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carboncillo

Scientific Name: Cordia decandra
Plant Family: Boraginaceae

Chile shares a Mediterranean-type climate very similar to that of California, and there are many Chilean species that deserve wider introduction here. A beautiful example of drought-adapted Chilean species is Cordia decandra, a shrubby tree which can be seen in the Mediterranean Garden area at MEMBG. Known locally as carboncillo because the hard wood was once used to make charcoal, Cordia comes from the southern margin of the Atacama Desert where rainfall is very low and highly irregular. It produces 1-inch white, bell-shaped flowers in late winter and continues to bloom through much of the summer. In general appearance this plant might be mistaken for a white-flowered species of Cistus, but can be readily distinguished by its leaves that spiral around the stems rather than arranged oppositely as in Cistus. Like other members of the borage family (Boraginaceae), Cordia has stiff hairs on both the upper and lower leaf surface, giving them a feel like sandpaper.