We returned to the Pan de Azucar National Park and drove to the furthest point north – Las Lomitas (S085). This time the fog was out and we could enjoy the marvellous views. There are some cabins and fog nets and in summer, this must be a popular place to visit, evidenced by the three foxes that were tame enough to snatch some cream crackers from Leo and Attila. They scoffed them greedily only to discover their mistake when it came to needing a drink to wash them down – not in a desert!
Our next stop (S086) was home to a heavy spined form of Copiapoa cinerea ssp. columna-alba, plants that Ritter described as C. melanohystrix.
At our next stop (S087), we were surprised to find Opuntia tunicata, a North American Cylindropuntia that has escaped into the wild and is regarded to be a separate subspecies: chilensis.
We followed a track that ran along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, stopping (S088) when we saw some typical Copiapoa flowers, emerging from the gravel. We took pictures of the plant after we had brushed away the dust and gravel – was this C. hypogaea? We thought so at the time, but having seen more readily recognisable plants in 2003, I’m not so sure.
We were looking for C. laui – not easy to find plants the size of matchstick heads! As there were 5 cars, we decided the stop 1 km apart from each other and cover the distance to the next car, along one side of the track and then repeat the search on the walk back, along the other side of the track. Not an easy task but as Michelle, Attila and I were about half way to the next car – there was a yellow flower, growing out of the gravel! C. laui. (S089).
The last stop of the day was at the Park’s Ranger Station, where a small garden (The Cactarium) was home to some of the Cactaceae reported from the Park.(S090).
S088: Growing at the edge of the coastal hills over looking the Pacific Ocean,
south of Las Lomitas – is this Ritter’s C. esmeraldana?
or C hypogaea, as we thought at the time? or Doweld’s C. grandiflora ssp ritteri?