Parque de las Leyendas

The title of this page is a bit misleading, and led us to ignoring this destination within the city of Lima for many years.  Translated from Spanish this means literally “Park of the Legends”, which provides no clue as to the nature of the park.  In 2019 during our recent visit to Peru, we met with the founder of the Cactario (“Cactarium” in English) at the Park, Guillermo Pino.  We had met Guillermo many years earlier at a cactus-related talk I had given in Lima to members of their cactus society.  Guillermo is an expert on Peperomia in Peru (he noted that there are over a thousand Peperomia worldwide, so it is impossible to be an expert on all of them), though he is a surgeon by training.

After our visit to the Rio Marañon we thought that our remaining time in Peru would be anticlimatic, especially since a planned day trip from Lima to the Lomas de Lachay and interior valleys failed to materialize due to miscommunications.  So we accepted Guillermo’s offer to guide us around the Parque de las Leyendas the following day.

Manolo Fernandez (with whom we had traveled to northern Peru days earlier) and his son met us at our hotel and drove us to the Parque.  Arriving just after the 9 AM opening time on Saturday morning (Aug 3) we did not see anyone in the parking lot.  (It turned out that we had parked in a less-used lot.)  We were met by Guillermo Pino and Engineer Daniel Orrego, the Chief of Operations of the park, who showed us around the zoological facilities.  The Panthers and Jaguarundi’s were particularly active – more so than at other zoos we had been to.

We did not explore all parts of zoo – it is quite large.  As we walked we began to appreciate the large size of the Parque de las Leyendas.

01  Location of the Parque de las Leyendas about 2.5 miles south of the end of the Lima airport runway (at top).  This adds to the noise in the Parque, but wasn’t extreme in our impression.
02  A closer view of the Parque (enclosed by thin green border (click on image for larger view).  The areas enclosed by the orange curves are huacas – archaeological sites (there are smaller ones that are not indicated here).  The green curve encloses the botanic garden and the two small yellow areas are the cactus gardens.  The small yellow curve on the extreme right (east) of the Parque, outside of the botanic garden proper, is the “Cactario“.  It is restricted to guided tours.

Though surrounded by cityscape, the Parque is comprised of three main components.   Perhaps the largest in area are the archaeological ruins (huacas), which are of limited access.  Then the zoological park combined with amusement and grassy picnic areas.  These include artificial lakes and tropical forest environments.  Though artificial, we were surprised at the size of these aquatic/forested areas and the fact that they are maintained in a region with essentially zero rainfall.  Finally, there was the botanic garden.  This was a large area with many trees from around the world.  Within the botanic garden was a region with succulent plants from around the world.  A separate cactario, near the east entrance to the Parque, had, on an artificial hill, cacti native to Peru.

03  Closer view of the botanical garden area – with the cactus garden outlined in yellow.  A large artificial lake borders the botanical garden on the west.
04  A sign describing a huaca. Actually it doesn’t provide much information – you would have to search elsewhere for information about Huaca 43!
05  A view of a small part of a partly-restored huaca. Despite the near total lack of rain, restoration is needed against occasional drizzle, birds, dust and sand accumulation etc. Plus all of these were mostly buried from centuries of blowing sand etc.


We spent the first few hours, not only with Guillermo Pino, but also with Eng. Orrego and Manolo Fernandez (whom we had traveled days earlier to northern Peru) and his son.  Once we arrived at the Botanic Garden we met Biologist Carmen Martínez in charge of the collections of the Botanic Garden and she and Guillermo provided detailed descriptions of the Garden plants.  Finally, later in the day Guillermo showed us the Cactario and other sections of the Parque, including the tropical rainforest walkway and tropical lake habitats.

06  From left to right: Engineer Daniel Renato Orrego Medina, the Chief of Operations of the park, Manolo Fernandez (and son), and Guillermo Pino.
07  Guillermo caught red-handed with a cactus fruit – for its seeds.
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08  Guillermo collecting a fruit from an Espostoa.
09  Guillermo discussing aspect of the Mexican Creeping Devil cactus (Stenocereus eruca) with Carmen, the Botanic Garden Curator. Rosario (in pink) checking iphone photos.
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10  Mike Douglas, Guillermo Pino and Rosario Douglas in front of sign describing the cactus garden.  The signs in the Botanic Garden were very informative (but only in Spanish).


The Botanic Garden is mostly covered with trees from different parts of the world.  These are also arranged taxonomically – by their orders or families.  We have fewer images of these trees or plants – we were focusing on the more photogenic cacti that we had come to see.  Nonetheless, the non-succulent plant displays are very good – considering the lack of rain in Lima.

Botanic Garden map showing the different parts of the garden.  Plants are grouped roughly by the type of plant - not specifically by botanical classification.  There is a heavy emphasis on succulent plants - for example the cacti (L), crassulas (N), Agaves and Aloes (I and J), and Euphorbias (M).  Palms (E), conifers (c) and various trees (F) and fruit trees make up most of the garden.
11  Photo of the plaque showing the map of the botanic garden.  The collections are arranged by the types of plants.   The palms (E), conifers (C), woody plants (F) and fruit trees (G) make up about half the garden.  However, succulent plants collections are large – the cactus (L), Euphorbias (M), Agaves and Aloes (I, J) and Crassulas (N).  Note in the upper right corner the insert map that shows where the botanic garden is relative to the entire Parque de las Leyendas.  The Botanic Garden is only a small part of the entire Parque.

We spent hours in the botanic garden.  Shown below are some of the photos we took – ones that mostly emphasize the succulent plants.  See the individual photos and their captions for more detailed explanations.

Although we came prepared with tripod and an Olympus camera to take many Helicon-focus type of images, the ease of using our iphones resulted in our taking many of the photos this way.  They are not as nice as I like to present on this website – but the need for spontaneity and quick photos outweighed the desire for better quality – with the slower to compose Olympus that might require changing lenses.


Below are photos from our visit to the Botanic Garden – they are put into a more compressed layout to save space.  The figure captions explain each of them.

12a  A view of part of the cactus part of the botanic garden.
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12b  The succulent beds are raised above the pathway level – both for drainage and to help block other parts of the garden from view. Of course there is essentially zero rainfall here in Lima so drainage is not a major concern. All of these beds are watered to a certain degree.
12c  A tall cactus found in southern Peru and extreme northern Chile – Browningia candelaris. It is found at higher elevations (perhaps 6000-9000 ft) on the western Andean slopes. Canyons near Lima are their northernmost occurrence.
12d  A silhouette of the previous Browningia.
12e  A pine from southern Mexico.
12f  Typical plaque describing a botanical family.
12g  A Haageocereus that tends to sprawl. Note the interesting spination – they tend to twist.
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12h  These are rescued Haageocereus tenuis from a site that was being destroyed. It was an extremely rare cactus in the wild – it may only exist now in collections like this.
12i  Another sprawling cactus showing its “sprawl”.
12j  This Haageocereus is sprawling and a rock has been placed under it.  Or, perhaps it simply crawled over the rock, which is more likely.
12k  This type of cactus (Espostoa lanata) develops so-called lateral cephaliums – the flowers emerge from these fuzzy areas.
12l  Austrocylindropuntia pachypus
12m  close-up of Austrocylindropuntia pachypus
12n  There was a section with Pereskia – “primitive” cactus.
12o  The trunk(s) of a fairly large Armatocereus cactus.
12p  Climbing cacti (in this case Monvillea jaenensis) are supported by a wooden trellis structure.  These might be found in dry forest environments.
12q  Just a reminder than many species of cacti in the botanic garden were not from Peru – this is a Mammillaria elongata from Mexico.
12r  This plaque describes the concepts of native and endemic species, and the role of botanic gardens to conserve, educate and carry out research into plants.
12s  This Tillandsia has grown on the lower trunk of a cactus in the botanic garden. Its seeds were presumably deposited by a bird. This Tillandsia also grows on the ground in the Atacama.
12t  A Tillandsia species (T. latifolia) that is found in the Atacama Desert of Peru. It survives off fog drip for the most part. It is a bromeliad. It is probably misted here in the garden since it grows at slightly higher elevations – where the low stratus cloud intercepts the ground. But it does not occur in the wet lomas.
12u  This is part of the Aloe section of the garden. Many species were flowering.
12v  A flowering aloe from South Africa.
12w  Another Aloe from South Africa that was flowering.  Unlike Agaves, Aloes live after flowering and can flower regularly for many years.
12x  The Agave/related plant section of the Garden. There were many agaves.
12y  This was a succulent display area. Note the heavy use of rocks to build the retaining walls.
12z  We saw a handful of these Harris (?) Hawks within the Parque de las Leyendas. They apparently find it a desirable habitat within the city of Lima.
12 z1 This Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola) was also see in the Parque.
12 z2  Quiz: Can you identify this cactus from its silhouette?  There are actually three different species here.


The “cactario” is a separate part of the Parque de las Leyendas, outside of the Botanic Garden area.  It is normally restricted to individuals being on a guided tour, since it is not designed for heavy people traffic.  The cactario is organized on a hill that extends to perhaps 20 feet above the surrounding area and the plants are arranged by elevation that they would be found in Peru.  That is, higher altitude plants are near the top of the hill and near-sea level plants are closer to the bottom.  Of course, the climate of Lima does not really represent well the climates of other parts of Peru, so not all cacti from Peru can be grown in this cactario.  But it is an impressive collection of plants that do survive in the Lima area and when combined with the rocky landscape (entirely artificial) makes for an impressive garden.

13a Location of the Cactario (yellow area) is near the eastern side of the Parque. Just to the west is a large huaca.
13b Looking up the Cactario hillside with a large Neoraimondia arequipensis ssp. roseiflora  plant in the foreground.
13c Looking up a hillside in the Cactario. Most of these plants are Haageocereus of some species or another.
13d Photo of cacti in the Cactario. Note that some cacti sprawl along the ground while others grow erect.
13e Guillermo and Rosario on a higher trail in the Cactario.
13f A view from near the highest part of the Cactario hill.
13g Another view of the Cactario.
13h Mike photographing with iphone a species of Cumulopuntia sphaerica.  The smallish clumping plants nearby are Mila caespitosa.
13i The entire Cactario was surrounded by a low wall with plantings of Opuntia cactus. Thus casual wall-jumpers were discouraged!

13  Photos from the cactario are shown above.  During our visit to the cactario both our camera and our iphones ran out of battery – as we hadn’t anticipated such a long tour we hadn’t thought to bring extra batteries!  

14  A view of one of the play areas of the Parque, as seen from the Cactario (telephoto). How many of these kids will grow up to be aficionados of cactus and other succulent plants?

Our visit concluded after we noted that the crowds seemed less than we expected for a Saturday afternoon.  It had also gotten darker, though low clouds had been present all day.  It was only then that Guillermo noted from his watch that it was after 5 PM – the Parque was closed!  We had spent 8 hours at the Parque de las Leyendas (without lunch), yet we had not really felt the time going by.  We had not imagined that we would find a city park so fascinating – but this, in retrospect, was due to the very interesting conversations we had along the way with Guillermo, the Zoo’s Operation’s Manager and and the Botanical Garden Curator.  The random visitor would not have been so lucky!