The Endemic Plants of Chile

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Chile is a biogeographic island, confined to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Andes and in the north by the Atacama Desert. Furthmore, the Juan Fernández Archipelego and the Desventurados Islands, together with Easter Island, have remote oceanic locations. As a result, the flora has developed very high levels of endemism comprising 2106 species in 467 genera and 134 families. At 46% this is the second highest perecentage for any South American country – the graph below illustrates the comparison. The highest levels of endemism are in central Chile especially in the Regions of Atacama, Coquimbo and Valparaíso where the isolation effect is at its greatest. High rates of endemism are influenced by isolated or discontinuous habitats. This includes coastal mountain peaks of La Campana and coastal fog belt of Paposo. The Chilean flora comprises 80 Endemic genera and the endemic family Gomortegaceae (Gomortega keule). Most endemic plant species are at high risk, mainly due to small population ranges especially when they occur on islands. Seven species are recorded as being extinct, five of these once occurred on the Juan Fernández Islands including the once widespread Santalum fernandezianum and two on Easter Island including Sophora toromiro.

A comparison of endemic plants species in South America

About this resource

The website gives an overview of all known higher plant taxa (e.g. conifers, ferns and flowering plants) endemic to Chile including the oceanic islands. The inclusion of taxa as being endemic to Chile is guided by peer-reviewed, current taxonomic treatments and checklists. For example, the Cactaceae follows Hunt (2013) CITES Cactaceae Checklist, Third Edition and for the Cyperaceae we have followed Govaerts (2018) World Checklist of Selected Plants. Data has also been taken from Rodríguez et al (2018), Catálogo de las plantas vasculares de Chile, Gayana Bot. 75(1). The distribution maps are not intended to include every known location but aim to indicate the range for a given species. Distribution maps have been omitted for threatened species such as members of the Cactaceae and Orchidaceae which have small populations and are especially at risk of exploitation.