Snakes in Chile



There are only 2 species of snakes in Chile and both are small and relatively harmless. A geography reminder to many that Chile is not a tropical country and is relatively isolated by the driest desert in the world to the north, the Atacama, and the Andes to the east, and the Pacific to the west so large venomous snakes like those found in the Amazon are not here.

The most common snake is the chilean slender snake or short tailed snake , culebra de cola corta, and  in latin Tychymenis chilensis.  It is found over most of Chile and while the peruvian species can be fatal, the chilean species is not. It is a venomous snake and the bite can be painful but it is not known to be fatal but then there have not been many recorded bites as it is rarely found. The snake in the picture above was found near a creek in the woods near our farm. It is a greenish brown with brown or black stripes.

The other snake is the chilean long tailed snake or culebra de cola larga and in latin Philodryas chamissonis. It is endemic to Chile and it’s range is from Copiapo in the north to Valdivia in the south. It is gray with black and white stripes and can grow up to 4 feet in length. Not much information is available on it because it is so uncommonly seen. The bite can be painful and cause swelling but is not known to be fatal.




Rio Coihueco Nature Walk

The weather here as we go into spring has been delightful. One beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, we decided to go fishing on the Coihueco River which runs  near the back of our property. The headwaters are up in the mountains between Volcan Puntiagudo and Volcan Osorno and it flows out to the ocean. The river is fairly shallow with lots of shoals. My boys went kayaking on it and said it has some light rapids but is fairly easy to kayak. One of the beautiful things about the river is the lack of development along its shores. It does run through the city of Osorno but other than that  it’s shores are woods and farms. We went fishing for salmon and trout. Sadly, we caught nothing but a few glimpses of the local Kingfisher bird. I bet he caught something! But the day was enjoyable anyway!DSCN3230

We have to walk about a mile through the neighbors farm to get out to the river.Here are some of the sights of our nature walk.


A giant plantain plant, Plantago lanceolata.  It is a common weed here but is also found in the US but  the broadleaf variety is more common there. The leaf is edible and can be used like spinach. It also has healing properties. The natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of the leaf make it useful for healing stings, bites, cuts, and bruises. All you do is chew up a leaf and apply it to the wound. DSCN3238

We were being followed by a herd of young dairy cows.


I think this is growing out of the tree. Some type of parasitic plant! Have to do some research on this one.


These majestic trees, Nothofagus, dot all the pastures around here. They are a good sign of fertile, well drained soil. You can see my post on the Southern Beech to learn more.


Every time we walk over this one creek on our journey to the river we meet this little guy. He must be the guardian of the creek! Snakes are relatively rare here and all are pretty harmless. Meaning snakes are not poisonous like a plant but venomous and though all snakes bite the venom of Chilean snakes is not dangerous to humans.


One of my favorite, the Laurel.


Look at all the moss growing on this tree!


My little buddy loves to go on walks and is very observant with a sharp eye for details!


This old stump has become an amazing home for all sorts of plants, mosses, lichens, insects, and animals.

And here are a few views riverside that my son took on his kayak trip.


Lots of rocky shoals


The river is pretty calm with little to no rapids





The Orchid of the Forest

White dog orchid flowers

I was pleasantly delighted to find this diminutive flower on a walk through the woods earlier this month. I instantly thought of Lady Slippers, a rare orchid found in the eastern forests of the US, but this little flower is not quite as showy. It is called Palomita in Spanish, in English the white dog orchid or in Latin Codonorchis lessonii. It is a native orchid only 20-30 cm tall.

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Sadly, my little Nikon is acting up and my photos came out poorly so I borrowed this one above from Flickr. Thanks to Pablo Necochea!


2015-10-27 12.59.31 It has 2-4 gathered leaves with short petioles at the base and a solitary flower on a translucent stalk. The white flowers have reddish purple spots. It’s roots are small tubers. It grows from the Maule region all the way south to the Magellanes region.

Southern Beech


Nothofagus obliqua is the predominant tree here – like oaks or maples. It is called the southern beech but is not in the beech family. It’s leaves resemble a beech leaf hence the name. In spanish, the young trees are called coiyhue and the mature are called pellin (pay – yeen). A mature tree can reach up to 50 meters or 175 feet tall with a diameter of 2 meters or 6.5 feet. The wood is very hard and a reddish color and is used in construction. These deciduous trees have alternate leaves and separate male and female flowers. The flowers are inconspicuous and covered by green bracts.

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The owls in my woods

Just recently I noticed a new sound coming from the nighttime woods.

a persistent took, took, took

After doing some research, I discovered that it is the mating call of the austral pygmy owl, Glaucidium nanum, or chuncho in spanish. He only calls in August thru October and I wasn’t living here last year at the time so I thought he was a new inhabitant of the woods. I identified his call through a neat site called xeno-canto. Here is the link so you can hear his call. Click on the play arrow just to the left of the scientific name and you can listen the audio file.

He is small, only 17-21 cm or 6.5-8 inches. He has a large head with yellow eyes and is very shy and hard to spot. This picture by John Spooner was borrowed from Wikipedia and was taken at Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile.Austral Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium nanum).jpg

He feeds on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects and is primarily nocturnal. He nests in holes in trees or earthen banks. The female lays 3-5 white eggs in the spring. Their range is from the Atacama desert in the north all the way to the far south Magellanic region of Chile. They live in forests and farmland.

The next inhabitant is the Rufous- legged Owl, Strix rufipes, or Concon in Spanish. Rufous means brown because of his cinnamon brown legs. His muffled croaking hoots can be quite alarming at night. We were terrified in our tents last summer wondering what was making this horrifying sound. Here is the xeno-canto link.

Here is a video from YouTube of a captive owl at a sanctuary.

This owl lives in forests only from Santiago south to Tierra del Fuego. He likes the closed canopies of the Nothofagus forests which are common in my area. He is nocturnal. He has a large round head with dark eyes, a bulky body, and short tail. He is a medium large owl from 13-15 in. or 34-38 cm.

This picture taken by Julian Tysoe and was borrowed from Wikipedia. He looks kind of sad. I am going to assume he was injured and is in a bird sanctuary 🙂

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I love these old drawings. What is most notable about this picture is the large flat face and the round facial disks around the eyes. And look at those talons for catching small animals. They nest in October laying a small clutch of 2-3 eggs usually in tree holes. 

Wow! I am so excited to update my list of owls in my woods as I have heard the Magellanic Horned Owl from the depths of the woods behind my house. Smaller than the Great Horned Owl it is found from Peru south to Tierra del Fuego. It lives in the woods for roosting and nesting but needs open areas for hunting.

This awesome photo was borrowed with permission from

Cool edible fungus!


This is an edible ascomycete ( Cyttaria espinosae) or sac fungi native to south central Chile. It is a specific parasite on the Nothofagus obliqua tree otherwise known as a southern beech or Pellin/Coiyhue.(that will be another post)  The sac has the wide open cells so the wind can easily catch and spread the spores. It is consumed mainly by the Mapuche people here and they call it “lihuene” or “quidene”.  I fried some up with eggs for breakfast and found the taste not unpleasant. When harvesting it grows on the branch tips and when it ripens it falls to the ground and must be harvested quickly before it decomposes.


Chilean Swallows

One of my favorite birds! I have fond memories of swallows from childhood. Watching them nest in my grandparents barn and  their antics diving and wheeling through the air catching insects. This chilean cousin of the ones I knew growing up in Connecticut is just as entertaining.

These pictures are taken from with permission.

In Chile, these birds are migratory leaving the Los Lagos region in May and returning in September. I guess they head north to warmer climates in Brazil. They build nests of straw, feathers, and wool for warmth. Both parents incubate and feed the young. They are highly aerial acrobats foraging insects on the wing. It takes a lot of gnats to feed all those youngins’.

And they love to play! I have seen swallows take a little white feather and drop it in mid air and fly around and catch it often playing this game by themselves or with others. They have long pointed wings and are very streamlined. Chilean swallows have a white rump above the tail for easier identification.

Los Aromos

Wow! I love this tree. I could smell it all the way across the pasture, hence the name “the aroma”. It is the first sign that spring is coming and the bright yellow masses of flowers are a feast for the eyes!


This is just one tree!

Acacia dealbata  in the legume family. There are many acacias in the USA and they go by the name of mimosa. This variety is originally from SE Australia and has been naturalized here in Chile.

It is an evergreen with bipinnate leaves which make the them fern like.


The racemes of flowers have older flowers at the base and neweer buds at the tips. The flowers look like round puff balls and can be used for yellow dye or cooked and eaten.

The fruits are flattened pods like beans.

The tree can grow up to 30 meters high and only lives 30-40 years. The wood is highly valued for making furniture. It is a lovely honey color with nice patterns of knots and stripes. We used this wood locally grown and milled for the floor in our cabin.



On Wednesday, April 22 we were privileged to witness the eruption of Volcan Calbuco , the first time in 40+ years. The first eruption was about 6 PM. Never heard any explosions or felt any earthquakes but we were treated to a beautiful mushroom cloud of smoke and ash. I live about 80 miles away which is where this view was taken. See Volcan Osorno to the left. This eruption lasted about 90 minutes and sent the plume 10 km (6 miles) into the sky.

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Calbuco erupting

According to Wikipedia, Calbuco is a very explosive andesite volcano. Andesite is the type of black rock that comes out of the volcano. It is situated at the south end of Lago Llanquihue and is about 2100 meters high (6889 feet). It’s 1893 eruption was one of the largest ever in southern Chile ejecting debris 8 kilometers (5 miles) with many hot lahars (mud flows).

Here is another view at sunset as the cloud was dispersed by the winds. The colors were quite spectacular.

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Calbuco erupting at sunset

The second eruption happened at 1 AM the next morning. This eruption included spurting lava which flowed into Lago Chapo to the southest of the volcano. This eruption was more spectacular in the night sky as it was accompanied by much lightning and thunder. Most of the ash was blown to the northeast into the mountains and Argentina. The ash is not what I thought it would be, flaky like fireplace ash, this was heavy like sand and coated everything up to an inch at Antillanca and Volcan Casablanca about 125 miles northeast of Calbuco.

See this link for some spectacular night photos- scroll to the bottom.

About 4,000people were evacuated in a 20 km radius which prompted a closing of all schools in the area to house the evacuees. Instead of snow days, we have volcano days!

Summer 2015

Wow,  what a summer we had! We just bought a 3 hectare parcel (about 6 acres) which is surrounded by forest and dairy farms.  It has beautiful old growth forest, pasture, creeks, and springs and we camped out there for 3 months while renovating the cabin that came with the property. It was wonderful being outside all the time. The sights and sounds and smells of a property are so alive when you are living in it not just in it inside a house. Especially intriguing were the night time sounds of birds I have yet to identify.

This was the driest summer for Patagonia in 50 years which was great since we were living in a tent!But not great for the cows and sheep who have only had dry crusty grass stubble to chew on.

Here are a few of the sights of the summer.



Here is the Ulmo tree. See the flower picture below. They usually grow in clumps of trunks. The bark is mottled in gray, green, and pinkish colors.




Here is the South American Goji berry called the Maqui berry. Harvested mostly by the Mapuche, it grows wild here in the woods. The berries are a bit bitter and filled with seeds but are really high in antioxidants. I picked some and made them into a pie with blueberries to give them sweetness and juiciness.

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Isn’t this guy cool? The biggest walking stick I’ve ever seen! We found him under our cabin. He almost crawled on my dear hubby. Quickly my son removed him because Jim hates bugs and probably would have crushed him. He bounced up and down on his long legs. We left him to climb our laurel tree.

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Here is the flower of the Ulmo tree which blooms in February. Eucryphia cordifolia. The trees are covered in bees when blooming. The honey is very popular. It is native to Chile and Aregentina.