Llareta (Azorella compacta)
This llareta, family Apiaceae, parts of which are over 3000 years old, calls Chile’s Atacama desert home. Llaretas can be found throughout the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
A relative of parsley, its moss-like appearance belies thousands of flowering buds on long stems which are so densely packed together they can take the weight of a human.
“When I saw the llareta for the first time I immediately recognised it from photos I had seen,” says Sussman. “Many of them dotted the hillside, some more strangely formed than others, sort of like mutated topiary on steroids.”
Because the llareta is dry and dense, it burns well, like peat. “Its function as fuel is endangering its survival, as even park rangers charged with protecting it have been known to burn it to keep warm on cold nights.”
Image: La llareta , Rachel Sussman