Chile's Garden City

Desierto Florido National Park

The "flowering desert" phenomenon , Atacama, Chile.
The flowering desert, Atacama region.
June, 2023.-
The creation of the Desierto Florido National Park was made official only eight months after the proposal of President Gabriel Boric. As a result of an intense work carried out by the Ministerio de Bienes Nacionales (Ministry of National Assets) along with the Ministerio del Medio Ambiente (Ministry of the Environment), the decree was published in the Official Journal on June 12, 2023. 

It is worth noting that the establishment of this new natural reserve covering an area of more than 57,000 hectares in the Atacama Region will protect the flowering phenomenon of the world's driest desert, where every few years some 200 species come back to life. To this end, the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) must prepare a National Park Management Plan within 36 months that includes the necessary measures to effectively protect and conserve the area. 

This blooming is due to episodic rainfall in the desert area originated by the influence of the El Niño current combined with favorable conditions of temperature and humidity favoring the growth of native flora. The desert in bloom sight is mainly concentrated in the coastal area of the region.  

When the conditions are met, millions of seeds that were dormant due to little or no humidity germinate, along with a proliferation of birds, insects, lizards and rodents attracted by this true awakening of nature. By then, the sight of many areas of the Atacama Desert look like large agricultural plantations instead of a region of great aridity.

Among the variety of flowers that carpet the desert during this period, the most representative is what locals call "Pata de Guanaco" (Guanaco's Foot, scientific name Calandrinia longiscapa), also the "Añañuca" (whose scientific term is Rhodophiala rhodolirion), the "Garra de Leon" (Bomarea ovallei), light blue and lilac "Suspiros", white and blue "Malvillas", "Orejas de Zorro", etc. 

The new area to be protected is located in Copiapo, approximately 30 kilometers south of the commune and 85 kilometers north of Vallenar. Other places to observe the curiosity are Parque Nacional LLanos de Challe, a protected natural area on the coast of the Third Region of Atacama; Parque Nacional Pan de Azucar, located north of the city of Chañaral; Totoral Bajo, Huasco, Carrizal Bajo, Caleta Barco.  

The negative aspect has been human activity. The number of visitors attracted by the spectacle and the illegal trade of flowers have endangered the regeneration of some species.  However, it is good to know that for years the INIA (Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute) through its Banco de Semillas (Seed Bank), is taking action to keep the seeds out of their natural environment, in botanical gardens to ensure the survival of the species for term not less than 50 years, among other facilities consist of a storage chamber at -18 ° C and 35% RH.

Image: Emol - Desert in bloom
In places where the desert in bloom phenomenon is observed, visitors can walk along trails designed to protect the diversity of flora and fauna as well as enjoy the panoramic views of the desert. There are also camping areas and shelters. 
Below are some local tours to enjoy the "flowery desert":