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We started the day with a walk to Chirau Mita, the name of a private cactus collection, a few blocks from the hotel, in Chilecito. The large sign at the front gate told us that we were about to enter a cactus and succulent plants botanical garden. The array of plants and the way that they were displayed were so photogenic that cameras were soon snapping and provided such a distraction (particularly when the chocolate point Siamese cat joined in the conversation and the pictures) when I was talking to the owner, that I forgot to ask his name. However, from their website (http://www.chiraumita.com.ar), if I can trust my very limited comprehension of Spanish, he was Sebastian Carod, who had created this masterpiece with his partner Patricia Granillo, the owner. Take a look at their website, as it tells you more than I can do justice to here. To help me to organize my images, this became S416on the trip. (address:

Cactus Chirau Mita
Ruta Provincial Nº 12
(5300) La Rioja – La Rioja
Tel: +54 (3825) 42-4531

S417took us back into the field, at an altitude of 686 m. Alan Hirsch asked me to include altitudes in my location information, as this might be useful to help determine if climatic conditions would help plants reported here, to survive in his collection in Washington DC. Alan, I’ll be happy to send you a copy of the complete stop list with altitudes when I finish the Diaries, but I doubt if it will help much. Why?

Many of the species were found at many locations covering huge areas and at a wide range of altitudes. There were several days that we travelled through a number of different climatic zones, but altitude seemed to be only one aspect contributing to these conditions. I remember various threads on various groups suggesting that hardiness for some species of Echinocactus in the USA is closely related to the particular conditions at their habitat, so that if you want a specimen that will survive in particular harsh conditions, you need to be sure that the plant, or the seed from which your plant has germinated is from a suitable cold hardy location. The jury is out when it comes to plants that have spent many generations in cultivation. No doubt they will require acclimatization before being exposed to challenging conditions. I’ll mention altitudes in the Diaries, when ever I think it is relevant either to the plants, but more so, to our ability to breath and will do the full list later.

Meanwhile, at S417, off the road from Plaza Vieja to Famatima, we were looking for (and found) Gymnocalycium saglionis, Trichocereus huascha and T. terscheckii, while avoiding the spines of Opuntia sulphurea. And yet I found this the most interesting plant here, as I found an individual with wonderful twisted spines – ‘forma tortuosa’? We would often come up with joke names, such as ‘carparkeriensis’ for a plant found at the car park etc, so please do not take this as the source of new descriptions and names.

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S417 – Opuntia sulpurea ‘fa tortuosa’

S418, in the Quebrada Famatima was forced on us as the undulations of the track proved too much of a challenge for the bus – the back bumper had already needed surgery after scraping along the road yesterday. Lobivia famatinensis is from this valley, but too far on for us to reach on foot while staying on schedule. No worries, as there were plenty of interesting plants to see. Just a bit up the road, we found Denmoza rhodacantha (in flower), Lobivia (Soehrensia) formosa, Tephrocactus weberi, Trichocereus candicans and T. terscheckii. The Lobivia were large plants, growing against and on top of a steep cliff face alongside the river valley, often peeking out of large clumps of a bromeliad, Deuterocohnia (Abromeitiella) brevifolia, made up of thousands of small individual heads. One or two of the Lobiviawere in flower. As we drove off, after lunch, we passed a specimen that must have been more than 2 m (6 ft 6) tall and asked Diego to pose next to it to illustrate the scale.

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S418 – Diego posing in front of Echinopsis (Soehrensia) formosa

Two hours later, we reached S419, on the outskirts of the village of San Blas, where Tephrocactus articulatus (O. papyracantha), T. alexanderi, T. aoracanthus and T. geometricans were growing side by side. So why do these not hybridise? Why are there no intermediates? (or did we not look close enough?) What are the barriers that keep them separate species etc. Time to do some reading when I get home, I think. Echinopsis leucantha and Gymnocalycium mucidum (syn. G. glaucum) completed the set here.

Another great day cactussing behind us and another in prospect tomorrow.

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