I can't talk about plants in Chile without mentioning the Californian Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Throughout my travels so far here in Chile, I have seen it growing everywhere, it grows wild in abundance along roadsides or on scrubland. I don't know if it used medicinally here, it may be one of those plants that are so commom they aren't used, however in Europe its sedative and anti-spasmodic qualities are recognised.
PRIVATE PROPERTY -KEEP OUT
One of the things that has surprisd us and I must say perturbed us here in Chile is the way in which wherever you go, every piece of land, be it agricultural, scrubland or mountains is fenced in. Signs marked "Private property" are everywhere and I mean absolutely everywhere, there are no means of ignoring them either. This means that family walks or plant-searching expeditions are not so easy. However thanks to the fact that Lorelei and Jean-Luc had done some work for the owner of our cabanas, they had been shown a tunnel throught a bamboo forest that lead to the arid mounatins that we can see all around us but couldn't access. I personally wanted to see if anything other than the Quisco cactus could survive the ultra arid conditions. It ia late in the season so any courageous spring flowers would be welland truly burnt to a cinder by the heat of the summer sun.
All, however was not lost, nestled in the sandy, coloured rocks in the baking sun was a pink-leaved crassulacaea (see photo above). It has a rosette of succulent leaves at its base with a long angular stem on the top of which are a group of small purple pink flowers.
In this region there is zero rainfall for the five summer months, it is amazing to think that these plants can survive. The Crassulacaea family have developed means of adapting, they have an acid metabolism callewd CAM, "which is a type of photosynthetic adaption to high light and low moiture environements. The stomates, unlike most other plants open at night to allow the accumulation of carbon-dioxide in the form of an organic acid and then the stomates close during the day when the stored carbon-dioxide is used in photosynthesis." Many of the plants in this family have developed chunky leaves or stems to reduce their surface areas relative to their volumes, other plants have dens hairs or thorns that help to reduce the rate of transpiration. The chunky leaves, stems and roots also store water of course!