El Charco del Ingenio – Mexico’s Flora at Its Finest

El Charco de Ingenio holds any number of beautiful views. This is below the dam.

El Charco del Ingenio holds any number of beautiful views, like this spot below the dam.

El Charco de Ingenio does an excellent job of showcasing Mexico's rich flora. This water feature is at the beginning of the guided tour.

El Charco de Ingenio showcasesMexico’s rich flora. This water feature is at the beginning of the guided tour.

As quick as it takes to blink, the discerning eye instantly knows that any beautiful thing is always more than a single ingredient. In the case of El Charco del Ingenio, San Miguel de Allende’s botanical showcase, a confluence of location, terrain, design, and determination result in a conservatory that may be one of the finest public gardens in Mexico.

Workers carefully maintain the grounds of El Charco to to give visitors excellent views of the grounds.

Workers maintain the grounds of El Charco to give visitors excellent views.

Cactus is tough. But the succulent family is actually fragile, and in too many instances, a great number of the cactus species in Mexico are endangered due to factors both natural and human. El Charco is dedicated to saving, protecting and propagating Mexico’s wild cactus specimens.

A worker puts the finishing touches on an information sign.

A worker puts the finishing touches on an information sign.

A cactus is determined to make its way.

A cactus is determined to make its way.

Amid the peacefulness and beauty of El Charco is this memorial to the 43 students who were brutally murdered in the summer of 2015.

Amid the peace and beauty of El Charco is this memorial to the 43 Mexican college students who were brutally murdered in the summer of 2014.

Like many things in San Miguel de Allende, a community of like-minded people saw a need and joined together with the aim of making a difference. In many respects, they could not have chosen a better place.

The grounds of El Charco shows the dry scrubland that is home to the succulents and the deep canyon beyond.

Land development in other areas threatened many of the cactus specimens and they have been relocated to El Charco where they will live on.

Barrel cactus like these have been brought to the garden, saved from land development.

Barrel cactus are some of the plants that have been brought to the garden, saved from land development.

Nearly 170 acres comprise the site where El Charco is located and it is home to three important types of terrain; canyon, dry scrubland, and wetlands that result from the creation of a dam that provided hydroelectric power for a factory located downstream in San Miguel de Allende.

The presa (dam) was built in the late 19th Century for a factory that has been converted to art galleries.

The presa (dam) was built in the late 19th Century for a factory that has been converted to art galleries.

Bird watchers, like the man in the center, are attracted to many parts of El Charco.

Bird watchers, like the man in the center, and the woman in the distance, are attracted to many parts of El Charco.

A visitor ventures out for a shot of the canyon below. The aqueduct in the distance carried water to the now-reuprposed factory in San Miguel de Allende.

A visitor ventures out for a shot of the canyon below. The aqueduct in the distance carried water to the now-repurposed factory in San Miguel de Allende.

Cacti cling to the steep canyon walls further below the dam.

Cacti cling to the steep canyon walls further below the dam.

Beginning in 1990, those committed to preserving the area went into action, and 25 years later, the results are breathtaking. El Charco (The Puddle) is, according to surveys, home to 535 species of flora, including cacti, from 85 botanical families, plus an additional 51 species of lichen. Much of the flora flourishes in the dry scrubland that makes up most of the garden, while the dam that created the reservoir, built in the late 19th Century, offers habitat for 156 species of resident and migratory birds.

Wildflowers can be found throughout a tour of the garden.

Wildflowers can be found throughout a tour of the garden.

This spider quietly awaits a meal.

A spider quietly awaits a meal.

El Charco is a rich tapestry of life.

El Charco is a rich tapestry of life.

More than 100 varieties of butterflies live in and visit El Charco.

More than 100 varieties of butterflies live in and visit El Charco.

If visitors look carefully, they might catch a glimpse of any one of the 110 species of butterflies that inhabit or visit the area, along with the 18 different types of reptiles and amphibians, or the 11 species of dragonflies or damselflies that call El Charco their home.

Everywhere you look, there are delights for the eyes.

Everywhere you look, there are delights for the eyes, such as the ant on a petal of the flower on the right.

A visit to El Charco is easy. You can catch a free van ride from Civic Plaza at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Guided tours by knowledgeable docents are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. for a two-hour tour. A café located near the entrance serves a tasty fare of lunch items and the van departs at 1 p.m. to drop visitors back in San Miguel de Allende. For those who wish to linger and explore more on their own, a cab can be easily summoned.

The greenhouse, toward the end of the guided tour, houses an array of plant life.

The greenhouse, toward the end of the guided tour, houses an array of plant life.

Inside the greenhouse is the second largest collection of succulents in Mexico.

Inside the greenhouse is the second largest collection of succulents in Mexico.

Despite its beauty and the impressive work accomplished, the threat of encroaching development has some worried. El Charco is on the northeast edge of San Miguel de Allende and the city’s continued popularity puts pressure on the surrounding land.

The threat of development is real and El Charco is under pressure from a number of directions.

The threat of development is real and El Charco is under pressure from a number of directions.

But the good news for the plants, birds, animals, bugs, and lichens that live and visit there is that El Charco is backed up by a dedicated cadre of people committed to preserving this special place so that school children, residents and visitors from around the world can enjoy the incredible diversity and beauty of El Charco.

This spot on the trail shows the canyon, and on the rocks below, El Charco occasionally puts on concerts and musical performances.

This spot on the trail shows the canyon, and on the flat area of rocks below, El Charco occasionally puts on musical performances.

elcharco.org.mx/Ingles/index.html

facebook.com/El-Charco-del-Ingenio

kewguild.org.uk/pages/awards

 

Comments are closed.