The Magellanic subantarctic forests (lenga bosque, in their own language) display an indescribable beauty. In the region of Punta Arenas, they consist almost entirely of one species: Nothofagus pumilio, or Lenga tree, a deciduous tree proudly covering the southernmost forests of the world.
I am so in love with the beauty of these forests that I decided to spend at least two extra posts on their beauty. There are just so many things to show! I will focus on the ‘lenga’ tree, although there is a nice relative called ‘coigüe’ that has evergreen leaves and prefers the wetter areas to the west of the Andes.
Over the years in South America, I experienced these lenga forests in different seasons, but now we got to experience the ultimate picture with their beautiful winter and autumn dress. You might recall the views from some of my previous posts (here and here, for example). In April, the trees show their most beautiful colours before shedding their leaves to prepare for the harsh winter conditions, turning everything in a mosaic of red, green and yellow colours.
The lenga trees are typical for cold climates with abundant snow. When left alone, they can grow to magnificent sizes, but in a lot of places they suffer from forest management. My local lenga-specialist at least assured me they could get even more beautiful in other parts of the Andes! Around the big city of Punta Arenas, many of these forests have sadly been burned, mainly to feed the omnipresent cattle.
Nevertheless, even the relatively young trees and managed forests got these ancient century-old look over them, thanks to the abundant growth of ‘Old Man’s Beard’, definitely my favourite lichen in history. This beauty turns forests into spooky Lord of the Rings-style ancient natural cathedrals in no time. They are draped over virtually all branches and hang down from the trunks, covering the whole forest in a green furry coat.
The combination of the beautiful autumn colours, the old treebeards and the late autumn-sun were a killer combination to get this forest high in the top list of my all-time favourite natural places in the world.