|Author: ||F.S. López Anido|
|Keywords: ||Cynara cardunculus var. silvestris, gauchos, naturalists voyages, cardoon|
Pampa is a Quecha language word that means open space without shrubs and trees.
It is used to designate an extensive region that comprises, in Argentina, most of the Buenos Aires, and southern Santa Fe, Córdoba and Entre Ríos provinces, and in Uruguay, the southern region.
This area was once ocuppied by extinct megafauna as herviborous mastodonts, glyptodonts, toxodons and giant ground slothses and also predators as the saber-toothed cat.
Spanish conquerors first brought cows and horses by 1536 and some of them went wild, finding extensive grassland free of big hervibores and predators, thus they multiplied freely, reaching up to several millions by the 1800s.
Along with these animals some old world wild plant species were also brought.
In the case of the wild cardoon (Cynara cardunculus var. silvestris), the pampas offered and ideal niche to spread, with almost no native flora competitors for autumn, winter and early spring months.
Only in the summer period the ubiquitous Gramineae species developed, but by that time, Cynara was ending its annual cycle.
Along the 18th and 19th century many European naturalists and Jesuit priets established and travelled across the region.
In this contribution I present some descriptions made by these visitors (Florian Paucke, Alcide d'Orbigny, Charles Darwin and German Burmeister, among others), their observations and drawings regarding wild cardoon, its natural history and uses by the gauchos and first settlers.
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