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The Guardians of the Plains- Ombu Trees of Uruguay


e gauchos seek out an ombu tree to rest up during the midday heat. The umbrella canopy and extremely wide trunk, is an easy shape to spot on the horizon. This is one of the extraordinary features of our Uruguay rides; usually a solitary tree, we actually ride through a forest of ombues on most of our trips.

Ombu (or Umbu) bush? or tree? The debate continues… for some the lack of xylem and phloem knock it out of the tree family, for others the ombu’s several trunks that twist together to a height of 20 meters and a width of 30 meters more than qualify it as a tree.

The ombu can grow in areas without an abundance of rain and are normally found individually as each tree needs all the surrounding water to survive.

A cute legend from an indigenous group of people who live is Uruguay, the Guarnaí, tells a creation story about the ombu:

The creator, Tupá, asked each tree what they would like when they were mature. The ombu, or lajau in the Guarnai language, asked for a soft wood trunk and a large canopy to shelter men and animals from the elements. Tupá, impressed with the ombu’s wisdom, granted the wishes along with the gift of immortality.

The ombu can live hundreds of years in climates where other flora barely has a foothold. The largest forest of Umbues in the world -the Monte de Ombúes, is found in the Rocha province of Uruguay – our main riding area and as we skirt Laguna de Castillos, we ride through part of this forest.

For more information about riding in the spectacular landscapes of Uruguay, including pristine beaches and expansive grasslands, do get in touch with questions and for the most up-to-date information about when our tours will resume.

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