Espeletia cochensis Cuatrec.
Common Name: Frailejón
Espeletia pycnophylla is an evergreen, perennial plant with an unbranched, erect stem up to 4 metres tall. The stem is topped by a large rosette of leaves, these leaves remaining attached to the stem when they die.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of resin and other materials.
Although it has a restricted distribution, Espeletia pycnophylla has large well-conserved subpopulations, including some in protected areas, and there are no significant threats that are affecting its population. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
Northwest S. America - Colombia, Ecuador
Found in various habitats in the alpine and subalpine zone; at elevations from 2,000 - 4,250 metres.
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
Espeletia pycnophylla is a plant of higher elevations in the tropical regions of the Andes, mainly at elevations between metres. The plants are usually found above the tree line in open, windswept regions known as Páramos, where the climate is wet and cool with a relative humidity that can be around 110%. The high elevation means there are high levels of UV radiation and a daily seasonality with night-time temperatures able to fall below zero at any time of the year.
The plant requires an open position in a humus-rich soil that does not dry out and a good supply of clean water. The various species do not generally grow well outside of their native habitat or other similar habitats, though some have occasionally been cultivated successfully at lower elevations or in greenhouses in the temperate zone.
We have no specific information for this species, but the leaves of most (if not all) members of this genus can be used to make a bitter but tasty, refreshing tea that also has medicinal benefits[
]. One medium-sized leaf is washed then boiled vigorously for at least 10 minutes, the liquid is then drunk whilst hot. Cinnamon is also traditionally added for a bit of flavour[
The crushed leaves are used to prevent hair loss[
The dried leaves are used to control rheumatism, the villi provide shelter to the affected areas[
The leaves, in infusion, are used to relieve headaches[
The pubescence is used to treat deafness and earache[
Resin from the fresh leaves, flower stalks or stem is used to treat rheumatism and hysterical paralysis[
The resin has the quality of giving heat to the body[
We have no further specific information for this species, but most (if not all) species in this and several other related genera are used medicinally in the High Andes. In particular, the plant contains essential oils and resin, and an infusion of the leaves is used traditionally to alleviate altitude sickness and aid breathing at higher elevations. It is also used to treat respiratory conditions (including bronchitis, influenza, cough and asthma) and to treat digestive problems[
The resin is used to make soaps[
This product has already been industrialized in Colombia (Ethnic group not specified-Carchi).
Most, if not all, species in this and in several other related genera yield an abundant, aromatic resin. It can be used as an incense, or to extract oil of turpentine, which is used as a solvent for paints and varnishes[
The leaves make an excellent camping mattress or pillow. Simply harvest dry leaves, evenly pile them, then lie down to compress them a bit. Stuff them inside a plastic bag to make a decent pillow, or heap them under your tent for a little extra comfort in the night[
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