Article published in "Atlas Departmental del Peru: Arequipa - Moquegua, 2003" by La República.


In the middle of the desolated Andean “puna” grasslands, some curious green forms have caught the attention of many travellers, they are known as “yareta”, an almost miraculous plant that has managed to colonize an environment where other plants die.

This plant belongs to the umbellifer family, the yareta (Azorella yareta) is a species so adapted to life in stunning conditions that any other plant would perish.

Its habitat is the cold “punas” of the high Andes of southern Peru usually above 3800 meters, where the wind blows unceasingly and the cold cracks even granite. “Yareta” grows on rocks and follows the contours from where it began to grow, which is the reason why it has a singular and round form. This is a response to its need to resist the powerful high altitude wind, which would tear up the roots of any plant.


Living so close to the sky involves exposure to intense solar radiation; therefore, the yareta has covered its tiny leaves with a substance similar to wax, which prevents moisture loss through evaporation. Apart from its colourful appearance, it has developed a truly special way to survive: it must grow at an incredibly slow pace, almost geological, of a millimetre per year.

Despite what might seem to be the inaccessibility of the areas where “yareta” grows, this has not prevented it from being a victim of the devastation caused by man. It’s used as fuel in the mountains was so intense, that large areas of “yareta” are missing. During the nineteenth century, this plant was also used for industrial fuel, such as the Arica-La Paz railway that employed yareta as its basic component.

Fortunately today “yareta” is protected in natural reserves such as “Salinas” and “Aguada Blanca”, even though its indiscriminate use in cities such as Arequipa and Puno impede its absolute recovery.

BN15879 41-FB~Yareta-Below-Cerani-Pass-on-the-Colca-Canyon-to-Andagua-Trek-Colca-Canyon-Arequipa-Peru-Posters
Translated by: Isabella Anne Farrell Abarca

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