Masato Ishiguro
Professor emeritus at NAOJ
Former ALMA-J Project Director
Former JAO international staff
(at the time of writing)

June 2008
・ALMA Construction Site -1-
July 2008
・Scenery around the ALMA Office
August 2008
・ALMA Construction Site -2-
September 2008
・Trees and Flowers in Santiago -1-
October 2008
・Trees and Flowers in Santiago -2-
November 2008
・Clouds Seen in the Atacama Desert
December 2008
・The Dog that Trots about Finds…
January 2009
・ALMA Construction Site -3-
February 2009
・Memories of the Atacama Desert
March 2009
・Chile from North to South


Trees and Flowers in Santiago -Part 2-

Following the previous report, I will write more about trees and flowers in Santiago. In early summer, the streets in Santiago are filled with bright colors with flowers of jacaranda and bougainvillea. Especially, jacaranda trees planted along many streets are very impressive when they are in full bloom. At the time of bloom, Jacaranda trees are covered with abundant bell-shaped lavender flowers, and within one or two weeks flowers fall and make a road into a carpet of purple flower petals just like a pink carpet after the fall of cherry blossoms. After the fall of the flowers, the trees produce green fruits as shown in Photo 1. I broke the hard husk and found a seed inside. The husk with an undulating surface becomes brown and opens like a shellfish when it withers and then falls on the ground.

Fruit of jacaranda
Photo 1: Fruit of jacaranda produced after the fall of purple flowers

Bougainvillea is also a tree typical in tropical regions. Though we are more familiar with red bougainvillea, the flowers have a wide variety of colors such as purple and white and it is quite difficult to distinguish purple bougainvillea flowers from those of jacaranda from a distance. Bougainvillea trees are also popular as a garden tree, and I sometimes see a tree growing to the roof of a two-story house (Photo 2). For years, I believed that there were purple and red “bougainvillea flowers,” but what I thought was a flower is leaves around a flower. Taking a closer look at the leaves, I could find small white flowers among the leaves (Photo 3). I realized preconception creates illusions in people’s mind.

Bougainvillea tree
Photo 2: Bougainvillea tree growing to the roof of a two-story house
White bougainvillea flower
Photo 3: White bougainvillea flower surrounded by purple leaves

Walking in the streets in Santiago, I sometimes see a big plant called aloe vera (a type of aloe) as shown in Photo 4. Aloe vera leaf is edible, and we can buy it in vegetable or fruit corners at some supermarkets. Raw aloe vera is succulent but tasteless (same as aloe pieces in yogurt sold in Japan). When I put it into soup and tasted, it had a firm-jelly-like texture. Another plant I can see here is cactus. It was a surprise for me that there are cactuses in a big city like Santiago. Cactus pulp is also sold as a fruit at supermarkets. The pulp is soft and has a refreshing taste with delicate sweetness, but it contains many hard seeds which hassles me when eating it. According to my Chilean friend, Chileans eat cactus with seeds by crunching them.

aloe vera
Photo 4: Big aloe vera leaves

What is surprising about plants in Santiago is that tropical plants like bougainvillea and typical summer flowers in Japan like morning glory and hydrangea are in bloom until the beginning of winter. On the other hand, yellow spring flowers such as dandelion and mimosa come into bloom before the arrival of spring. The daily temperature in Santiago varies widely: 13 to 30 degrees Celsius in summer and 4 to 15 degrees Celsius in winter, but the average temperature in winter is not so low. I think this is why the period of bloom is a little different from other regions. Another surprising thing in Santiago is that there are relatively few insects for the quantity of trees and plants in the streets. I assume that insects are inseparable from flowers, but the number of insects I see in the streets is incredibly small compared to that in Japan. At one time, I felt relieved by finding a bee and butterfly which looks like a small cabbage white in town; however I still cannot figure out why such a phenomenon happens in Santiago.

The article above is an excerpt from our in-house magazine NAOJ NEWS. This article is reproduced and posted on this site with the approval of the copyright owner NAOJ. The contents of this site may not be reproduced, transmitted, published, distributed, or translated without permission from NAOJ.

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