Plants from the South American continent—ranging from the mountain highlands of the Andes to southernmost Argentina and Chile, and associated islands—are featured in twenty-five beds on nearly two acres. The Garden sponsored several botanical expeditions to the Andes between 1935 and 1964 in support of research and collection development. Many expedition plants form the basis for this collection.
The Garden’s South American Area represents the floras of the temperate and mediterranean-climate areas of South America, featuring plants from the matorral of coastal Chile. The South American matorral is comparable to the chaparral of California and the maquis vegetation of the Mediterranean Basin, all characterized by drought-tolerant shrubs with small leathery leaves. Common plants of the matorral include olivillo (Kageneckia) and soapbark tree (Quillaja), as well as terrestrial bromeliads (Puya).
This area features a young grove of monkey puzzle trees (Araucaria), wild fuchsias (Fuchsia), gigantic terrestrial bromeliads (Puya), giant-leaved gunneras (Gunnera), and several species of southern beech trees (Nothofagus). Members of the South American floras, such as Nothofagus and Araucaria, have close relatives in South Africa and Australia. Their ancestors are found in the fossil record of the ancient southern supercontinent Gondwana.
Plants of horticultural importance include Fuchsia magellanica, used extensively for breeding Fuchsia hybrids; Alstroemeria, common in the florist trade; and Chilean bellflower or copihue (Lapageria rosea), the national flower of Chile.