Yareta or llareta (Azorella compacta) is a low evergreen that grows in the Andes mountains in Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and Argentina.
Looking at the landscape where it’s found, it seems that the yareta latches onto ground or rock and grows up and out into the rounded shape over the years.
The rounded, cotton-ball-like shape reminds me of how some mosses grow. Unlike them, though, the yareta can grow in dry conditions and nutrient-poor soil, if slowly. (According to Wikipedia, their growth rate is approximately 1.5 cm / 0.6 inches per year; however, an article in Pharmacognosy Magazine cites 1 cm in 20 years.)
Apparently the Andean people used yareta since Pre-Columbian times for the treatment of colds, pains, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, womb complaints, gastric disorders, backache, wounds, and altitude sickness (Pharmacognosy Magazine Aug 2014).
Yareta looks like a great option for speculative writers and artists looking to break out of the Eurocentric worldbuilding mold.
Images: Yareta at Ollague Volcano lookout by Miguel Vieira via Flickr (CC BY 2.0). Yareta – Bolivian Altiplano by Knut-Erik Helle via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.