LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 95
Pag. 10 al 11
By: Lugares File
Photo: Federico Quintana and Soledad Gil
5 PATAGONIAN FLOWERS
Inspiring aboriginal legends of love and death, whether native to the area or artificially introduced, they brighten up the forests and roadways in the south.
According to the legend, this species of flower was born from the forbidden love of Millaray and Đancumil, who were murdered when found together by their respective fathers, the chiefs of two enemy tribes of Mapuche Indians. On the day after their murder, at the spot where they had fallen the Mapuche found some beautiful flowers with long orange petals that had never been seen before, so from that date this plant was the object of their veneration. It is also known as "qui˝ilhue"; referring to the flowers of a creeper that embraces trees and climbs up them, just as those two lovers once embraced each other. It is the provincial flower emblem of the province of Neuquen.
This tree grows in sandy, humid and easily flooded terrain, and even in forests just after forest fires. The secret of its survival lies in its relationship with a regular visitor, the hummingbird, that while sipping nectar from its tubular-shaped flowers (the word "notro" means in the native language "inside a small cavity"), pollinates them to enable the plant to grow better. These plants flower in November and December, a time when some little bunches of bright red flowers appear, that are highly attractive in the southern Cordillera landscape.
Known also as the chilco, tilco or fucsia, this is a bush that grows in the south of the Cordillera, and is more commonly seen on the Chilean side. Having an untidy and spiky appearance, it changes completely when it flowers: in their red and orange hues, its long, cylindrical, bell-shaped flowers are specially attractive and colorful.
This name (it is also called michai) is the subject of all kinds of legends, whose basic message is always the same: it is said that whoever savors the blue fruit of this bush will always return to Patagonia. It may be found from Neuquen up to Tierra del Fuego, in valleys, on slopes or in canyons, or on the banks of rivers, lakes and lagoons. Its intensely yellow flowers appear from October to February. Its fruit is edible, and is used to make syrup, jam and ice cream, and when fermented is used to manufacture the famous "calafate wine".
These were introduced into the south by the first settlers, most of them European, who used them at first as ornamental plants in their gardens. Over time they adapted so well to the environment, that they have now taken over southern Patagonia as their natural place of residence. At the beginning of spring, they timidly show their first flowers. However, in the month of November, they appear in all their splendor, decking the landscape with intensely strong colors. Their violet, fuchsia, white and even yellow flowers can be seen on the banks of rivers and shores of lakes, as well as in the valleys and prairies of the Cordillera.