These green globs may appear to be evidence of an alien invasion, but they are actually plants. These strange green lumps are called yareta (Azorella compacta), or “llareta” in Spanish. They may look like rocks covered in moss but they are actually compact shrubs that belong to the family Apiaceae, which is the same family as parsley and celery, but they look far from the leafy edibles we are familiar with.
These plants grow high up in the mountains of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and western Argentina at altitudes between 10,000 to 15,000 feet. At these heights the wind almost never stops blowing and temperatures are low most of the year, averaging in the low 60s. To withstand the cold temperatures and constant winds this plant grows only a little over a centimeter a year, and grows close to the ground where the temperature is a few degrees warmer.
Because this plant grows so slowly the flowering stems and leaves are so dense that they can hold the weight of a human. These strange plants live for a very long time and many are older than 3,000 years, which makes them older than most of the giant redwoods of California. Even though these plants are so old they are extremely dry and are commonly used as kindling to start fires, and are also said to be good for treating muscle pain.
If you attempted to grow one of these strange plants you will probably never see it grow more than a few feet in your entire life, but if you get a chance to travel to the Andes you might look for one of these strange green globs to take a nap on after a long hike through the Andes grasslands.