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Chile’s Flowering Desert – A Beautiful Resurrection

Updated on November 21, 2011

In the arid, bone dry, scorched, dead desert in northern Chile, a miraculous resurrection takes place with just a tiny amount of rain. The parched and barren hills and plains are reborn and filled with vibrant life and gorgeously stunning colors, in all shades of the rainbow, after several years. It is nature’s multicolored carpet, covering a dead, baked, wasteland, only known for its mineral content. Along with this magical, bright carpet of leaves and flowers, nodding gently in the Atacama breeze, as far as the eye can see, another life fills the air. The hum and buzz of insects, small lizards and a few birds, who know there is plentiful food and life again on this once dead no man’s land.

This is the rebirth and resurrection of Chile’s Atacama Desert. The plants and flowers put on a spectacular show, for one and all or no one. They do their duty by growing, blossoming and seeding in a short while, earning with gratitude, a pitiful rainfall received after waiting patiently for rain for many years.

The rich, bright fuchsia of the pata de guanaco, contrasts with the pink, white and lilac cristaria. The glass like fragile flowers of the cristaria supporting the desert wind and harsh conditions, while maintaining their delicate, fragile appearance in the extreme environment. The pata de guanaco, large like poppies in some areas, where more water was gratefully received and small like peas in others where just a few drops fell. They all weave their magic carpet, painting and covering the hills and plains in large patches of pink or white or lilac or fuchsia or yellow, a blend of patch work in pastels. These are living paintings like Monet’s ‘Poppies Blooming’ or Pissarro’s ‘the garden of Pontoise’.

These hills and plains now clothed in brilliant and pastels, are a reminder of nature’s bounty in this dusty, cruel, land.

Then the valleys, veiled between the hills. These valleys are virtual hanging gardens of Alstromeria in all shades from white to pink to brilliant fuchsia. These orchid like flowers, have no need to envy the hanging gardens of Babylon. They can hold their own. These glorious flowers can push their way through the tiny cracks in the hardest rock, nodding their heavy heads in their protected valleys and narrow plains between close mountain ridges. They seem to whisper softly in their dance like movements, mesmerizing the scarce observer.

The Ananucas, in yellow, red, orange and pink, each have their own preferred area of congregation. They crowd together in their own choice quarters, on high plains beside the shorelines or in protected valleys and also besides roads and sandy plains. They bob their weighty heads of blooms, as the wind tries to break them. They are smarter than the wind, however, nodding, bending and bowing but never ever breaking against this bully force, forcing them almost to the ground. The blood red, red ananuca lets the sun glint of its bright dark head catching one’s eyes in wonder at the beauty among such bleak surroundings.

The garra de leon, with its round ball of gorgeous, magnificent, blood red flowers, as if tied together by magical hands into a perfect bouquet, spills out through rocks, crags and crannies, in hidden valleys, far from the beaten trails. They spill like green waterfalls, dotted with blood red bouquets like an offering to the Gods. Few get to see this hidden spectacle. They don’t care for audience or fame. They just do their duty. Grow, bloom and seed. Then wait patiently for many years for another meager rain.

The Maroon, brown and yellow, fragrant Heliotropium , scent the air with their delicate fragrance. They form ground level bouquets, carpeting the dry, crackling earth and filling the air and anointing their visitors with their elusive fragrance. The fragrance lingers with the visitors long after the flowers have been left behind.

The yellow and black corona del fraile, the orange yellow terciopelo and the poquil, all bob their heads on plains, hills and roadsides, painting everything yellow, orange and green. The wind tries to break them too; however, they bend, twist and turn but will not break. They play with the wind, taunting and daring this mighty force. They too have their own dance and perform on a barren dry stage with no spectators. They too bloom and seed in gratitude for the pitiful rain received.

The fragile, sky blue, blue and white and lilac and white, suspiros, creep over hard, naked, rocks along the coast, dressing them in green, blue , pink and white, delicate gowns of leaves and flowers. The wind ruffles them but the solid rock underneath, protects them from being blown away. So they ruffle a bit like the lace or ruffles on a gown but stay put.

The sky blue celestina on its thin, long stalks and the delicate blue and white huille, along with the purple and pink huille, carpet the plains in blue and white and pink and purple, that can be seen for miles around.

The white cardo santo with its crepe paper petals and large poppy like flowers grows and covers large tracts of land by roads and on plains. The flowers stand tall and tango with the wind.

No human hand can cultivate a garden to this scale, beauty, magnitude and majesty, with such miserable soil and practically no water. No gardener knows how to plant, water and tend such a garden, coercing such a spectacle, out of such hostile land.

Natures gift to Chile and the world. A few drops of miserable rain and a dead desert blooms, creating a colorful landscape, in bright and subtle hues, man cannot create. It is short lived; however, each plant puts out its life’s energy on one gorgeous show. Short lived but unimaginably, glorious, in magnificence, splendor and majesty, the resurrected desert, leaves the beholder in breathless wonder.


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    • profile image

      Kiruba Harris 4 years ago

      Yes it is a beautiful country and you should visit sometime.

    • profile image

      Anne 4 years ago

      Lovely article. Inspires me to visit Chile

    • profile image

      Kiruba Harris 6 years ago

      Yes it is beautiful and you must write about the hills around Poona after the monsoons, the tea gardens and other beautiful and wild areas all around India. Looking forward to your next hub.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

      So very beautiful - we must visit :) Now you've inspired me to write about our hills!

    • profile image

      Kiruba Harris 6 years ago

      It is and I hope you can visit sometime.

    • profile image

      Chicky 6 years ago

      Chile seems a fascinating place the more I hear about and read up on it!