The twelve of us walked along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, avoiding horse manure and looking for a cactus called Quisco de los Acantilados or “Cliff Kiosk.” The sun was setting, spilling shades of orange and yellow across the sky. We reached an inlet with a large rocky beach, the waves are crashing loudly and my mind flashed back to my wipe out during surfing that morning. The slope of this cliff is covered in cactus, thistle, and grasses radiating orange against the setting sun. Everything in my view is orange, the plants, the rocks, our faces from sunburns. The group moved quickly to reach a peak and watch the sun completely disappear below the horizon. I sat quietly, happy and content as I watched the sun set for the last time in 2016 halfway across the world in Pichilemu, Chile.
Punta de Lobos, or Wolves Point, is known for being the surf capital of South America, but what most people don’t know is that it is one of the largest population of this endangered cactus. The cactus known scientifically as, Echinopsis bolligeriana and commonly in Spanish as Quisco de los Acantilados is on the red list for endangered species. The main threat to this cactus is loss of habitat from tourism and urbanization from the large crowds coming to Pichilemu to surf the great waves. The ambassador of Superfun, Emilio Garcia de la Heurta Sutil, is associated with a cactus scientist, who asked our team to collect seeds so that he can propagate the seeds. Our team set out on New Years Eve to collect seeds of the Quisco de los Acantilados in hopes that our work will help protect these beautiful and fragile plants.
According to the “Program of Genetics Resources” of INIA, propagating the seeds of this cactus could really help the species. The species needs a lot of light to propagate fully, with only 2% germination with no light for twenty days compared to 90% germination with light for twenty days (Banco Base de Semillas). I believe that the seeds we collected will give scientists doing this research more insight into how to save this species.
One way to protect these plants instead of using propagation is to conserve or protect their habitat. While we were in Pichelimu we partnered with Fundacion Punta de Lobos for a night which is a non-profit organization lead by local Chileans to preserve Punta de Lobos. The organization is planning to create a conservation easement for the land that allows for “coastal access for all, no new large scale constructions and enhancing the historical and traditional activities of Punta de Lobos.”
Along with the Fundacion de Punta de Lobos, Patagonia and Save the Waves Coalition are fighting to protect Wolves Point from tourism, erosion, vandalism and construction. Along with the beautiful coast line and the best surfing conditions are these endangered cactus. Quisco de los Acantilados is one of the many plants in our world that is endangered from loss of habitat and human impact. I believe that it is very important for more places like Punta de Lobos to become protected and preserved for future generations. I hope to return to Punta de Lobos in twenty years and see that the cactus and people are still thriving in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.