Various publications since the year 2000 have offered different treatments of this genus and the subtribe Espeletiinae to which it belongs. The subtribe has been variousy interpreted as comprising anything from 3 - 8 distinct genera and 90 - 154 species. We are following the proposed treatment by Mauricio Diazgranados [
], although some other modern treatments still place this species in the genus Espeletia[
Espeletia occulta S.F.Blake
Common Name: Tabaquillo de Oroque
Libanothamnus occultus is a low-growing, probably unbranched shrub or tree with a stout stem.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of an aromatic resin.
Libanothamnus occultus is widely distributed in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and north of the Cordillera Oriental in Colombia and in the Cordillera de Mérida in Venezuela. It is common and is found in several protected areas throughout its distribution. Although there are local threats to the species, they would not be significantly affecting its population given its wide distribution. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2020)[
Northern S. America - Colombia, Venezuela
Forming colonies in open, windswept regions, usually above the tree line, also in clearings of high-elevation forests, growing in humus-rich moist soils; at elevations from 3,100 - 4,500 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
Libanothamnus occultus is a plant of higher elevations in the tropical regions of the Andes, mainly at elevations between 3,100 - 4,500 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[
]. 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[
We have no 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 aid breathing at higher elevations; to treat respiratory conditions (including altitude sickness, bronchitis, influenza, cough and asthma) and to treat digestive problems[
The major components of the essential oil obtained from the leaves are alpha-pinene (31.30%), myrcene (17.10%), beta-pinene (13.00%)[
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[
The wood is used locally[
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