 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!
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