Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is exactly on the equator (the name of the country rather gives the game away). But near where the bears live, at over 14,000 feet, it is much colder (Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental US, is 14,500 feet).
The plant life has evolved for this unusual combination of very strong sun, but high altitude. They are often low to the ground, and many are spiky, succulent, almost plasticky cushion-plants, forming great mounds in which the growing medium for the living plant is its ancestors’ decayed foliage underneath:
To my eyes most of them were completely new, so when there was a lull in the bear hunt I pointed my camera at the leaf patterns and the flowers instead:
And this tiny gentian:
At slightly lower altitude there was also a rich, still unfamiliar, but rather different flora, but more on that another time.