Flora of Termas del Plomo, Embalse Yeso

From 2009 the entry to the hot springs is not free any more, and it costs about 6 USD per person to get in. Luckily, after you pay your fee you are on your own, and the nature around and the hot springs are still very wild looking, without any facilities. The owner pretends to construct something there, and that would be most unfortunate, because these hot springs are the last hot springs in the Santiago area which are not yet modified by humans.

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The Termas del Plomo hot springs in early spring. The hot springs are located in the upper third on the extreme right of the photo, and to get there you have to cross the icecold river below.

The road begins to climb gently amids the fields of Acaena magellanica. After a short zigzag you reach a flat stretch of road and that is the place (3337'55.76"S 6955'36.16"O) where many interesting species can be found: Discaria nana, a very compact shrub just a few centimeters high, studded with small white flowers in early spring, Jaborosa laciniata a strange plant from the solanaceae family the flowers of which are almost black. Calceolaria filicaulis ssp. filicaulis is very abundant from here on, as well as Tropaeolum polyphyllum.

The road finally reaches the Yeso river and one has to wade it. For a 4-wheel-drive truck this is obviously not a problem at all, but it maybe a challenge for smaller cars, especially if you come early in the season when the snow is melting. Before you reach the hot springs area, you may consider giving a short detour to an area to the left. Look out especially for the place where the road begins a short climb bordering the slope. There (3336'40.14"S, 6955'25.36"O) you can find Menonvillea cuneata and Nassauvia pyramidalis, both rather strange-looking plants. Nastanthus spathulatus is a dominant species in the area and you can see it almost everywhere. Returning somewhat, in spots where the slope begin to rise (for instance at 3336'50.41"S 6955'2.94"O), you can see Sisyrinchium junceum ssp. colchaguense, Zoellnerallium andinum, several Chaetantheras, and a small Fabaceae 1017 which we were not able to identify yet.

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This Fabaceae plant barely rises a few centimeters.

The hot springs is an excellent area to take a rest and to acclimatize to the altitude of 2900 m. There are several pools with temperature ranging from +38 C to +28 C and also a gushing water from the rock with only +25 C.

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Warm water gushing out of the rock with snow around

The water is very salty and one may spend hours there, admiring the views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers, Marmolejo, which reaches just over 6000 m and the mountain range with altitudes of 4500 5000 m. which separates Chile from Argentina. The downside is that it is almost always windy, and getting out of the hot water feels like hell.

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The hot spring area in summer. Beyond the mountain range begins Argentina, and the V-shaped sunlight area points to the location of the hot springs.

If you you feel strong and ready for some adventure and stunning landscapes, you can do a short trekking circuit of about 4 km roundtrip and 3 hours. The beginning of trail can be seen from the hot springs where there is a green area towards NW from the hot springs. Climb there, then continue along the trail. One species is especially noteworthy, Schizanthus coccineus which grows about 500 meters up the trail on the left hand-side. Zoellnerallium andinum is everywhere, and in the more humid areas you will see Calceolaria filicaulis ssp. filicaulis. Continue along the trail which descends now towards the river, and goes flat for about one kilometer. Look out for cascading waterfall on your left. This waterfall comes from a small lake up, and you should begin your climb there (just past the waterfall). You will climb on the wet Vegas, where you can see the high-altitude hydrophile vegetation - Gentiana prostrata, Lobelia oligophylla, Wernerias, Carex, Calceolarias.

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Beautiful, but rare Schizanthus coccineus

The lake is some 200 meters higher at an altitude of 3200 meters. The vegetation there is quite similar and does not present any new species. If you are looking for plants and not for landscapes you might as well return the way you came without climbing to the lake.

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The hidden lake. This small lake has extremely clear water and very low temperatures which border +6 C in summer. On one occasion I have snorkled there and the most surprising thing is that you can see for almost one hundred meters, i.e. from one shore to another.

From the lake there is a trail going straight south which will take you down to the hot spring area.

Partial List of Plants which can be seen there:

Acaena magellanica

Adesmia sp. #1482

Adesmia sp. #1568

Adesmia sp. #2766

Alstroemeria umbellata

Asteraceae sp. #1845

Astragalus sp. #1488

Caiophora aff.

Caiophora coronata

Calycera herbacea

Cerastium montioides

Chaetanthera pusilla

Chaetanthera sp. #1344

Chuquiraga oppositifolia

Cistanthe picta

Cuscuta sp. #0053

Discaria nana

Fabaceae sp. #1017

Galium eriocapium

Gentiana prostrata

Gentianella ottonis

Gymnophyton isatidicarpum

Haplopappus sp. #1571

Hypochoeris acaulis

Jaborosa laciniata

Kageneckia angustifolia

Kageneckia oblonga

Laretia acaulis

Loasa pallida

Malesherbia linearifolia

Menonvillea cuneata

Mimulus luteus

Mutisia sinuata

Mutisia subulata

Nassauvia looseri

Nastanthus spathulatus

Perezia pilifera

Portulacaceae sp. #1388

Pozoa coriacea

Ranunculus cymbalaria

Schizopetalon sp. #0073

Senecio sp. #1569

Sisymbrium andinum

Werneria pygmaea

Unidentified Plant sp. #1030

Unidentified Plant sp. #1349

Unidentified Plant sp. #1417