Valdivian Rainforest

Wet and jungley with lots of ferns and bamboo undergrowth

Selva Valdiviana – Valdivian Rainforest – The Rainforest at the end of the World named for Spanish explorer Pedro de Valdivia is the 4th largest rainforest in the world at 248,100 km2 behind the Amazon, the Congo, and the New Guinea Rain forests but this one is uniquely different because it is a temperate rainforest meaning it is cool and humid. Rainfall can vary from 2000 to 6000 mm or 80 to 234 inches per year with the wettest time being during the winter. Temperatures can range from 5-22C or 41-72F but can dip down to freezing and over 80F on occasion. The sea only warms up to 16 C or 61F in the summer and the Humboldt ocean current which runs northerly up the coast has a moderating influence on the climate bringing in cool wet weather with westerly winds.

Big trees covered in moss,lichens, ferns, and vines
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The forest extends from 37 degrees south latitude which is around the city of Concepcion in the Bio Bio Region to 48 degrees south which is the Aysen region. Half of the plants are endemic to Chile like the southern beeches in the Nothofagus family, the nalca plant, the bamboo, the fuschia bush, and the copihue vine which is also the Chilean national flower. Since 1860, the immigration of many Germans has changed the landscape of the Valdivian Rainforest. Many hectares of land especially in the Los Lagos region were converted to farming and in the Los Rios and Araucania regions the forests were converted to monocultures of Pine and Eucalyptus for logging. Only 40% of the forest is still in existence but much of it is now protected in vast preserves and national parks. The farther south you go the more remote the parks become and the greater the biodiversity.

This site features many national parks from Los Lagos south including the beautiful Pumalin Park which was donated to Chile by Doug Tompkins in 2017. It is one of the largest parks in South America with 402,000 hectares or 993,000 acres.

Chile’s Coat of Arms

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Today’s post is about the Chilean coat of arms because it includes two of its most unique animals : the condor and the pudu.

The coat of arms was designed in 1834 by English artist Charles Wood Taylor. The plumes represent the plumes worn on the hat of the president of the Republic of Chile.

The colors red, white, and blue are found on the flag with the single star. The condor and the deer are wearing naval crowns that represent the heroic deeds of the Chilean navy.

The motto is “By reason or force”.

The Pudu is the world’s smallest deer. The name is from the Mapudungun language of the Mapuche people of central Chile who also called it the Chilean mountain goat as it lives on the slopes of the Andes.  The southern species is native to Chile and Argentina while the northern species is native to Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia. The southern species is classified as near threatened.

It only grows to 35-45 cm at the shoulders that is 14-18 inches tall and 6-13 kg or 14-30 pounds.  The antlers found only on males and shed annually grow a couple of inches long and can curve back like a mountain goat.You can see the antlers in the picture above. All pictures were borrowed from Wikipedia.

Pudus are mostly solitary and only come together during mating. Fawns are born in November through January which is the austral summer months singly or in pairs. Herbivorous, they live in the bamboo thickets of the Valdivian rainforest. Predators include magellanic horned owls, the fox, and pumas.


What a handsome guy! The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) ranges from Colombia all the way down the western coast of South America to the southern parts of Chile. Love that white ruffle around the neck which is absent in females. The condor is one of the largest flying birds in the world reaching a wingspan up to 10 feet 10 inches or 3.3 meters.  The head and neck are featherless because vultures are carrion eaters. It is also one of the longest lived birds living up to 70 years. It is on the endangered species list but is making a comeback in some countries through the release of captive bred birds and through education of the local people that condors don’t kill livestock just clean up the dead ones.

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Who doesn’t love penguins!  Well, you need to travel to the Southern Hemisphere to see them unless they are the Pixar kind. Surprisingly many live outside the Antarctic (they don’t need the icy temps) and they don’t live with polar bears. The farthest north you will find them is the Galapagos Islands. They also live in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, and Argentina.

And here in Chile, we have 2 kinds. The Magellanic and Humboldt penguins. The best viewing places that I know of are Isla Magdalena near Punta Arenas and Martillo Island off Ushuaia, Argentina but there are also a few small islands off Chiloe and probably other smaller areas all up the coast. The best time to view them is in summer time – October through March. When we went in January most of the parents were off fishing for the young’uns except this small group below. This was taken by my daughter at the Pinguinera off Chiloe.

The rest of these photos were borrowed with permission from

These guys average 20-28 inches tall and up to 11 pounds. They can live up to 20 years.

The brownish ones are juveniles. Chicks are dependent on the parents for feeding for the first 2 1/2 months of life until they get their own waterproof feathers.

They spend most of their time in the water even sleeping there and can dive up to depths of 260 feet.

The Geography of Chile

One of my favorite topics! I love reading maps and learning about different parts of the world. Chile is a fascinating country  that includes many interesting geological features. From north to south Chile is 2,700 miles or 4,300 km long. That stretches from New York to San Francisco and it never gets more than 150 miles or 240 km wide because it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes Mountains and Argentina to the east. It also includes some Pacific Islands like Easter Island and Juan Fernandez Island and part of Antarctica!


This map shows the political regions of Chile,  Regions 15, 1, and 2 are the Far North, Norte Grande, of the Atacama Desert. The northern part of Chile is the Atacama Desert- one of the driest deserts in the world. Some locations here have never had any recorded history of rain! They have a desert climate, coastal cliffs, high coast range, intermediate depression and Andes with plateaus with salt flats, copper and saltpeter deposits in the interior. Major cities include Arica, Iquique, and Antofogasta with San Pedro de Atacama being a popular tourist city in the high desert plateau. Geographical wonders of this region include the salt flats as well as the Tatio Geyser and Valle de la Luna seen below courtesy of Wikipedia.

Regions 3 & 4 are called Chico Norte or the Near North and include Coquimbo and La Serena. Geographical features include a semi-arid climate with a  coast range and Andes merging with transversal east-west valleys instead of intermediate depression. No volcanoes and periodic flowering in parts of the desert.

Below is a picture of one of these transverse valleys with a river makes them sheltered and productive agricultural lands. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.

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The next region is 5 & 13 which are the metropolitan regions of Valparaiso on the coast and Santiago. These regions are charactreized by a mediterranean climate and matorral vegetation of scrubland and trees adapted to dry summers and wet winters. The Andes are massive and high here with the coast range and Andes separating to the south, fertile intermediate depression with very prolific agriculture especially wine grapes.

The picture below courtesy is Wikipedia of Santiago with the Andes to its east.

The Central Zone also includes the regions of 6 (O’Higgins), 7 (Maule), & 8 (Bio Bio).  Major cities include Rancagua, Talca, and Concepcion. Region 6 is home to most of Chile’s fruit orchards – apples, pears, grapes, plums, and kiwis. and is also known for copper mining. Region 7 is the wine growing region of Chile with the famous Curico Valley. The 8th region, Bio Bio, has 44 % of Chile’s forest plantations.

Skyline of Libertador GeneralBernardo O'Higgins Region

The Zona Sur includes Region 9 Araucania,  Region 14 Los Rios, and Region 10 Los Lagos. This zone has a temperate oceanic climate meaning mild year round with dry summers and wet winters and Valdivian rain forest vegetation. The climate is moderated by the Humboldt current which is a large ocean current bringing cool water and air up from the south and Antarctica heading north up the coast of Chile. This current like it’s counterpart in the Atlantic, the Gulf Stream, moderates the climate but instead of warm water we have cool ocean water which is rich in sea life. The coast range and Andes are low with the intermediate depression near sea level and continuing out into the ocean south of Puerto Montt. The lakes are of glacial origin with intensive volcanic and geothermal activity.

The Zona Austral includes the southern part of Los Lagos Region 10 and Region 11 Aisen and region 12 Magallanes. This is the region known as Patagonia. The climate is  subpolar oceanic with Magellanic vegetation which is broadleaf and mixed of the southern most forests. The coast range consists of islands, intermediate depression absent or under sea level and fjords and ice fields, glaciers, in the Andes.

All pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

Now you may be wondering why the regions are not in descending order!

Quote from Wikipedia

Each region is given a Roman numeral, followed by a name (e.g. IV Región de Coquimbo, read as “fourth region of Coquimbo” in Spanish). When the regional structure was created, Roman numerals were assigned in ascending order from north to south, with the northernmost region designated as I (first) and the southernmost region as XII (twelfth). The Santiago Metropolitan Region, located in the center of the country and home to the country’s capital Santiago, was excluded from this naming scheme and given instead the initials RM, standing for Región Metropolitana (“Metropolitan Region” in Spanish). With the creation of regions XIV in the south and XV in the north (XIII is not used) in 2007, the north-south Roman numeral order was broken.


Screens on windows is not typical in my part of Chile and the insect problems are not usually high except when the termites are swarming for a few days in January so I usually leave my windows wide open to catch the fragrant night air coming out of my forest. Occasionally, I get a few visitors. This last time I think I had 4 bats winging around the house. I think they all made it out safely because I did not see any in the morning.  🙂

The predominant bat in the Los Lagos region is the Chilean mouse-eared myotis.

This picture was borrowed from Wikipedia & Tobusaru

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The bats live in tree holes, rock crevices, caves, and under the siding in my cabin. They are smallish around 3 inches +/- from head to tail and weigh only around 1/4 of an ounce. Their fur color varies from light to brownish to black. They feed on flies at night and drink from water surfaces while in flight. They are the most southern living bat and their range extends from Coquimbo south to Tierra del Fuego.

And just for the record … Chile does have vampire bats but they are found only in the northern half of the country.

Here is an article on the bat plague currently in progress and I believe it!


Some of Chile’s most unique birds- The Tapaculos

The black throated Huet Huet (pronounced wet wet)  is indigenous to southern Chile and Argentina. His call sounds just like his name. You can often find him scratching around the forest floor like a chicken  looking for worms, seeds, and insects.

And this is his cousin the Chucao

This is a little bird with a big voice and can be heard all over the area with his distinctive call. His tail should be sticking up, that is the normal posture for a chucao. I guess this guy is feeling a bit droopy today. BTW, both these photos have been borrowed with permission from Arthur travels around the world taking pictures of birds and he does a great job because it is difficult to take pictures of wild animals.

Both of these birds are poor flyers and spend most of their time on the ground skulking in bamboo thickets. They nest in holes in trees or burrows in the ground. They seem to be territorial and aggressive towards intruders and a male won’t cross into another’s territory to find his lady love or so a ranger had told us.  Which reminds me of a story we heard from this ranger at the park office & museum at Aguas Calientes at Puyehue.  This is a one of those funny sayings told by the campesinos or country folk.

If you walk out of your house in the morning and hear the chucao call on your right, it’s going to be a good day but if you hear him call on your left, go back in and go to bed.


The Mysterious Elusive Puma

this photo borrowed from the article linked below

The Puma is also known in english as the cougar or mountain lion. These are not small kitties! They can get up to 150 pounds though they still purr like their smaller domestic cousins. They don’t meow, it sounds more like a high pitched scream. Glad I haven’t heard it especially while I was living in my tent last summer 🙂

They are found throughout Chile but are more predominant in less populated areas. Our neighbors warned us that cubs had been seen on our property several years ago but they usually don’t venture much down into the farmlands unless it’s been a long lean winter and they need some fresh lamb meat. I haven’t heard of them eating cows but some friends of ours lost a llama in a mysterious way. They found the dead body with large hunks taken out of its belly.

Some acquaintances of ours who own a farm on the western shore of Lago Llanquihue, the opposite side of the lake from the Andes and the large tracts of uninhabited land, found an abandoned puma cub trapped in a ditch. They took the protected animal and fed it until it was old enough to fend for itself. That was probably highly illegal but no harm was done as they didn’t buddy up with the animal and they did release it to the wild. I was kind of surprised to hear that it was found there as the area is predominantly farmland.

Here is a link to a short video with some great footage of a puma and her cubs

And another link to a beautiful article on tracking pumas in Torres del Paine Park in the far south of Patagonia from The Telegraph UK


Mushroom Season

Fall in Patagonia is mushroom season. After a long dry summer, the winter rains have returned and with them all the mushrooms. The mushroom is like a flower loaded with the spores (seeds) of an organism which is largely unseen under the ground. The mycelium, the body of the mushroom, are thread like hairs which can extend quite far through the ground or trees dead and alive.DSCN3526

These shrooms above were well disguised among the leaf litter. I missed them as I trudged up the hill but my little buddy with the eagle eyes spotted them.








These mushrooms above are growing on a log.


I was amazed to find these purple beauties down near the Mirkwood section of the woods on our farm. They look so glossy and wet,






These mushrooms above and below are growing in my pasture. Adventurous friends of mine introduced me to these edible mushrooms. They found out the hard way by trying one that looks similar but grows under trees. They got sick but are now careful to eat only ones with white gills that grow in the pasture. We ate them last year and they were delicious.



For further information, Chile has a Fungi Foundation with a website that has some interesting photos and a book you can order. The website is available in English but not the book 😦   I have asked them for some help in identifying my mushrooms.!home-ok/c2vw


The Beautiful Ulmo Tree

The majestic Ulmo aka Eucryphia cordifolia in the family Cunoniaceae. It is a large evergreen tree growing up to 40 meters or 130 feet and native to the Valdivian rainforest.

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The bark is multi colored in greens, grays, and pinks. They always seem to grow in a cluster of trunks  maybe 6-8 but I don’t know if they are separate trees or a multi trunk tree.

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The evergreen leaves are thick, leathery, and hairy. The leaves are opposite but form a whirling pattern down the stem.

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There are only 4 white petals with a bunch of stamen in the middle. It blooms in late summer here, March, and the smell is very fragrant. The whole tree is a mass of buzzing as it attracts many insects especially the honey bee. Ulmo honey is very popular.summer 2015 035

And the fruit is a hard dried capsule. Once dried and open the seeds are dispersed by the wind.

last photo courtesy of wikipedia