The flora and fauna of Chile have great biological interest due to the high proportion of endemic species that exist. In Chile, some 30,000 species of plants and animals are known so far.
Of the almost 6,000 vascular plants that inhabit its territory, around 50% are endemic, that is, exclusive to this country. Likewise, more than 50% of amphibians and reptiles are endemic, as are 10% of mammals and 2% of birds.
Insects include more than 50% of endemic species, highlighting the case of hemiptera (bed bugs, guérrido and others), where endemism exceeds 90%. This richness of endemic species is due to the great variability of habitats and their isolation, given its rugged geography.
In Chile there are high mountain ranges, valleys, deserts, coastal and island areas. In the same way, it has varied aquatic ecosystems, both marine and freshwater, where about 1,027 species live, of which 44 correspond to endemic species of fish from inland waters.
Flora of Chile
Larch, cahuén or lahuán ( Fitzroya cupressoides )
It is a coniferous tree of the cupresacea family that reaches 50 m in height with a trunk up to 4 m in diameter. It is a very long-lived plant, which can reach 4,000 years of age, presenting a very good quality red wood.
Carob tree ( Prosopis chilensis )
This tree reaches 14 m in height and inhabits the flat areas or stony slopes with the greatest insolation of the Central Valley in Chile. It has compound leaves, greenish-yellow flowers and its fruits are arched legumes.
Aromos ( Acacia caven )
It is a small tree or shrub up to 6 m high, endemic to the southern American cone, abundant in the Cordillera de la Costa Occidental of Chile. It has a dark greyish brown bark, finely divided leaves, yellow flowers in heads, and dark-colored legumes.
Myrtle or Palo Colorado ( Luma apiculata )
It is a small tree of the myrtaceous family endemic to the Andean sclerophyllous forest in areas of streams in Chile and Argentina. It reaches up to 6 m in height with alternating intense and light reddish-brown spots on the bark. Its leaves are hard (leathery), dark green and white flowers with numerous stamens.
Canelo ( Drimys winteri )
It is a tree of the berberidaceae up to 30 m in height and 1 m in trunk diameter, from the Andean sclerophyllous forest. It is an evergreen plant (it always keeps its leaves), which inhabits shady ravines, whose terminal twigs are reddish in color.
Its flowers are grouped in umbels and have white petals with yellow stamens. The canelo is the sacred tree of the Mapuche people, an indigenous ethnic group of Chile.
Cardón de la Puna ( Echinopsis atacamensis )
It is an endemic plant of the puna in the highlands of the central Andes, and in Chile it is also found in the Atacama desert. It is a columnar cactus or cardón type, up to 10 m high with a ribbed spiny stem, with spines up to 14 cm, with large solitary white flowers with numerous petals and stamens.
Copiapoa ( Copiapoa cinerea )
It is another of the numerous cacti that exist in Chile, in this case a plant with a small globose stem, up to 1.2 m high. The stem is grayish green with ribs bearing long, dark brown spines, with flowers in the apical part of an intense yellow color with numerous petals and stamens.
Keñua ( Polylepis tarapacana )
This species of the Rosaceae family is endemic to the central and southern Andes, it can grow as a shrub or as a low-bearing tree (8 m high) and lives in the puna between 3,900 and 5,200 meters above sea level. It is an evergreen plant with compound leaves and a twisted, reddish-brown trunk.
Murtilla or uñi ( Ugni molinae )
It is a 1 to 2 m tall shrubby myrtle endemic to Chile and Argentina, which inhabits coastal forests and shrubs and coastal slopes. In Chile it is located in the Cordillera de la Costa, the Andean foothills and Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernández Archipelago.
This shrub has small dark green leaves, the flowers are white to pinkish to purple, and the fruits are red berries. With these fruits the murta liquor and desserts are prepared.
Pehuén or araucaria ( Araucaria araucana )
It is a tree of the araucariaceae (conifers) that reaches up to 50 m in height and 4 m in trunk diameter. It is the national tree of Chile, being an endemic species of Chile and Argentina, it grows at altitudes above 800 meters above sea level. Its wood is yellowish-white in color and is in high demand for its quality.
Chilean palm ( Jubaea chilensis )
It is an endemic palm from central Chile, reaching up to 30 m in height and 1.3 m in trunk diameter. It produces a yellow drupe or coquito when ripening, the juice of which is used to prepare palm honey, when combined with the sap of the plant and sugar.
Peralillo ( Coprosma oliveri )
It is a small tree of the Rubiaceae family endemic to the Juan Fernández Archipelago of Chile with lanceolate opposite leaves.
Camelids (Lamini tribe)
In Chile there are all species of American camelids, both wild and domesticated. There is the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) of which the alpaca was domesticated (Vicugna pacos).
Similarly, the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), from which the llama was domesticated (Lama glama). They are herbivorous mammals with a long neck and abundant fur and walk in a peculiar way, moving both legs from the same side at the same time.
Chingue ( Conepatus chinga )
It is a black American skunk with two broad white bands on the back that converge on the head. It is an omnivorous animal, as it eats small invertebrates , eggs, and vegetables.
It defends itself by expelling an irritating liquid with a very unpleasant odor that permeates the attacker’s skin and affects the eyes.
Black-necked swan ( Cygnus melancoryphus )
This bird lives throughout the southern American cone and in Chile it lives in coastal lagoons from Coquimbo to Cape Horn. This bird is also found in the Juan Fernández Archipelago.
It has a black head and neck with a white body and a red caruncle or outgrowth at the upper base of the bill.
Nutria ( Myocastor coypus )
It is a rodent with aquatic habits that inhabits the South American cone and can weigh up to 10 kg. It reaches up to 60 cm in length plus a tail of about 45 cm long, presenting a shiny dark brown coat and is hunted and it breeds for its meat and skin.
Colocolo cat ( Leopardus colocolo )
It is a small wild feline that reaches about 80 cm in length plus about 30 cm of tail. It has a yellowish brown fur with elongated black spots, in the form of stripes on the legs and rings on the tail, being an endemic species from central Chile.
Condor ( Vultur gryphus )
The Andean condor is the largest non-marine bird that exists, reaching 3.30 m in length between open wings. It is a black scavenger bird with greyish-white wingtips, a reddish bare head.
It has a white tassel on the nape and a frontal crest on the head in males. This bird constitutes a natural monument in Chile and is considered in critical danger of extinction.
Güiña or red cat ( Leopardus guigna )
This is the smallest wild cat in America, reaching about 50 cm in length and about 3 kg in weight. It has a yellowish brown coat with black rounded spots and is endemic to Chile and Argentina.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, its conservation status is vulnerable.
Huemul ( Hippocamelus bisulcus )
This endemic deer of the Andes Mountains of Chile and Argentina, appears on the Chilean national shield. It is an animal of about 40 to 100 kg in weight with about 1.65 m in length.
In the case of males, they have a pair of forked antlers. This deer that inhabits the region of La Araucanía in Chile, is in danger of extinction.
Sea lion ( Otaria flavescens)
It is also called a sea lion, given the abundant light brown fur that surrounds the neck of the males. The males of these marine mammals reach 800 kg in weight and lead groups of 15 females and some young males.
Llaca ( Thylamys elegans )
It is a small marsupial with an arboreal habit, dense gray fur, large black eyes surrounded by a dark halo, and a long prehensile tail. Its body does not exceed 14 cm in length, plus another 14 cm of tail, reaching a weight of no more than 25 gr.
It is an endemic opossum of Chile that inhabits the jungles from sea level to 2,000 meters above sea level.
Pudú ( Pudu puda )
This species of deer that is found in south central Chile, is the second smallest that exists in the world, with a maximum of 90 cm in length and 40 cm in height. They are dark brown in color and the male has a pair of small horns, absent in the females, being a solitary nocturnal animal endemic to the Andean forests of Chile and Argentina.
Puma ( Puma concolor )
It is one of the great American cats and is distributed from one end of the continent to the other. In Chile it occupies various habitats in the Andean mountain range, being light brown with a white belly with a total length of up to 2.7 m and a height of about 80 cm.
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- Chileflora. (seen on June 4, 2020). chileflora.com
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- Cortez-Echeverria, J. (s / f). Fray Jorge’s field guide. Volume II. Flora: forest and semi-arid scrub. Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity.
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