Ferns and Bomarea galore in Peru

In late March Carl and Julia joined Carrie for some botanical collecting in the Andes of Peru – what an adventure!

Carrie organized the trip and was taking some time for fieldwork before the fall, when she will be very busy in her new position at at the University of Washington/Burke Museum! Carrie works primarily with the monocot genus Bomarea (Alstroemeriaceae) which has a lot of diversity across Central and South America. Even we fern-folk have to admit Bomarea is quite beautiful! So the trip had a dual focus of Bomarea and ferns (especially Cystopteris and cheilanthoid ferns).

After flying in to Lima, meeting up with Carrie and Fernando Alzate (also a Bomarea fan; Universidad de Antioquia, Columbia), we headed a few hours east into the mountains for the first part of the trip. As we drove away from the foggy coast, we were struck by the dry climate. But as we climbed into the mountains, the scenery got greener and greener. We met up with a fantastic Peruvian botanist, Paúl González, in the mountain town of Canta (2800m elevation). We spent a few days exploring the mountains in that area – there were Bomarea, ferns, and hummingbirds galore!

Almost immediately after getting to Canta, we saw the first three ferns of the trip on a rock wall – Pleopeltis, Equisetum bogatense, and Cystopteris fragilis!

carl and julia holding a cystopteris
Julia, Cystopteris fragilis, and Carl

A literal and figurative high point on our Canta explorations was at 4200m – some of us were feeling a little woozy! But it was absolutely worth it, as we made it up to a rock field filled with the stunning Bomarea longistylus.

Carrie, Bomarea longistyla, and Fernando

Paúl is an amazing photographer and took these stunning botanical shots. He’d rig up a piece of black velvet as the background, and hang/hold the plants a foot or so in front so the fabric wouldn’t be in focus.

Pellea ternifolia

Alonsoa meridionalis

Bomarea parvifolia – look at that underground storage organ!

Myriopteris myriophylla in its element.


The Canta team: Fernando, Carl, Julia, Paúl, Carrie


After an amazing few days, it was time to say goodbye to Paúl and Fernando. We headed off to Cusco, where we met up with Lucero Alfaro, a wonderful local botanist who was indispensable as we traveled between different towns to see different ecosystems.

Our first afternoon we visited an archeological site called the Temple of the Moon just outside of Cusco – what an amazing combination of history and botany! The incredibly skilled Incan stonemasons hewed giant blocks out of rock outcroppings, and those same outcroppings are rich with all sorts of plants, including (luckily for us) many ferns (including Cystopteris) and Bomarea!


The Temple of the Moon (Cusco) is to the right of the rock outcrop. Carl and Lucero surveying for interesting plants.

Cheilanthes scariosa

Carl investigating Cheilanthes scariosa




to be continued…




Check out our iNaturalist project for all the neat things we observed!