Thank you to Eric La Fountaine, UBC Botanical Garden’s accessions technician, for today’s write-up and photographs from one of his recent trips:
The Elqui Valley, Chile, lies south of the driest region on earth, the Atacama Desert. Rainfall is very limited in the area. Just once or twice per decade enough spring rains fall to bring the desert into bloom — a phenomenon referred to as el desierto florido. This was one of those years, and in October I was lucky enough to visit the area on a tour lead by the Fundación RA Filippi de estudios naturales.
The glowing pink flowers of Alstroemeria magnifica subsp. magnifica stand out from the blue-grey cactus (mostly Echinopsis deserticola, I believe). Alstroemeria magnifica grows to 80 centimeters and blooms in rich shades of pink. The large flowers are so heavy that they sometimes topple their stems.
A favourite of the cut flower market, alstroemerias are native to South America. The fifty or so species are found primarily in two zones. Alstroemeria species in central Chile are winter-growing and those from eastern Brazil are summer-growing. Crosses between species from the two zones have resulted in hybrids that flower all year or nearly all year long.