Monday, 17 October 2005 – Cafayate to Cachi
We were about to start our second week in the field (or was it on the bus?) and my stop numbers indicated that we had made 40 cactus stops. Not bad for a week’s work — oops – holiday.
S440 offered Cleistocactus smaragdiflorus, Echinopsis leucanthus and Opuntia sulphurea, but, at around 12 noon, provided a useful opportunity to stretch legs. There are stretches like this on all cactus trips, where there is just nothing new or special to see until you’ve put some distance between the last and next location.
Some twenty minutes later, we were at Los Sauces (S441) where Acanthocalycium thionanthum, Gymnocalycium spegazzini, and Tephrocactus molinensis provided more of interest, alongside O. sulphurea. The spegs here were solid and heavily spined — nothing yet to compete with var. major, where spines completely obscure the plant body from view, but heavy enough to be of interest to collectors, as indicated by the many holes that clearly had been home to sizeable spegs. I’m not sure what it takes to change the mind set of hobbyists for whom owning (and often killing) an ex-habitat and (outside its country of origin) illegally obtained plant, rather than a plant raised from habitat seed. Seeing large holes at a location that must have been very
impressive before the theft from nature is a very sad and unnecessary sight. I’ve seen it in Brazil, Chile and now Argentina.
The best contribution we can make is not to buy ex-habitat plants when they are on offer — no demand, no poaching.
Nearby S442 had much the same plants as S441, plus Parodia microsperma ssp horrida.
It was a late picnic lunch at Santa Rosa (S443). There were numerous single jointed ephrocactus molinensis scattered around in the sand — it reminded me of the time that I had intended to take a T. articulatus (papyracantha) to a branch show and ended up with at least 100 individual pieces before the plant had reached my car!
There were large numbers of Acanthocalycium thionanthum here, in full bud. It must have been a spectacular sight, a week or so later. Again, nursery bushes were preferred.
Again we pushed on — this was a driving day — to S444 — La Angostura, but despite the distance covered, still the same plants: G. spegazzini, O. sulphurea, T. molinensis and T. weberi. Many taxa seem to enjoy a very wide distribution area, more so than in Chile where in the narrow strip along the Pacific species seem to change of much smaller distances when traveling South — North and even more so when travel west — east where, in most places altitudes rise from sea level quickly to 1,000 m plus. In Brazil (Bahia & Minas Gerais) many taxa occur only in relatively small locations. Yes I’m aware that others (e.g. Cereus jamacaru in Brazil and Trichocereus chiloensis in Chile and Opuntias anywhere) are wide spread, but in my limited experience, this is less usual for globular cacti like the spegs and Echinopsis leucantha. There were some very clean spegs on show, and that is exactly where their show bench should remain — in nature!
We spotted a different Parodia, P. aureicentra, at (S445). So far I had not been impressed by habitat Parodia. They tended to be small and look ‘dirty’. Here the plants were growing in vertical strips of slate. Very free draining! Perhaps the reason why they looked quite de-hydrated, although this emphasized their dense golden spination.