In almost all cases, if a North American or European recognizes a plant or animal in Chile it is not indigenous. A virtual island isolated by the Atacama Desert, the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, this is a land which has largely evolved its own flora and fauna … a land of haunting strangeness for the distant traveler. And of its plants and animals, none is more iconic than the national tree of Chile–the araucaria. The same Spaniards who renamed the Mapuche araucanos named this pine, but the Mapuche themselves call it the peweñ, and the subset of their people who in indigenous times lived on the slopes of the Andes and subsisted on its nuts the peweñche.
Below is the characteristic silhouette of a mature pehueñ. The photo was taken in Nahuelbuta National Park in Chile, with the Andes and its volcanoes in the misty distance.
Nahuelbuta preserves some of the last of the virgin rain forest of the coastal range in Chile, and this is what it looks like, magical, almost impassable, bedecked with moss. Note that the understory is bamboo.
Here, the characteristic bark of a huge, mature araucarIa….