Podocarpus National Park, Ecuador is named after a
tree characteristic of the evergreen montane low forest of this
area, which is the only native conifer in the country, locally known
as romerillo, sinsín or guabisay.
In several places, Podocarpus has been planted for
In smaller levels are several Podocarpus forests.
Podocarpus needle leaves.
Subsequently, Podocarpus has been discovered in other protected areas of
Ecuador as well. The interest in declaring Podocarpus as a National Park
and adopting this scientific name was born from the studies carried out
by FAO (Download:
United Nations / FAO Study) in 1975.
The Podocarpus National Park can be categorized as Ecuador's
southernmost park with Fantastic hiking along 100 lakes, Great wildlife,
the Only native conifer, mega-diversity and a high degree of endemism.
It is in contact
and transition between different ecological zones: the Andes of the
north and the Andes of the south and the Amazon. The very humid zone of
the Central Mountain Range and the semiarid zone of Tumbes, also
contribute to this high diversity. It is estimated that there are 606
species of vertebrates in the Podocarpus National Park. The most
representative group in terms of abundance are birds with 560 species,
followed by mammals with 46.
The PNP is one of the southernmost protected areas of Ecuador after Parque El
Cóndor. The altitudinal range varies between 900 and 3,600 meters above sea
level. The area, in general, is characterized by a topography dominated by
valleys and steep slopes and a very irregular relief formed by mountains and
hills. Climate: The temperature varies between 6-22 ° C and the precipitation
varies between 1 500-3 000 mm.
In the high parts of
the páramos there are some 100 lakes of glacial origin from which four important river
basins are born, which coincide politically with the four cantons that share the
Park: Catamayo-Chira (Canton Loja), Chinchipe (Canton Palanda), Zamora (Cantones
Loja) and Zamora) and Nangaritza (Canton Nangaritza), known as the hydrological
heart of the southern region for feeding the productive systems of the valleys
that extend to the north of Peru, as well as to the city of Loja and Zamora
Creation: December 15, 1982 ministerial agreement N ° 398 OFFICIAL
REGISTER January 5, 1983 R.o. N ° 404 SURFACE 144 993 ha. VEGETABLE
FORMATIONS evergreen piedmont forest, evergreen low montane forest,
montane haze forest, high montane evergreen forest, scrubland
There is a management plan for 1997.
el Compadre: Over the Sabanillas junction, this lacustrine system of
incredible scenic value is located, which is the result of ancient
glaciers that have left their mark on the land6S. In this sector
sport fishing for trout is famous, which is accessed after a walk of
14 km from the Administrative Center of Cajanuma. It is possible to
camp on its banks and explore the surroundings; With a bit of luck
you can find the mountain tapir, relatively common in this sector.
ROmERILLOS y BOmBUSCARO: These are small picturesque hamlets that
are the anteroom for access to the Park. In Bombuscaro there is a
multipurpose room, regularly used for environmental education
activities, and two self-guided trails that run through the forest
among species of flora and fauna typical of this ecosystem. In
Romerillos there is a control post that monitors access to the park
through this sector.
Mirador de Cerro Toledo: At the southern end of the park there is a
natural viewpoint from where you can see the forest and the typical
topography of the Andes mountain range. Although there is no
infrastructure for tourists, it is worth visiting, especially for
the birds that can be observed.
Valley: It is a quiet valley, away from the big cities, located 40
km from Loja. The high average life of its inhabitants (which in
some cases exceeds one hundred years) is related to the climate and
water quality of the Chamba and Uchima rivers, which supposedly has
Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Swan: Place of eminent religious
attraction. The sanctuary is a small town whose inhabitants are
dedicated to agriculture. Its existence is due, fundamentally, to
the traditional religious veneration of the Virgin of the Swan,
whose origins go back to the year 1560. In 1935 the construction of
its sumptuous basilica began, of Gothic architecture; In the
sanctuary there is also a museum that has the Virgin as its central
theme. In September of each year, the festivities are held in honor
of the Virgen del Cisne with fairs, typical dances, costumes,
cockfights and popular songs.
Valleys of Yangana and Quinara: They are two valleys that are
practically united, located to the south of the province of Loja.
Here is also the phenomenon of longevity, since the climatic
characteristics are identical to those of Vilcabamba. In Quinara,
there are some natural openings of medium depth, where, according to
legend, some of the treasures of the Tahuantinsuyo that the Incas
brought to Cuzco for the rescue of Atahualpa were hidden.
Tapichalaca Reserve: It borders the Park in the Quebrada de los
Muertos and Quebrada Honda sectors. It is located in the Cordillera
de Sabanillas on the south-eastern slope of the Andes mountain
range. It is a private area, created and managed by the Jocotoco
Conservation Foundation. It protects about 170 species of birds,
important populations of spectacled bears and mountain tapirs.
However, the main attraction of the area is the jocotoco, Grallaria
ridgelyi, a bird recently discovered and endemic to mainland
The trees are found along a strip of no more than 100 km
wide on the eastern base of the eastern Cordillera of the Andes.
and its greatest concentration is in the this
Park, although it can also be found in several other
protected areas. The wood of the tree has a very high value, reason for
having been eliminated in large parts of the park. However,
there are still several small groves with larger trees. At
higher elevations, the species has been re-planted.
Pictures of Podocarpus trees.
The bark of the Podocarpus tree.
A floristically interesting site is Cajanuma, for presenting a
combination of cloud forest species and moors, as well as transition
zones with unique squat vegetation. In the montane forests of
Cajanuma 70 species of trees have been registered and in their
páramos 135 vascular plants. Additionally, it is considered a site
of concentration of endemic species, with 40 species of flora
exclusive to this area.
It has been shown that the highest endemism is concentrated in tall
montane forests or high Andean forests north of the Park, with 28
identified species; while the short woods, scrubland and sub-ridges
of El Tiro, San Francisco-Sabanillas and Bombuscaro Alto have more
than 10 exclusive endemic species. In this Park grows the husk tree,
Cinchona officinalis, important in the control of malaria, since it
has a complex of alkaloids, including quinine, from which the active
compound for the manufacture of medicine is extracted. Another
important group of these forests are the orchids, reporting 63
species, 25 of which are under some category of threat. Another site
with diversity of orchids is Bombuscaro, where there are up to 8
species in a trunk of a tree 6 m high.
Podocarpus has the largest number of protected ecosystems in the
southern region, a fact that is related to its location at the
junction of the Cordillera Real de los Andes and the Cordillera
Oriental in the Nudo de Sabanilla. The area has five vegetation
Evergreen Piedmont Forest (600-1 300 meters above sea level): This
plant formation includes Amazonian and Andean species. The trees of
the upper canopy reach 30 m in height, and the sub-canopy and
understory are very dense.
Low Montane Evergreen Forest (1 300-1 800 masl): The forests of this
formation are dominated by trees of the genus Podocarpus (P.
ingensis), which can reach heights of 30 m (Sierra 1999). The
characteristic families are: Myristicaceae, Lecythidaceae and
Montane Forest (1 800-2 800 masl): This type of vegetation is
composed of trees laden with abundant moss. The epiphytes (orchids,
ferns and bromeliads) are very numerous and probably the place where
the highest diversity is concentrated (Sierra 1999). The
characteristic families are: Rosaceae, Ericaceae, Melastomataceae,
Rubiaceae and Asteraceae.
Montane Forest (2 800-3 100 masl): This forest is similar to the
montane forest in the amount of mosses and epiphytic plants;
however, it differs by having a forest floor covered with a dense
layer of moss and gnarled trees.
Páramo shrubland (above 3 100 masl): These páramos are composed of
herbs, rosette plants and cushion plants. You can find trees of the
genera Polylepis and Escallonia. In Podocarpus these
páramos are better conserved and contain high endemism, identifying
50 endemic species of this area.
Farther to the east, the terrain drops sharply with
valleys that are difficult to access.
Puddles and mosses absorb water like a sponge.
Cushion plants contain large amounts of water.
addition, 14 types of páramos and 8 subpáramos have been identified
that are not mentioned in the classification of Sierra (1999) but
that, unlike the páramos of the rest of the country, are
distinguished by low elevations, strong winds, high humidity, the
absence of volcanic ash and the abundant bamboo species of the
generi Neurolepis and Chusquea. It is estimated that
of the 40,000 ha of páramos in the country, 25% (11,000 ha) are
protected in the Podocarpus Park. The table below proposes a
reclassification of the zonal and azonal vegetation of the
Podocarpus Microregion, as a result of which there is no recognition
of the southern páramos and subpáramos and their biogeographic
Of the 40
registered species of mammals, many live in the páramos of Cerro
Toledo, with species such as: spectacled bear, Tremarctos ornatus,
Andean tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), common marsupial mouse,
Caenolestes fuliginosus, Bilistada Skunk, Conepatus
semistriatus, dwarf deer, Pudu mephistophiles, among
The Podocarpus National Park still maintains a population of Jaguars.
Cougars are distributed throughout the Andean region.
Distributed throughout the Americas, the White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus
virginianus, is found in almost all protected areas of the country.
The Bilistada Skunk, Conepatus semistriatus is also quite common, but because
it is nocturnal, it is not often seen.
With 560 recorded
species, the park stands out as one of the most diverse and important bird areas
in the world, while, it is estimated that as many as 800 species may be present,
given the variety of ecosystems in the Park. Additionally, it is a key site for
migratory species from North America, such as the orange-breasted warbler,
Dendroica fusca and swainson's thrush, Catharus ustulatus.
Ccharacteristic birds are: chungui chico, Cinclodes fuscus, bearded
turkey, Penelope barbata, cachetidorado parrot, Leptosittaca branickii,
Coeligena iris and Metallura odomae. Some birds of the La
Esmeralda-Numbala Alto sector are: Thamnophilus unicolor, Nothocercus
julius, black jaguar toucan, Ramphastos ambiguus, Aratinga
leucophthalmus and Negrosta eagle, Oroaetus isidori. Colorful birds:
Tanager chilensis, umbrella bird, Cephalopterus ornatus, mountain
momoto, Momotus aequatorialis, Pharomachrus auriceps and
The Andes Lapwing, Vanellus resplendens, is a common
bird in the páramo.
The Guaro or Carancho Norteño, Caracara cheriway,
frequents the moors.
In 2000, 19 species of
amphibians and 11 reptiles were recorded. Most common are of the genus
Eleutherodactylus, for example: E. bromeliaceus, E. condor, E. cornutus,
E. nigrogriseus, E. versicolor and E. wskatoptioides. The Park
also protects a variety of threatened species, such as: Atelopus nepiozomus,
Colostethus anthracinus, Eleutherodactylus cryophilius, E. cryptomelas, E.
proserpens; Phrynopus flavomaculatus, Gastrotheca psychrophila, Telmatobius
cirrhacelis and the spur tree frog, Hypsiboas calcaratus, and
Cochranella cochranae. Additionally, a new species was discovered: Centrolene
The ichthyofauna includes several resident species as well as
the high Andes streams were inhabited only by species of the genus
of the "preñador", Astroblepus, but in the course of the last
century several species of trout have been introduced throughout the
Andean region, forcing the preñadores to places of difficult access
to the trout.
The main access roads
are along the Loja-Valladolid road, the same that leads to the Administrative
Center at Cajanuma. From the town of Yambala, much further south, there is
another road that goes to the sector of Numbala Alto and, later, to the Cerro
Toledo overlook. To the north, a branch of the Loja-Zamora road continues to
Romerillos, a sector that leads to the Bombuscaro forest. It is advisable to
plan the visit to the Podocarpus National Park between September and December,
for the best weather conditions. Cajanuma is a small town with a modest visitor
center. It is also the trail head to the Lagunas del Compadre.
The Cuyabeno Loop explores
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