Volcano Llaima with Araucarias trees in the foreground, Conguillio National Park, Chile
© Fotografías Jorge León Cabello/Getty Image
Autumn falls in Chile
As we head towards spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is just getting under way on the opposite side of the world. In Chile, the season varies widely as one travels from the Atacama Desert in the north more than 2,600 miles south to the tip of Tierra del Fuego. About halfway between these two extremes is Conguillio National Park, featured on our homepage, and the volcano Llaima at Chile's centre.
In March, when the leaves of its deciduous forest begin to change colour and fall, the native Chilean pine trees (Araucarias) stand out even more strikingly. A favourite of botanists in the 19th century, these distinctive trees were transported to countries with temperate climates around the world. They picked up the nickname “monkey puzzle tree” in the 1850s, apparently after an English barrister called Charles Austin observed: “It would be a puzzle for a monkey to climb that.” These amazing trees can live for over 1,000 years and are themselves living fossils, descended from a lineage stretching back 260 million years, to the time of the dinosaurs.