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Plants of Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego

Lands of Australia, Patagonia, South America, Antarctica, New Zealand,
New Guinea, India, and Africa were once united in Gondwanaland

A typical Beech forest of Tierra Del Fuego

The peace and tranquility is astounding.

The very same Nothafagus pumilio forests are found in New Zealand.

Nothfagus forests dominate both sides of the Patagonian Andes.

Patagonia has ten species of Nothofagus, seven are deciduous.

In Darwin's day, however, there was no explanation for how terrestrial
species like beech could have colonised lands separated by vast oceans.

Because beech nuts are not eaten by birds, and their seeds don't
survive in salt water, how could Nothofagus have spread?

Not until over a century later did geologists come up
with a plausible answer, when they proposed the lands
of Australia, South America, Antarctica, New Zealand,
New Guinea, India, and Africa were once united in a
super-continent which they named Gondwanaland.

Over millions of years Gondwanaland, by means of plate
tectonics and continental drift, cleaved into the landmasses
of today.

Today the cold-adapted beech forests reach their greatest extent in New Zealand and Patagonian South America,
with sizeable forests in Tasmania, and smaller ones in New Guinea, New Caledonia, and southeast Australia.
At the time of Gondwanaland's break-up, however, the beech forests did not prevail over the conifer forests.
The ancient forests were then dominated by podocarps, such as the ancestors of kahikatea, rimu and miro in
New Zealand, along with ancestral kauri and araucaria, such as the monkey puzzle trees in Chile.
The understoreys consisted of tall treeferns and luxuriant mosses.

Gradually, the beech forests expanded and began to take over some of the conifers' territory,
while in other places mixed forests formed. As Gondwanaland fractured further, the beech
forests became isolated - leading to the evolution of different species of Nothofagus on the
different landmasses. Ice began to envelop Antarctica as it drifted south, and glaciers eventually
overwhelmed the beech forests there until they were gone.

There are only 3 kinds of trees in Tierra Del Fuego:
Canelo, and 2 kinds of Beech;
Nothafagus antarctica and Nothafagus pumillus

Califate, an edible berry that is ripe in February.

There is a legend that if one eats this fruit, they will return to Tierra Del Fuego!

Some mushrooms we found in Puerto Williams during Summer
(Note sunglasses to get an idea of their size)

Patagonian Animals and Birds

Back to Tour of Tierra del Fuego

This page was last updated 19 April 2004