Wide, is divided into three great shallow basins or plains by the transverse ridges or paramos of Tiupullo and Azuay.
On the paramos of Chimborazo, Pichincha, Iliniza, &c., the relation of characteristic genera to those identical with genera in the Alpine flora of Europe is as 5 to 4; and the botanist might almost suppose himself in the Upper Engadine.
The higher plateaus are called paramos, cold, windswept, mist-drenched deserts, lying between the elevations of 10,000 and 15,000 ft., which are often the only passes over the Cordilleras, and yet are almost impassable because of their morasses, heavy mists, and cold, piercing winds.
The paramos of Cruz Verde (11,695 ft.) and Pasto, and the volcanoes of Chiles (15,900 ft.), Chumbul (15,715 ft.), and Pasto ft.) are prominent landmarks of this desolate region.
The Central is the axis of the system, is distinguished by a line of lofty volcanoes and paramos, some of which show their white mantles 2000 to 3000 ft.
Elevation, which include some of the most fertile and productive areas in Colombia; the temperate districts between 7500 and 10,000 ft., the cold, bleak and inhospitable paramos between 10,000 and 15,000 ft., and above these the arctic wastes of ice and snow.
At higher altitudes long, cold, wet winters are experienced, with so short and cold a summer between them that the bleak paramos are left uninhabited except by a few shepherds in the short dry season.
Farther up, on the cold, bleak paramos, only stunted and hardy trees are to be found.
It is claimed in Colombia that a species of wild potato found on the paramos is the parent of the cultivated potato.