Monday, 6 June 2011

Ecuador Foliage

Ecuador hosts 10% of all species of plants existing on earth. From this percentage, most species grow in the Andean mountain chain, in the northern occidental zone, where there are an estimated ten thousand species. In the Amazonian region, there are also many vegetal species, around 8.200 only of orchids have been identified, for instance. In Galapagos, there are about 600 native species and another 250 introduced by mankind. Out of the twelve key biodiversity zones, three are found in continental Ecuador. The climatic diversity has given space to more than 25 thousand species of trees.

Eucalyptus was first introduced from Australia to the rest of the world by Sir Joseph Banks, bontanist, on the Cook expedition in 1770. It was subsequently introduced to many parts of the world, notably California, Brazil, Ecuador, Columbia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Portugal, South Africa, Uganda, Israel, Galicia and Chile. 

The megadiverse cloud forest is located on the slopes of Ecuador's Andes mountains and range in altitude from 1000 to 2500 meters. The vegetation is characterized by trees that range from 9 to 25 meters high. The most well known plants of this forest are guandera, quishuar and wild avocado. Other plant species of this forest are orchids, lycopodia, lichens, ferns, moss, bromeliads, liverworts, etc.

In the inter-Andean valleys the original vegetation has unfortunately been replaced by cultivation and constructions because the majority of the big towns and cities are located in these valleys. The original vegetation is characterized by algarrobos, podocarpus, epiphytes, black cabuyo, guarango, white leaf and chamano. 

The paramo (alpine tundra) contains scrubland, herbaceous vegetation and woody shrubs, frailejones, chuquiraguas, wild rosemary and valerian.

In the higher tropical rain forests you also find a huge variety of ferns and mosses. Trees abound but do not reach the immense heights of the lower tropical rain forests of the Amazon. Reaching the Inter-Andean valleys, we find more natural diversity but also a region, which was completely changed by man and where now many exotic plants are dominant. This holds also true for the agricultural rich coastal plains where imported fruits and crops took the place of the native tropical forest and changed completely the bio-zone. The higher we move up the less species per hectare you find but even the diversity in the high alpine region of the paramo of 4000m is amazing. You find there flowers like the colorful gentians and woody shrubs of the aster or composite families. Another very distinct characteristic of Ecuador's flora is its high percentage of endemic plants, which are by definition only found in Ecuador or even only in a particular region of the country, like a small and isolated valley. Those endemic plants represent 20% of all plants of mainland Ecuador and reaches a much higher percentage in Galapagos.

In Canada we grow Norfolk pine trees in pots inside.  In the main square in Cuenca, there are huge Norfolk pines towering over the city.

Just miles from the equator, rose & flower farms have become a colorful focal point of Ecuador's Andean countryside. With an elevation nearing 10,000 feet, the country's proximity to the sun and cool nights provide perfect growing conditions for flowers. Ecuador's cut-flower industry supplies roughly one-third of America's roses.

Throughout the world there are 97 varieties of oranges. In Ecuador a few of these varieties are grown everywhere and make wonderful fresh juice. The large oranges have no seeds but are less sweet. The small oranges are full of seeds but are very sweet.

More pictures of some of Ecuador's beautiful orchids and other foliage can be seen by clicking the links.   As well flower pictures from both Vancouver, B.C. and Ecuador can be seen by clicking Spring.