Trekkers want to know what flowers and plants they will see on their treks to Machu Picchu. Here is your insider guide to the gorgeous and abundant plants and flowers for which Peru and Machu Picchu are famous. Because of the humid and mild climate of this famous Machu Picchu region, a multitude of plants are able to grow. Peru has an estimated 25,000 plant species, which is 10% of all species on the entire planet! In fact, with 84 of the 103 ecological zones existing in the world, the Peruvian flora is one of the most diverse on the planet.
Conservation of the Plants of Machu Picchu
While admiring Machu Picchu’s lush greenery, it’s also important to remember that this is its’ home, not yours! We’re committed to keeping our area beautiful, but we need your help too. Following Leave No Trace principles ensures these species and their habitats will be around to admire for years to come. Make sure you stay on established trails and leave the area the same or better than you found it – that means zero trash. Our excellent guides will answer any questions you may have, but if you want to brush up on the best way to leave an environment intact before your trip, check out the Leave No Trace site.
Wildflowers of Machu Picchu
(Macchu Picchu is home to over 3,000 species of orchid alone, so we created an entire post dedicated to them. Check it out here.)
This flower is also known as the Chinese lantern, and it’s not hard to see why! The bell shaped flower is typically yellowish orange with deep red veins adorning the petals. They are also known for being somewhat easy to take care of in a domestic garden, if you want to bring some Peruvian beauty to your home!.
Photo credit: Adrian Thomas
This flower is related to the infamous Corpse Flower, but this type of arum is significantly less stinky! You should still keep your distance, however, as the oils can irritate skin. The flower is white and hood-like in bloom and eventually turns into a spiked cluster of red/orange berries. This bloom is native to the Mediterranean region, but it has become plentiful in Peru as well.
Photo credit: Sally McCrae Kuyper
You will see this plant in abundance as you meander along the Inca trail. That’s because the relationship between fuchsia plants and humans date back to the time of the Incas themselves! You can still see the plants on the terraces of Machu Picchu, as they were cultivated for berries. There are even images of the red-colored hanging flowers on ancient pottery!
Photo credit: Maria Mosolova
Also known as the Four O’Clock flower or Marvel of Peru, this flower comes in many different colors. Its tubal petals open in the early evening (hence its common nickname) and then close in the morning.
Trees of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Bamboo
Photo credit: Bamboo Garden
The scientific name for this plant is Chusquea Delicatula, after its delicate texture, leaves, and long slender stocks. It is rare, found mostly draping down the walls of Machu Picchu. The stocks can grow up to 12 feet long. Unfortunately the bamboo is endangered as deforestation continues.
Photo Credit: Cusco Eats
Commonly called the “Tourist Tree,” the queñual is known for its twisted trunk and dark red bark, which can peel almost like paper. The layers of this bark keep the tree protected from low alpine temperatures, and in turn enrich the soil the bark falls on. Found on the high slopes of the Andes, the queñual is also in the endangered category.
Photo credit: Britannica
This is the national tree of Peru – in fact, it is even on our flag! It is an evergreen with small, white tubular flowers. The bark has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, most notably for treating Malaria.
Photo Credit: Huarango Nature
This tree is thought to have the deepest roots in the world, reaching up to 70 meters deep. These long roots bring water up to the surface for itself and the surrounding plants. The fruit of the tree, called huaranga, is highly nutritious. Historians even believe that pre-columbian civilizations survived almost exclusively on the fruit during times of drought.
Herbs/Edible Plants of Machu Picchu
(Disclaimer: this post is INFORMATIONAL only. Do not consume any plants from the forest during your trek.)
Arrowleaf Elephant Ear
Photo Credit: Maria Mosolova
The leaves of an arrowleaf elephant ear can grow to three feet long, so it is often used in reforestation efforts to protect early growth and keep weeds in check. The corm, or bulb, is similar to small potatoes and are still harvested and used in peruvian cuisine.
Photo Credit: Manuel-Martin-Vicente
When in bloom, this plant has small clusters of purple or white flowers. Historically, the plant was brought back to Europe in the 17th century and cultivated for oil. Also called Lemon Beebush after its citric taste, its leaves are used in a variety of ways: dried for teas, added to dishes for flavor, or turned into essential oil.
Andean Silver-Leaf Sage
Photo Credit: Garden.org
During its bloom, the Andean silver-leaf sage’s deep purple-black flowers contrast spectacularly with its silver-hued leaves. The plant releases a pleasant fragrance when brushed against, and is considered one of the best plants for hummingbirds to eat from. It is used as a herb to flavor meats and stews. It is also thought to bring health, longevity, wisdom, esteem, wishes, a happy home and safety for children.
Photo Credit: Cusco Eats
A distant relative to mint, muña is a plant that grows throughout the highlands of Cuzco. It is high in calcium, iron, and phosphorus, making it a staple of traditional medicine for strong bones as well as boosting the immune system and even helping ease altitude sickness. It holds up well against the alpine temperatures and stays green year-round.
It’s no question that you will get to enjoy viewing a plethora of lush greenery on any of our treks – and this list only scratches the surface of species that inhabit the Andean cloud forests! But with just a little bit of extra preparation, you’ll be able to identify them as well. If you capture any stellar photos you want to show off, we’d love to see them! Tag us on social media @ Alpaca Expeditions. Want to stay up to date on all things Machu Picchu and Alpaca Expeditions? Sign up for our e-mail list here.
Alpaca Expeditions Recognitions
ISO (International Organization for Standardization)
In the pursuit to stand out from the rest, Alpaca Expeditions has obtained four ISOs plus our carbon footprint certificate to date. These achievements result from our efforts to implement the internationally-recognized integrated management system. They also represent our commitment to all of our clients and staff of operating sustainability and responsibility in every way possible.
World Travel Awards
Alpaca Expeditions is internationally recognized as a leading tourism company in Peru. As proof, we have been awarded the World Travel Award for Peru´s Best Tour Operator 2021 for the second time.
Our goal at Alpaca Expeditions is to create the best experience for all of our clients. We create journeys that are to be remembered for a lifetime. Journeys you can be proud of and can share with everybody around you.