A group of our members are off exploring the flora and landscapes of Ecuador and Peru. The trip began in Ecuador on Monday 19th March. Their time in Peru will be in the Ancash region in the north, mostly to sites in the Cordillera Blanca. One of the plant species they’re hopeful to see is Nototriche coccinea, a red-flowered nototriche.
The explorers have already started sending back photos of their trip which we’ll be sharing below. Keep checking back for more exciting updates!
On Tuesday 20th, the group spent a quiet day in Quito (capital city of Ecuador) getting used to the higher altitude.
The Monumento a la Mitad del Mundo (Monument to the Equator) is situated 26km north of the centre of Quito. It's believed to mark the exact location of the Equator, but according to our team's GPS, it's 240 yards into the Southern Hemisphere!
VOLCAN GUAGUA PICHINCHA
The group trekked up Volcan Guagua Pichincha (an active stratovolcano) to c. 4,500m. There was some spectacular scenery along the way and, of course, plenty of interesting plants.
The view from Volcan Guagua Pichincha
Nototriche jamesonii (left) and Mutisia sp. (right)
Clockwise from top left: Calceolaria aff. auriculata, Valeriana alypifolia, Halenia weddelliana, Tristerix longebracteatus.
LAGUNA DE MOJANDA
On Friday 23rd March, it was off to explore Laguna de Mojanda (Mojanda Lake). Mojanda is an inactive stratovolcano in northern Ecuador. At a height of 3,740m, there were some beautiful plants to see.
Bomarea sp. (left) and Macleania rupestris (right).
After enduring continual bad weather while walking along Laguna Cuicocha (a 3km-wide crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano) the group went to a nearby artisan market instead where there were lots of interesting crafts and local foods to see.
EL ANGEL RESERVE
Next it was time to head north towards the Columbian border where the group drove to a height of about 3,800m. The El Angel Ecological Reserve is famous as the home of the special Espeletia pycnophylla (a giant sunflower-like plant). This is the only area in Ecuador where it can be found. The group were very lucky with good weather here too as it's typically a wet area.
CAYAMBE COCA NATIONAL PARK
Cayambe Coca is a national park situated along the Equator, roughly 24 miles from Quito. There are over 100 species of endemic plants here. Below is some of the stunning scenery from 4,200m.
A TOUCH OF LUXURY
All that plant hunting takes a lot of energy! The group enjoyed a two night stay at this wonderful spa hotel - the perfect way to relax and recharge.
CAYAMBE COCA PARK EAST
The next day was a walk on the east side of Cayambe Coca, in the Amazon watershed (around 4,100m). This is a much wetter area, but thankfully it was a rare dry day. Grassland with shrubs is typical here. A look across the crater sees the area where the group walked the day before.
This striking Orchid was among the plants the group came across in East Cayambe Coca National Park.
Cotopaxi is an active stratovolcano in the Andes, c.50km south of Quito. The group travelled by 4X4 to just below the Refuge, about 4,800m. The conditions were very dry and flowers were few, but the scenery was spectacular. Any further plant hunting was put to a stop when a hail and lightning storm brewed!
The views from Cotopaxi and Gentiana sedifolia.
Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador (6,200m). The group enjoyed a great day exploring the scenery and discovering the wonderful plants that call it home.
Clockwise from top left: Nototriche jamesonii, Bidens, Castilleja.
Clockwise from left: Gentianella sp., Geranium, Senecio (planted by the National Park but grows naturally on Cotopaxi).
ON TO PERU
Two days were spent travelling back to Quito before an evening flight to Lima and early flight to Trujillo (a coastal city in north west Peru).
An early arrival on Saturday allowed for a tour of the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon), dating back nearly 2,000 years. Built of adobe bricks, it has been modified and enlarged at least four times. It’s also been excavated to reveal beautiful decorations.
The afternoon was spent exploring the centre of Trujillo with its fascinating historic buildings.
Home to many interesting plants, this was one of the most highly-anticipated places on the itinerary. The group managed to reach the top (just under 5,000m) but the weather conditions weren’t ideal with rainfall and snow on the ground.
They retreated to lower levels for plant hunting where they saw an array of flowers, including Lupinus sp. The Polylepis trees were especially beautiful.
Laguna Paron is the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca, on the Peruvian Andes. Here our explorers saw Gentianella, Gaultheria, an Orchid and Lupinus.
Half of the group set off in search of the three red Nototriche sp. in Peru. They made their way up to 15,000 feet and through the cutting to the far side of the pass. While the GPS reference indicated they were within around half a mile, the terrain was too difficult to navigate. All was not lost however, as the group saw some Lupinus and two other Nototriche species.
Punta Olimpica is a high mountain pass in the Cordillera Blanca. Sadly, the weather wasn't ideal for enjoying the views but the group saw some lovely plants including Gentianella (close to G. weberbaueri, but a new species), a Nototriche and Bomarea.
Cordillera Negra (also known as the Black Mountains) is a range of rocky mountains west of the Cordillera Blanca.
Half of the tour group headed there to explore and found Puya raimondii (the largest species of bromeliad), Viola, Gentianella and Calceolaria.
This is where the group spent their last day of plant hunting, at a height of over 15,000 feet. They explored the spectacular Puya raimondii forest and saw Acaulimalva, Werneria, Senecio, Nototriche, Gentiana sedifolia and huge patches of silvery cacti.
Next up was a long drive to Lima for the flight home. Our group had a wonderful time exploring Ecuador and Peru and saw lots of new and interesting plants.
Fancy joining us on one of our tours? See our upcoming excursions here.