Páramo Flora

Documenting the flora of the Páramos; the world's coldest Biodiversity Hotspots!

Welcome to Páramo Flora

High above the lush tropical rain forest with its 40m tall trees covered with lianas and epiphytes, and beyond the treeline of the cloud forests of the Andes, on the mountain tops of the cordilleras, we find the grasslands, bogs, glacial lakes and scattered shrubs and treelets that conform the Páramos. These tropical high elevation ecosystems, have marveled local inhabitants and travellers.

The famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt referred to them extensively in his writings :

"The word Páramo signifies in Spanish America all those mountainous regions al elevations of 3200 to 4000 m in which an unpleasant, rough, and misty climate prevails. Hail and snow fall daily for several hours in the upper Páramos, and furnish a beneficial supply of moisture to the alpine plants; a supply not arising from a large absolute quantity of aqueous vapor in these high regions, but from the frequency of showers (hail and snow being so termed as well as rain), produced by the rapidly changing currents of air, and the variations of the electric tension. The vegetation of the Páramos has a peculiar physiognomy and character, from the absence of trees, the short close branches of the small-leaved, myrtle-like shrubs, the large sized and numerous blossoms, and the perpetual freshness of the whole from the constant and abundant supply of moisture. The arborescent vegetation of these regions is low and spreading, consisting chiefly of large flowering laurels and myrtle-leaved alpine shrubs, whose knotty branches are adorned with fresh and evergreen foliage. We there find the family of the alpine rhododendrons, the thibaudias, the andromedas, the vacciniums, and those befarias with resinous leaves, which we have several times compared to the rhododendron of our European Alps. No zone of alpine vegetation in the temperate or cold parts of the globe can well be compared with that of the Paramos in the tropical Andes. Nowhere, perhaps, can be found collected together, in so small a space, productions so beautiful, and so remarkable in regard to the geography of plants."

Indeed the Páramos possess a remarkable flora composed of ca. 3500 species in 500 genera of vascular plants and a comparably high number of bryophytes and lichens. Although most of the genera are shared amongst Páramo islands, and may also be common to south and north temperate regions, the species composition of each Páramo island is highly unique, making the great majority of the species present in this ecosystem endemic, found nowhere else in the world. This is the product of exceptional evolutionary processes, which for the last 5 Million years have occurred in his region.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith