During the last years, we have made a large number of trips through Patagonia, exploring its flora, its aromas and its stories. We had many of these experiences with Don Pangui, a wise botanist from Neuquén, who accompanied us sharing his knowledge of the depths of South America.
Here, we share some of those stories and knowledge that have inspired us in the creation of our fragrances.
The invitation to explore the botany of the south of the world is also a call to take care of the biodiversity in our lands since this is the only possible way for life.
Adesmia Boronioides, also known as Paramela, was called "Yakeñ" by the native people who used it for medicinal purposes.
It has one of the sweetest and most feminine fragrances of Patagonia but, at the same time, it has rough and wild notes which summarize the essence of the pure Patagonia: wild and friendly in unison.
It grows throughout the fringe of the foothills along the subantarctic forests.
Shy and opaque, it can be seen on the side of the roads. However, when its flowering occurs in December there is a real chromatic marvel with its small yellow flowers creating a contrast against the elongated and resinous green leaves.
This plant is burned to perfume houses and cleanse them of negative spirits.
Senecio, in Latin, means "aged man" and refers to the whitish traces or ash roots of some specimens that resemble the head of a grown being.
There are species all over the world, and 120 of them inhabit Patagonia.
They grow in small or large populations. However, as one can see in one of the pictures, we have seen them growing in solitude near Lago Gray in the South of Chile.
The fragrance ranges from the wildest and most herbaceous to the sweet. Not only does each species have its different aromatic characteristics but also within the same species the aroma can change by region, time of the year, or because nature provides so, making each plant unclassifiable and unique, just like each human being.
Nothofagus, which means false Beech, are the main species of the subantarctic forests of Tierra del Fuego.
Magellan's Coihues (Nothofagus betuloides), Lengas (Nothofagus pumilio) and Ñires (Nothofagus antarctica) create incredible figures as they resist the icy winds. Many call them flag trees. They are found throughout the Canal de Beagle, but the most eye-catching ones grow in the vicinity of Puerto Almanza and Harberton.
In these trees, different types of fungi which were very important in the diet of the Patagonian peoples can be found. The Haush, Yaganes and Selknam could distinguish between more than 20 kinds of edible mushrooms. Each was recognized and differentiated by name. Cuturan, Usuf, Aguachich, Suchipoo and Ahman were the preferred ones, according to Thomas Bridges in one of his 19th-century manuscripts.
Likewise, those forests are the habitat of The Old Man's Beard (Usnea Barbata), a type of lichen (a mixture of algae and fungus). It is so sensitive to pollution and to human interventions that it is the best indicator of a place with clean air.
Mulinum Spinosum, also called Neneo, is a very aromatic and spiny plant that grows throughout Patagonia.
The Aonikenk or Tehuelches, in their transhumance through the southern plains, knew this plant and used its roots or leaves as medicine. Also, due to its resins and oils, Neneo was used to make smoke signals.
Its penetrating and green aroma usually varies by region and rain regime. In the south of Chile, the specimens compact into a uniform mass; however, it is less aromatic than in other latitudes.
In one of our trips, the infinite steppe of Santa Cruz gave us a beautiful surprise: a group of Anarthrophyllum desideratum or male Neneos flowered in fire red, illuminating a monochrome sea of Coirones.
Most of the species in Patagonia are the descendants of Gondwana, the lost continent that united South America with Antarctica, Africa and Australia 200 million years ago. Each plant contains in its DNA a valuable symbiosis of evolution and history.
Don Pangui told us that in the past, in some areas in the depths of Neuquén, the Acantoliphia seriphioides or Andean Tomillo was used as perfume. People rubbed its grainy and oily stems in their bodies. Living that ritual is an amazing aromatic experience.