Descriptions of types of flowers and vegetation in
Torres del Paine National Park
The Flora of Torres del Paine National Park
During your visit to the Park you will be seeing many different types of animals as well as flowers, trees and other plants, mostly for the first time. Therefore, here is a summary of what you may see with regards to wildflowers and vegetation.
With regard to vegetation, Torres del Paine can be divided into different zones that relate to the different environments and conditions in the area. These, microclimates, in turn, determine what plant life can flourish and what cannot.
The vegetation in Torres del Paine is remarkable. Different types of shrubs, flowers and trees can be found in areas throughout the Park as well as on the trails and valleys of this natural sanctuary, where plants have had to adapt according to the prevailing conditions, available water, prevalence of winds, soil type and altitude.
The Microclimate Zones
English Name / Chilean Name
Patagonian Steppe / Estepa Patagónica
This is the region that occupies most of the surface of Patagonia, for example about 730,000 km². It is characterized by vast plains, low-rise mountains, stepped plateaus, river valleys and canyons. The soils are a stony-sandy mix, and poor in organic matter.
The climate is temperate-cold, rainfall is scarce, concentrated mainly in the coldest months, between April and September. In spring and summer strong winds from the west predominate.
Magallanic Tundra / Tundra Magallanica
The Magallanic Tundra is a type of biome. This refers to a community of plants and animals that show common characteristics to the environment they exist in, wherever that environment has been created. For example, such areas and plants can be found on different continents. In the case of Patagonia this means a sub-glacial environment.
The Magallanic Tundra is flat terrain, whose main characteristics are that of an extremely cold climate, little rainfall, strong winds, poor nutrients in the soil, a short growing season and simple vegetation. The soil is often frozen and there is an absence of trees, although there are some plants of low dimensions with up to 400 types of flowering vegetation, but much of the land is covered by moss and lichens. Overall, the low biological diversity results in a “polar desert”.
On the drive between Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales this typical Patagonian landscape can be clearly seen on either side of the road, often right up to the horizon.
Pre-Andean Scrub Land / Matorral Pre Andino
This is typically the land on the banks of rivers and on the edges of lakes.
In Torres del Paine, you will find it near the Sarmiento lake, Salto Grande and at the Nordenskjold viewpoint. The plants found in these areas have developed the ability to store water and survive fierce weather conditions, such as the intense Patagonian wind.
Plants such as the Mata Varrosa, Messophyte Scrub Zarcilla, Calafate Enano and Chaura can be found growing in these areas. One plant, the Arvejilla, looks like Lavender because of its purple and mauve-coloured flowering. It blooms in November and December and bears fruit in February and March. Typically found in the Pre-Andean Scrub land and the Andean Steppe. It can also be found in the French Valley and on the trail to Grey Lake and Sarmiento Lake.
Magellanic Deciduous Forest / Bosque Magallanico
The Magellanic forest, Magellanic Taiga, Magellanic subpolar forest or cold forest is an ecological region of the extreme southwest of South America, which covers sectors of the extreme south of Chile and Argentina. The climate of this area is influenced by the Andes mountains, which traps moisture from prevailing winds coming from the Pacific. This creates a favourable, humid environment within which the trees can grow. Moreover, the air currents originating from the Southern Ocean provide the moisture for the Magellanic Subpolar Forest to thrive. The average annual temperature ranges from 6° C in the north to 3 ° C in the south, and the annual rainfall ranges from about 5,000 mm in the west to 450 mm in the east. In Torres del Paine the average, annual rainfall is around 600mm.
In Torres del Paine National Park these woods comprise the native trees such as Lenga (Nothofagus) and Coigue. Typically, the wooded areas in Torres del Paine are around Lago Grey, specifically on the slopes adjacent to Glacier Grey, in Valle Pingo (west of Grey Lake), in the Valle Frances (middle of the W Trek), Valle Los Perros, Ascencio Valley and near Laguna Azul.
In addition to the native trees there are other trees, shrubs and lichens, that make up the forested areas, each with their own special qualities.
Calafate / El Calafate
The Calafate (the Argentine town El Calafate has its name derived from this plant). It is found mainly in open and humid places, and can reach up to 3m in height. Flowering takes place between the months of October through to January whereupon yellow flowers will be produced.
The fruit produced is in clusters of small, dark-blue, berries that are used locally to make jams and other food products.
An evergreen plant, it can be seen mainly on the path that connects the Las Torres sector to the Serón camp.
Notro / Chilean firebush
This tree is known as the Chilean “fire” tree, because it produces a deep, red flower, when it blooms in the spring. Usually it grows in sandy soil where there is humidity. It can grow up to 15m tall and up to 20cm in diameter. The bark of the tree has the reputation as being easy to work with and having a beautiful appearance. Typically, it will grow among thickets and can be seen on the trail between the Las Torres sector to Cuernos and the Pingo Valley.
Capachito / Calceolaria morisii
This is a grass shrub that produces orange-coloured flowers in the shape of a “slipper”. It is small, leafy and with many branches. It can reach a height of 70cm and 1cm in diameter.
Usually found on rocky terrain such as around the base area of Las Torres.
Armeria / Thrift Armeria
Known for its medicinal qualities this is an easily visible plant that produces a voluminous pink flower.
Usually found around the Park entrances Laguna Amarga and Sarmiento.