Although the South American country of Uruguay is small, about the size of Florida, and much of its landscape is a prairie environment covered with grass, a number of native and introduced flowering plants add color and beauty. Sometimes called the “purple land” because of the large numbers of small purple flowers that grow in the prairie, Uruguay sits on the southeastern Atlantic coast of South America, bordered by Brazil and Argentina.
The native South American herb known as verbena or Verbena brasiliensis is a flowering annual plant that is often purposely planted in other parts of the world, where it sometimes becomes invasive. It grows from 3 to 8 feet tall and sends up flower spikes with clusters of purple flowers in spring. Verbena likes wetland areas but also grows in grasslands, dry fields, disturbed areas and urban areas, according to InvasiveSpecies.net. It occurs throughout much of South America and has been introduced to Europe, South Africa, North America and Australasia.
Ceiba, sometimes spelled ceibo, is the national flower of Uruguay. Known botanically as Erythrina cristina galli, this flowering tree is in the same genus as the wili-wili or coral tree, but this species occurs only in South America. The tree remains small, and rarely exceeds 25 feet. It grows wild in Uruguay in forested areas, especially along streams and rivers, in swamps and other wetlands. Because its red flowers are attractive, it is often cultivated in parks and as a street tree.
Mimosa pudica is the name of the unusual small plant sometimes called the sensitive plant, sleeping grass or touch-me-not because when touched, the leaves fold up as if they are sleeping. This plant is a low-growing perennial herb with small, puffy, purple flowers and tiny thorns. It is common in all parts of South and Central America and is sometimes grown as a houseplant in other parts of the world. In some areas, it has been used medicinally.
The myrtles of the neotropics, which include Uruguay, are trees or woody shrubs with feathery flowers in a range of colors. Known as the "Tepualia" in Uruguay, the Acca sellowiana (O. Berg) species of myrtle also occurs in Brazil and Peru. It grows in the pampas of Uruguay and surrounding countries and has been used to make a fragrant essential oil.
The common culinary herb rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, grows wild throughout the coastal regions of Uruguay because it can tolerate salt air and salty soils. It grows into a small, woody shrub and develops small white, pink, lavender or purple flowers, depending on the variety. This highly aromatic plant is widely used in Uruguayan cuisine and is believed to have beneficial effects on human health for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to ILoveIndia.com.
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