These rocks on the highlands of the Andes looks like they are covered with moss. Actually, they are a type of flowing plant known as Yareta and it lives in colonies which can be thousands of years old.
Yareta (Azorella compacta), also known as "Llareta" in Spanish, is a flowering plant that belongs to the family Apiaceae. It grows in the cold Puna grasslands of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and western Argentina at altitudes between 3,200 and 4,500 meters, where the wind blows unceasingly and the cold cracks even granite. To survive the extreme conditions, Yareta grows in packs so dense that its stems can take the weight of a human. The plant keeps close to the ground in order to retain as much heat in as possible. This also helps to resist the powerful high altitude wind, which would tear up the roots of any plant. To prevents moisture loss through evaporation the Yareta has wax covered leaves.
Another trick the Yareta has learned to survive the inhospitable mountains of the Andes is to grow extremely slowly, almost at a geological pace of 1.5 cm a year. A large blob of Yareta growing on the rocks can thus be thousands of years old. Many Yaretas are estimated to be over 3,000 years old.
Because the Yareta is dry and dense, it burns well, like peat, and was traditionally harvested for fuel. The amount of yareta being removed had become so significant that it threatened the very existence of the plant. Yareta is now a protected species and being such a slow grower, it has also made it to the endangered list.
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