Fieldwork day 2 of our South American journey brought us to national park Malalcahuello, where our next mountain road was waiting to be surveyed, under the all-seeing eye of Volcan Lonquimay. There, we were introduced to the amazing Araucaria-forests.
The Araucaria, or monkey puzzle tree, is a common sight in many European gardens, where he is often planted for his excentric looks. Seeing the tree in its native habitat, growing tall and proud on the steep mountain slopes, is simply breath-taking.
Echium vulgare, a common introduced European weed in the park
Yet these native forests are also threatened by non-native species. Again, the roadsides we monitored were packed with familiar species, often even more common here as in their native range in Europe.
That is another interesting question we hope to be able to answer with this study: are these plants relying on the same mycorrhizae to invade in the Andes as they use in their native range? A nice package of root samples, soon to be send to our University of Antwerp-lab, should shed light on that.
Fieldwork in the Andes also introduced us ample of times to the so-called Argentinian biddy-biddy (according to its rather short Wikipedia page). Despite its cute name, Acaena pinnatifida is a rough fellow. On its own, it hammer the concept of ‘assisted seed dispersal’ right into you: their seeds are provided with spiky little extensions that cling to your cloths like the best velcro. We spend a significant part of our time getting these annoying clingy hedgehogs off of us!
But even the most dreadfull biddy-biddy fields cannot take away the beauty of this amazing park in the Chilean Andes. We spend the night at the foot of the mountains, in a beautiful Swiss lodge, shared a local wine with our amazing Chilean colleagues, and looked forward to another day of fieldwork in that wonderful place.
To be continued…