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Today we reached the famous Avenue de Baobabs at sunset.

This was one of my better shots after I found a friend to pose

Chameleon in Av. de Beobap

Chameleon in Av. de Beobab


All is well – just very slow internet.

This morning (22 October) some extra time while car battery is being replaced.

This picture the highlight of 17 October

Euphorbia primulifolia

Euphorbia primulifolia

After my failure yesterday to climb a reasonably low hill, today’s ‘Mountain’ Mt. Itiby looked quite intimidating as we parked the car.

Again, we’re pushed for time as I write this, so for now I’ll stick to the list of plants that I photographed and the fact that my pride is restored to some extend, although I am still the slowest thing on the road! The ‘invisible hand’ (beta blockers, to protect my heart) won’t allow me to build up to the speed of the others and the statin tablets to help the control of chloresterol have taken their toll on my muscles – dose halved at my last review shortly before take off. But I got there!

So, in alphabetical order we saw:

Aloe capitata var quartziticola
Aloe laeta
Bulbophyllum sp. – a small Orchids
Kalanchoe integrifolia – ranging from small plantlets to shrubs in size
Kalanchoe synsepala the “Walking Kalanchoe.”
Pachypodium brevicaule – bare, in leaf, in bud, in flower and in fruit – the full story!
Pachypodium densiflorum high on a rock, in flower

Pachypodium brevicaule on Mt Itiby

Pachypodium brevicaule on Mt Itiby

For me, the Pachapodium were the highlight of the day. As soon as I had photographed my first one, I was ready to go back to the car – but actually the break for photos helped me to recover a bit. The pachypodium bark is so smooth, it just demands to be stroked and there was lots of opprtunity to do so. But not for P. densiflorum that here, only grew high on a large rock, out of stroking range, except for Willy, our local guide who was a former student of Christophe, who took off his sandals (Brian please note!) as an indication that there was some serious climbing for him to do, to bring down some of the flowers to allow us to see the one of the differences between P. brevicaule and P. densiflorum. From a distance, P. densiflorum forms short but clearly visible branches, as it had done in my collection in the UK before it rotted.

Great day!

After a good night’ssleep the world looked wonderful! The sun was shining and we were torn between the breakfast that Nadia had prepared and the succulent plants out on parade in the garden.

Breakfast won, but was followed by the garden tour – there were even cacti bought in France and legally important to Madagascar. Copiapoa humilis and a number of medium sizedFerocactus that had suffered a brief spell of scorch. It only takes a few minutes to do the damage that will stay with the plant for a very long time. Christophe pointed out our first Chameleon – much nicer to photograph than lizatrds as they mopve nice and slowly.

It did not take long to pack the car and be on our way. The first hjour or so was through the sprawling suburbs of Antanarivo, rather like an ant’s nest with pedestrians visiting the local markets and food shops – very colourful.

We then hit RN7 , one of (the?) mian road out of the capital. It reminded me a bit of MEX 1 in Baja, but with rice paddies along the road. Lots of small settlement. Then we arrived at our first plant location at Site Ecoturistique Iharanandriana. We needed to pay a small fee to the local community ,strapped on the cameras and off we went. The height of the hill wat not toop intimidating but the steepness of the eroded tyrack was. Not used to such a burst of exercise, I was soon out of breath and my thighs ached in protest.
John and Christophe waited patiently for me but it soon became clear that the best solution was for me to sit this one out. I missed out on an Aloe and two Kalanchoe, but the site is well documented on the internet, so I did not miss too much.

The next stop was for lunch at Restaurant Au Coin de Foeie Gras where we had portions of the pate after which the restaurant was named, washed down with a very sweet white wine.

to be continued

In exactly one month time I should be on my way to Heathrow to escape British Winter before the clocks switch to Winter Time. This time, my escape is to the fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar, with the airport some 18 degrees south of the Equator.

‘But there are no cacti in Madagascar’, I hear you say. Well, there are, but none are endemic, with the usual culprits finding the conditions to their liking, thus continueing the non-endemic theme started by Cylindropuntia tunicata in Chile in 2015. In the absence of natural enemies and encouraged to spread by the now declining goat population was causing a real pest here. I expect Cylindropuntia to be again amongst the most successful invaders, but also expect Harrisia and, from ‘the other succulents’, Agave, to be among the aliens. All were brought here by humans, but found the conditions so favourable that they escaped into nature and started to compete with the natural flora.

The main image of Madagascar in my mind is the cover image of Werner Rauh’s first book on the Flora of Madagascar, of the giant pachycaul trees, Adansonia grandieri, standing guard along the Avenue of the Baobabs. It is a ‘must see’ place to visit.

the giant pachycaul trees, Adansonia grandieri, standing guard along the Avenue of the Baobabs.

… the giant pachycaul trees, Adansonia grandieri, standing guard along the Avenue of the Baobabs.

But the Baobabs are not the only ‘fat stemmed trees’ on the island. There are members of the Family Apocynaceae (Adenium and Pachypodium) and Euphorbiaceae to name but a few, that all possess these fat stems. I have come across them on my travels, in Australia, South Africa, Namibia and in Mexico, to the point that I thought that I could do a presentation on the subject, but not before having seen the Madagascan giants.

‘But you know nothing abouty these plants!’ I hear you say. Again, correct, but my library and the internet provide just about all the information I need and I have actually grown (and killed) a number of Pachycauls since my visit to South Africa and Namibia in 2012 and we are being guided by French botanist, Christophe Quenel, recommended to us by BCSS CactusWorld editor Al Laius, who has travelled with him before. Just as knowledgeable (?) as I am, is my UK fellow traveller John Childs, who is also looking forward to pointing his camera at the Pachycauls, while we both also hope that lemurs and chamelions will cross our lenses.

As usual, I plan to write up my reports of what we see on a daily basis for publication in the Cactus Trip Diaries Blog. It is likely that internet facilities to send out these epistles on a daily basis may be difficult to find, so that I expect them to be released in batches when ever wifi is available. And I don’t expect these to be ‘broadband’, just a thin fragile wire, so that images may have to wait until we arrive back in the UK in mid November. The images and movie clips will be sorted and arranged to become a digital presentation and I have already accepted many invitations from BCSS Branches to show What I saw Last Winter in 2017.

You can subscribe to this Blog, to receive new postings by email, as soon as they are published.

I hope you’ll join us next month!

Phew! Home safe, sound and tired at 18:00 hrs.

Empty suitcases to have my washing lined up to run the washing machine as soon as the sun hits the solar panels (if it is sunny enough). All pottery, wrapped in my laundry, got through as the six pieces that I bought!

Prepare to do list for tomorrow:

  • Check car battery (it was flat, after three weeks of no action; I should have disconnected the battery before flying out)
  • If needed, call Green Flag insurance for a home visit to get the car started. (It was needed and they arrived 15 minutes after my call!)
  • Check fuel for the car (144 miles left!)
  • Make doctor’s appointment to have toe checked out. As is often the case after walking in the desert, my toe nail (right foot this time) had come off on Friday and was still weeping, so, as all diabetics know, I need to get it checked out! Done.
  • Post the ‘arrived home’ missive for this trip. (Doing it now!)
  • Catch up on missing missives from the trip.
  • Start planning for next trips:
    • To Holland to pick up my sales plants for the coming season from Aad Vijverberg
    • Ferry bookings for trips to Cologne (Angie’s Mum) for June and September
    • To Madagascar once UK clocks turn to Winter time
    • Check clocks all around the house to see which ones I need to turn to Summer Time this coming Sunday. Hooray! Good excuse for a drink on Saturday night to celebrate! Bottle of Malbec added to shopping list.

It’s good to be home again!



Today’s date had been in my Diary for a long time: we fly home around 22:00 hrs tonight.

Usually the day of the flight is just a ‘hanging around waiting’ day, but not short before starting the trip, a solution was provided in early January by Marquita, the programme organiser for the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society who asked if I could give a presentation today. Expecting an evening presentation, I regretted that I would be in flight. After a flurry of emails across the pond we were set: the presentation would be on Saturday morning at 10:00!

After a few hickups with this new presentation about our 2015 trip to Chile, after three reboots, Kita and Eunice managed to fix the problem: run the 1080i rather than the 4k version of the presentation! Thank you ladies for resolving the cause!

In the meantime I had started a long winded introduction of Friedrich Ritter, the most active of cactus explorers in South America who had described new taxa from most countries in South America, where he had settled in Grazino, near Olmue. He bought a piece of land from Pablo Weisser’s father where he built his house. Pablo was a botanist at the time and started collecting seed of South American and western Argentina as assitant to Hans Lembcke. Many of the seeds they collected were sold to Frau Hilda Winter, Ritter’s sister, in Germany and offered for sale through her catalogue as Ritter / FR numbers. After a falling out between Hans and Hilda, Hans and Pablo sold their seeds to the then newly started nursery and catalogue of the Karlheinz Uhlig nursery.  For the full story, please refer to the  Diary pages of 24th October 2015 onwards.

The time moved on to noon, time for a brief chat with members, then six hour before we needed to do battle with Dollar Rent a Car about the insurance they charged us for our Mexican Insurance for the US$ 48 per day of our 18 Day stay in Baja after which ww could check in for our flight. What shall we do?

Eunice suggested a visit to the Orange County Show and Sales where many people that I enjoyed meeting last year during a mini tour of US C&S Societies in California and Nevada would be present. And so we drove across LA to Orange County where I met Jim Hannah who had been to four of these presentation last year, in the car park. Many more friends were found inside the hall. The balance was light (in number) on the Show, in a small side hall, but heavy on the sales of both plants and pots. Could I squeeze a few more pots in? You bet! And so six more pots were squeezed into my cases with Angie also joining in with spending the last of our dollars. They all went in and came out again without any damage in Amesbury, UK.

The chat at Dollar Rent a Car was unsatisfactory and will be followed up with checking out my rights with my credit card company once we get home. My next trip to Baja will be a flight from London via Mexico City to La Paz where we watched a very efficient looking crew at Hertz seemed to provide a very satisfacory service during the 45 minutes that we observed them at work, while waiting for Eunice to arrive.

And so the time flew by before we boarded the Airbus A-380 and I slept most of the way to England, but not before Angie received a text message from son Peter asking if we had missed our flight. No?! Why? Peter had spotted that we’d fly on 19th March and should arrive at around 15:45, but had not spotted that was due to happen the next day! Better than the other way when my pick up from LAX was expecting me the day after arrival!