Alpine Garden Society

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Meeting September 18, 2014 Patagonia

The North Lancashire Group started the new autumn season with a lecture entitled ‘Patagonia’ by Alan Oatway, a member of the local group and of the Lakeland Horticultural Society at Holehird, Windermere.

A flight from Europe to Buenos Aires and onwards to El Calafate enabled Alan and his wife to start their expedition.

Patagonia is at the extreme south of Argentina and Chile, below latitude 37 degrees south with the Andes providing a harsh climate, windswept landscapes, glaciers and high snowcapped mountains. Superb photography enabled Alan to provide the audience with images of his theme of plants, peaks and penguins. A visit was made to Punta Arenas to see the Magellanic Penguins.   The first five days of the tour were marred by storms and gales. However, the visit to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile provided spectacular scenery of the towers with Paine Grande the highest at 2,884 metres and two further peaks rising above 2,000 metres above Lago Grey with its small icebergs. Walking on the trails was hazardous due to the strong winds but Alan was able to find many of the endemic plants of the area, including Alstroemeria patagonica, Calceolaria biflora, Calceolaria uniflora and Chloraea magellanica.

After three days they returned to El Calafate for a flight to El Chalten in the Los Glaciares National Park.  El Chalten is situated at Lago Viedma and provides breathtaking views of Mount Fitzroy at 3,405 metres. Exploration of the area was by car, often on dirt roads to get to remote areas and then on foot to habitats where rare and spectacular plants could be found. In this area South American fauna was seen including Guanacos, Condors and the Magellanic Woodpecker. Endemic plants included Viola sacculus (Andean Viola), Ourisia species and the spectacular Scarlet Gorse (Anarthrophyllum desderatum)

Alan emphasised that touring in Patagonia involves careful planning because of the remoteness, sparse population and lack of tourist accommodation near to good plant sites.  In spite of the difficulties first rate images of the great variety of Patagonian flora  was shown in the lecture and appreciated by the audience.

A well deserved vote of thanks was proposed by Frank Hoyle.

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