Since 2002, Alain and I have been members of an internet cactus forum called Cactus_Study. Its moderator at the time was Michael Newberry from Tucson. However, last Christmas he was due to move to Flagstaff where his wife had found a great job. Yesterday we sent him an email intended to make him jealous that we were playing in his old back yard. To our surprise, we immediately received an email back from him, saying that he was still in Tucson and suggesting we’d meet up. So the coffee bar at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum was selected for a meeting. It was great to actually meet someone with whom we have had email correspondence (more receiving than sending in my case) for such a long time. Because of the ‘no notice’ nature of our visit, he could only stay for a few hours but invited us over to his place out in the desert where we arrived shortly after 5 and stayed until 11p.m. I had volunteered to be the non drinking driver. We had a great evening of chat, taking pictures of cacti in his garden and collection and looking at cactus pictures.
It also confirmed that a red spined population of F. cylandraceus that we had found on our Baja travels deserves further investigation as it may be something that has not been reported before. It was a fairly short stop of a group of some 30 plants and it would be good to establish the extent of this population and how it interacts with the traditional yellow spined form of the species.
After Michael had left we spent the rest of the day walking around the Desert Museum, took lots of pictures, especially as here there were labelled specimens, so that we could have a better chance of IDing the plants we had seen in nature earlier on in the trip. The labelling was excellent with simple distribution maps and a picture of the plant in flower. Also took pictures of a wide range of exotic looking birds and other animals from the desert in a kind of zoo section. Anton & Chris will no doubt remember the wolves (now only 1 left) and mountain lions that we saw in 1997.
All in all, it was probably the farthest we had walked since 1 Feb, from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, with a short break for lunch.
Tomorrow we intend to take the back road to the Organ Pipe (Cactus) National Monument. It seems that the Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) has a variety litoralis, which stays much smaller and prevails in Baja. We actually saw both var. thurberi and var. litoralis, but can’t remember where they changed and if it was gradually or sudden. Something to look out for in March.
We will probably spend tomorrow night again in Yuma, but will look for a motel with wifii. Then the next day we will drive to San Diego.