Argentina: Cordon Cacti

Cardon cactus forests dot the mountain slopes all around the altiplano in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Endemic to these Atacama desert areas, the cardon, aka Echinopsis atacamensis, proudly stands guard along the twisting roads, and is by far the dominant plant species here. The cardon cacti grow to 10m/33ft high and often resemble bodies with outstretched sidearms. The stems have 20-30 ribs with long needles up to 30cm in length. The large white-pink flowers open at night, and the green fruits with black seeds inside are edible. Interestingly, the cardon cactus grows very slowly, at about 1cm per year, so the 10m giants are quite old! A large area of cardon forests in Argentina is protected as Cardon Cactus National Park.