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Flora and vegetation

Arenal de Cerro Amarillo
"Super-páramo", Cerro Amarillo

Nototriche hartwegii creciendo en rocas
Nototriche hartwegii growing on rocks

Pedicularis incurva en páramo de pajonal
Pedicularis incurva growing in the grass páramo
Almohadillas de Plantago rigida
Cushion-plant of Plantago rigida

The flora of CNP is unique; several peculiar species are only found there and do not occur elsewhere on our planet. Four types of vegetation are recognized within the páramo: 1) the "super páramo" (also called "arenal") are sandy dune-like areas at the tops of the highest mountains like Cerro Arquitecto or Cerro Amarillo. Although at first glance it would seem that there is no vegetation, some plants, like the rare Nototriche hartwegii or Valeriana henricii, have adapted to growing in the sand or in cracks between the rocks. 2) The "bunch-grass páramo" dominates the area like an immense sea of grass with scattered shrubs and colorful herbs. The most important species is the grass Calamagrostis intermedia; scattered are several attractive herbaceous species like Bartsia laticrenata, Gentianella longibarbata, and Senecio chionogeton. 3) The "cushion páramo" is found in the most humid sites; plants are so close to each other that they form cushion-like mounds. They can be formed by a single individual or by several individuals of the same or different species. Most noticeable are Azorella pedunculata and Plantago rigida. 4) The shrubby and arboreal vegetation has shrubs with hard leathery leaves like Berberis lutea, Chuquiraga jussieui, and Pernettya prostrata, amongst many others; the patches of forests, scattered around the lakes, or on steep slopes and ravines, are mainly dominated by species of the genera Polylepis and Gynoxys. Nowadays Polylepis forests are only found as small remnants while in the past they occupied more extensive areas. These remnants area however refuges for characteristic páramo birds as well as small mammals. In the lakes there are aquatic plants like Potamogeton paramoanus and in surrounding areas semi-aquatic plants like Isoëtes novo-granatensis.

The effects of human interactions and burning and grazing, have degraded some zones of the Park. CNP is carrying out restoration projects in the most affected areas using native species of grasses and Polylepis.

In the páramo of CNP some 500 species of vascular plants are found belonging to 243 genera and 70 families. The most diverse family is the sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae) with 85 species, followed by the Pteridophytes (ferns) with 64, Poaceae (grasses) with 42, Rosaceae (roses) with 22, Cyperaceae (sedges) with 16, and Apiaceae, Gentianaceae, Juncaceae, and Valerianaceae with 12 species each. In CNP, 71 of the more than 4000 Ecuadorian endemic plant species occur; of these, 10 species are endemics to CNP, i.e., they are only known from within this area and no where else.

Páramo arbustivo
Shrubby páramo
Bosque de Polylepis
Polylepis forest

Bosques remanentes de Polylepis
Remnants of Polylepis forests
Vegetación palustre de la laguna Totoras
Marsh vegetation of
Lake Totoras

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