Just like Chilean fauna, the flora has a report regarding the state of conservation of the Chilean species and it is dubbed Red Book of Chile’s Terrestrial Flora. This book is put together by the Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF) (National Forest Corporation), which depends on the Ministry of Agriculture, and the state of conservation of the plants distributed in the continental and insular parts are established within it, in accordance to the categories described by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Currently, the total number of species with conservation problems is unclear due to the appearance of new strains or the immigration of species to other zones.
However, the current list includes 179 plants from the continental and insular parts in the categories Endangered, Vulnerable, Rare and Indeterminably Threatened.
Next, we show some of the most threatened species because it is impossible to describe all of them.
Endangered continental flora
There are currently eleven species of plant spread throughout continental Chile that are Endangered.
– Avellanita bustillosii: it is an endemic species of the family Euphorbiaceae that inhabits the Coastal mountain range in the region Metropolitana and of el Libertador Bernando O’Higgins. It grows in shallow, well drained soil (especially near the courses of rivers). The conservation actions that are taking place with this species are: cultivating and spreading this plant in the Viña del Mar Botanical Garden and the nursery of Reserva Nacional Rio Clarillo (Rio Clarillo National Reserve Region Metropolitana). Also, the Servicio Agrícola Ganadero (SAG, Agriculture Cattle Service) along with the Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente (Conama, National Environmental Commission) and the Universidad de Chile put together a conservation project that consists on closing off some habitats to prevent animal grazing.
– Southern Belloto (Beilschmiedia berteroana): endemic tree of the family Lauraceae that is found from the region Metropolitana to the region of Biobio. In grows in small populations in both mountain ranges (Andes and Coastal) and in the Intermediate Depression. It measures approximately 15 meters high its flowers are of a yellow-greenish color. It is protected in the national reserves of Los Bellotos del Melado (region of el Maule) and Roblería del Cobre de Loncha (region Metropolitana).
– Berberidopsis corallina: endemic climbing plant of the family Berberidopsidaceae that grows in the Coastal mountain range, from the region of el Maule to the region of los Lagos. It generally grows in humid places associated to courses of water. There are also subpopulations in the dry forest slopes. Only one subpopulation is protected and it is the one located in the Reserva Nacional Los Queules (region of el Maule).
– Berberis litoralis: endemic species of the family Berberidaceae that only grows in the coastal gullies near Paposo (north of Taltal) in the region of Antofagasta. Currently, it presents serious conservation problems due to grazing and its use as firewood.
– Dalea azurea: member of the family Leguminosae or Fabaceae, it grows in the southern coast of the region of Antofagasta thanks to the coastal mist. Due to the fact that it only lives in one place, its population is scarce and its habitat has been occupied by human settlements (for mining and goat grazing), this species is in danger of disappearing.
– Keule (Gomortega keule): it is an endemic tree of the family Gomortegaceae. It is found in the Coastal mountain range from the region of el Maule to the region of Biobio. It measures close to 30 meters and is very aromatic. This species was declared a National Monument in 1995, granting it legal protection against chopping it down.
– Metharme lanata: endemic species of the family Zygopthyllaceae that grows on sandy soil. It grows in the Andean foothills (2,000 to 2,500 masl) of the regions of Arica and Parinacota and Tarapaca.
– Nothofagus alessandrii: member of the family Fagaceae, it is an endemic species with a restricted and fragmented distribution along 100 km of the Coastal mountain range in the region of el Maule (provinces of Talca and Cauquenes). It reaches 30 meters high and has a straight, cylindrical trunk that can be up to one meter in diameter. It mainly grows in shady gullies and in soils rich in organic matter. Today, 12% of the total population of Nothofagus alessandrii is protected in the Los Ruiles National Reserve (region of el Maule).
– Pitavia punctata: also known as Canelillo, it is an endemic tree of the family Rutaceae that grows between the Region of el Maule and la Araucania, exclusively in the Coastal mountain range. It inhabits humid and shady places near courses of water and it is associated to other arborous species that are characteristic of the region, such as the Cryptocarya alba, the Boldo (Peumus boldus) and the Citronella mucronata. Only two subpopulations are protected within the national reserves of Los Ruiles and Los Queules (both in the region of el Maule).
– Myrcianthes coquimbensis: endemic species of the family Myrtaceae that has a restricted distribution in the coast of the region of Coquimbo. It only grows between large rockeries that almost always receive a humid breeze from the Pacific ocean. None of the subpopulations of this species is protected by the state.
– Valdivia gayana: it is an endemic herb of the family Escallonaceae that grows in the region of los Rios. It has a very specific habitat associated to humid and shady zones, although lately species have been found on partially shady slopes.
The level of distribution is not very accurate, but it is known to be protected in the Valdivia National Reserve (region of los Rios).
Continental flora in a Vulnerable state
From the point of view of conservation, today there are 31 species of continental flora is a Vulnerable state. Their geographical distribution is concentrated from the region of Arica and Parinacota to the region of los Lagos. Some threatened species are:
– Monkey-Puzzle (Araucaria araucana): it is a tree from the family Araucariaceae and its origin is sub Antarctic. It measures nearly 50 meters high and the trunk is over two meters in diameter. It grows at over 800 masl in the Nahuelbuta and Andes mountain ranges, in both Chilean and Argentinean territory. It was declared a Natural Monument in 1990, which grants it total protection against chopping it down.
– Cordilleran Cypress (Austrocedrus chilensis): it is a conifer of sub Antarctic origin from the family Cupressaceae that grows in both mountain ranges (Coastal and Andes) between the regions of Valparaiso and los Lagos. It can measure up to 20 meters high and presents green-colored fruit, which ripe between January and February. In the last few years its drop off has been increasing due to forest exploitation, fires and grazing.
– Vasconcella chilensis (Carica chilensis): endemic bush of the family Caricaceae that grows in rocky places of the coast and Coastal mountain range in the regions of Coquimbo and Valparaiso. Its drop-off is mainly due to the fragmentation of its habitat caused by agropecuary activity and the burning of brush to cultivate grasslands or use them for grazing.
– Cordia decandra: small tree of endemic origin and a member of the family Borraginaceae that grows in the provinces of Copiapo and Huasco (region of Atacama) and the province of Choapa (region of Coquimbo).
It flowers during the months of September to December and its fruit ripens in January and February. Its wood is mainly used for the manufacturing of vegetable coal, hence one of the reasons why it is vulnerable.
– Patagonian Cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides): also known as Lahuen, this tree belongs to the family Cupressaceae and its origin is sub Antarctic. It grows from the province of Valdivia (region of los Rios) to the province of Chiloe (region of los Lagos) in both mountain ranges. Due to its overexploitation because of its high priced wood (house construction), it was declared a Natural Monument in 1976, forbidding its exploitation.
– Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis): it is an endemic palm of the family Arecaceae that presents a discontinuous distribution from the south of the Limari river (region of Coquimbo) to around Curico (region of el Maule). It is said that its decrease in the last two centuries has been almost 98% (from 5 million species to only 124 thousand). The surviving trees are presented in 11 subpopulations, of which the largest are found in the La Campana National Park (region of Valparaiso).
– Legrandia concinna: endemic arborous species of the family Myrtaceae that grows in a restricted area located from the south of the province of Linares (region of el Maule) to the north of the province of Ñuble (region of Biobio). Its main threats include the invasion of natural areas by commercial plantations and the reduction of its area due to forest fires.
– Myrica pavonis: also known as Carza or Huacan, this Andean tree of South American origin belongs to the family Myricaceae. It grows in very specific areas in the provinces of Arica and Iquique (region of Arica and Parinacota and Tarapaca respectively) between 1,000 and 2,200 masl.
– Hualo (Nothofagus glauca): endemic tree of central Chile that belongs to the family Fagaceae. It grows in both mountain ranges from the region of Libertador Bernando O’Higgins to the region of Biobio, but its maximum concentration is found in the provinces of Talca and Cauquenes. This species is protected in the national reserves of Radal Siete Tazas and Altos de Lircay (both in the region of el Maule).
– Polylepis besseri: arborous species of South American origin that belongs to the family Rosaceae. In Chile, it only grows in gullies (between 3,000 and 4,200 masl) of the Andean mountain range in the province of Parinacota (region of Arica and Parinacota).
– Porlieria chilensis: endemic, small-sized bush (it reaches 5 meters tall). It is a member of the family Zygophyllaceae and grows on the coastal slopes from the province of Elqui (region of Coquimbo) to the province of Colchagua (region of Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins). Part of its habitat has been modified or completely destroyed by fire, goat grazing, and the conversion of land for agricultural ends (avocado production).
– Pouteria splendens: woody, endemic tree of the family Sapotaceae that presents a restricted distribution from the south of the region of Coquimbo (province of Choapa) to the region of Valparaiso (province of San Antonio). Since they live in coastal zones near urban areas, their habitat is receiving the strong impact of highway and condo construction.
– Chilean Mesquite (Prosopis chilensis): it is a South American arborous species of the family Mimosaceae that grows in Chile from the province of Copiapo (region of Atacama) to the province of Santiago (region Metropolitana). It is especially abundant in the entire northern area of the Santiago basin (in both mountain ranges), because it is a tree that needs a great amount of light. Its wood is used for fuel or construction.
– Prosopis tamarugo: endemic tree of the family Mimosaceae that only lives in the province of Iquique in the region of Tarapaca. It manages to survive thanks to the water provided from the underground aquifers that go down the mountains. Its fruit is used as feed for sheep and cows.
Insular flora in a Vulnerable state
Currently, there are 40 species in a Vulnerable state in Chile’s insular zone. A few of the most representative species are:
– Acaena masafuera: plant from the family Rosaceae that grows between 1,100 and 1,350 masl in the areas of la Cuchara, Plano Rodriguez, quebrada Larga and la subida a los Inocentes on Alejandro Selkirk island.
– Asplenium polyodon: endemic ferm of the family Aspleniaceae that inhabits Easter Island and grows on the trunks of trees in humid, shady conditions.
– Berberis corymbosa: it is an endemic bush of the family Berberidaceae that grows from 200 to 600 masl on Robinson Crusoe island in the sectors of Villagra, La Piña, Camote and Agudo hill.
– Boehmeria excelsa: this species of tree from the family Urticaceae is well-known on the island of Robinson Crusoe as Manzano.
– Haloragis masafuerana: it is an endemic plant of the family Haloragaceae that is spread along the rocky beaches and coastal cliffs of Robinson Crusoe island. Today, for its conservation, it is planted in the Viña del Mar National Botanical Garden.
– Hymenophyllum rugosum: it is an endemic fern of the family Hymenophyllaceae that lives between 400 and 900 masl on the islands of Robinson Crusoe and Alejandro Selkirk.
– Juania australis: known by the name of Chonta, it is an endemic palm of the family Arecaceae that inhabits the island of Robinson Crusoe. A couple of years ago it was exploited for its coveted stalk, due to this, today, chopping it down is forbidden.
– Machaerina scirpoidea: it is an endemic herb of the family Cyperaceae that lives on the island of Robinson Crusoe, especially in the small square of El Yunque, Selkirk’s lookout point, in the sectors of Villagra, el Camote and on Agudo hill.
– Robinsonia evenia: it is an endemic species of the family Compositae, normally epiphyte that grows on the hills of Centinela, Agudo and Damajuana, in the sectors of el Camote, Puerto Francés, la Piña and Piedra Agujerada on Robinson Crusoe island.
– Spergularia confertiflora: it is a small endemic plant of the family Caryphyllaceae that grows on the sunny cliffs near the sea on the island of Alejandro Selkirk.
– Wahlembergia berteroi: it is an endemic plant of the family Campanulaceae that grows in the cracks of the hills found on the island of Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara.
There are 32 species (like the Haplorhus peruviana) that today are located in the Rare category, meaning, their population has always been scarce or they are varieties with a very restricted distribution. They are located along continental Chile.
In the insular part there are only two species that are Indeterminably Threatened, this means they are plants that are supposedly included in the categories of Endangered or Vulnerable, but whose definite situation will be determined according to future investigations. These species are the Agrostis masafuerana and the Carex berteroniana. Both grow on the Island of Alejandro Selkirk. A few of the common continental zone species that are catalogued under the Rare category are:
– Adesmia balsamica: endemic bush of the family Fabaceae that inhabits the region of Valaparaiso and, in order to preserve it, is being cultivated in the Viña del Mar Botanical Garden.
– Chilean Eucryphia (Eucryphia glutinosa): endemic bush of the family Eucryphiaceae that is distributed in the Andean foothills of the region of el Maule to la Araucania. It is protected within the national parks of Laguna del Laja (region of Biobio) and Tolhuaca (region of la Araucania).
– Myrceugenia leptospermoides: also called Murtilla or Chequén, it is an endemic bush that grows in humid spots near rivers or marshes from Ñuble (region of Biobio) to Cautin (region of la Araucania).
– Chilean Shrub Mint (Satureja multiflora): endemic bush also known by the common name of Poleo, Menta de Agua or Alcanflor del campo. It grows under different conditions, from sea-level to up 1,200 masl in the zone that goes from the province of Linares (region of el Maule) to that of Llanquihue (region of los Lagos).