We had booked a triple room, not knowing if Brian was going to be here or not. There were no double or quadruple rooms, so we asked permission for Brian to kip in a sleeping bag on an air mattress that we had brought along, and then went out for a meal (same restaurant where we had left his slides in 2005).
We overslept, waking up just after 8, but before long had showered, breakfasted and were standing at S1062, the new housing being built (since 2005!) on the road heading east out of La Quiaca. There, on a piece of wasteland between two blocks of building work, We found Cumulopuntia boliviana, Echinopsis (Lobivia) pugionacantha, some in flower, E. ferox / longispina, Maihueniopsis glomerata (or M. hypogaea?) and M. (Puna) subterranea, Tephrocactus nigrispina, Tunilla erectoclada and / or T. tilcarensis!! Not bad for what had seemed a ‘no hope stop’.
S1063 is for a brief stop on the road from Yavi to Suripujio, with most of the above cacti, in flower but without the back drop of a housing estate.
We found Cumulopuntia boliviana, Echinopsis (Lobivia) pugionacantha, some in flower, E. ferox / longispina, Maihueniopsis glomerata (or M. hypogaea?) and M. (Puna) subterranea, Oreocereus celsianus, Tephrocactus nigrispina, Tunilla erectoclada and / or T. tilcarensis!
The next stop (S1064) was the famed ‘Oreocereus forest’ at Suripujio. The area is known among the cognoscenti as the ‘Blossfeld site’, as it was first reported by Harry Blossfeld, when he found it in July 1935 during his Andean Expedition. We had seen it before in Brian & Leo’s pictures. They had not exaggerated, this was breath taking, awesome, we were speechless. The Oreos were O. celsianus and O. trollii and one or two plants that we found were hybrids with Echinopsis ferox. Brian is planning to describe these as Oreopsis cerox, or any other combination of the two names. Video clips were the only way to capture it. Once we had feasted our cameras on these plants, we started to look for other cacti and found: Neowerdermannia vorwerkii, Rebutia pygmaea, Cumulopuntia chichensis, C. boliviana, Tunilla corrugata, Lobivia ferox / longispina and probably a few more opuntioids yet to be IDed.
In 1931 (?) Friedrich Ritter found an Oreocereus sp. that he recorded as FR 409, near Abra Pampa 1931? (Ritter Band 2, Page 481). Unfortunately he did not find flowers or fruits.
Harry Blossfeld, on his Andean Expedition in July 1935 was north west of Abra Pampa near the Bolivian-Argentine border on his way to the famous Oreocereus hillside which among cognoscenti is known as ‘the Blossfeld Site’ Although many plants came to Europe from this Expedition, the hybrid remained unknown for many years. In 1995, Graham Charles, Roger Ferryman und Chris Pugh visited this site and found the plants noteworthy and gave information to Martin Lowry who, with his travel companions was on his way to look for Lobivia sanguiniflora near Santa Victoria. The Blossfeld Site was on the way. Lowry found in this Oreocereus forest also specimens of this hybrid and wrote an article in the British Cactus & Succulent Journal No4, Volume 18, December 2000: “A remarkable find at Yavi”
‘Cyrill’, from northern Switzerland writes on the Cactus Hybrid Forum: ‘On my first trip to North West Argentina in 2001/02 I wanted to see these plants in habitat. We were very fortunate and found plants with fruits! The resulting seedlings have since grown into young plants. Some are very slow growing and have strongly curved spines ‘und wirken eher verkrüppelt. Die Behaarung/Bedornung ist uneinheitlich’ and very variable.
Humming birds build their nests in the Oreocereus plants in habitat but I can not confirm if they play a role in pollination, probably assisted by insects. I’m curiously waiting when my plants will be ready to flower.
It was still relatively early as we drove back, satisfied, to La Quiaca, with good photography light, so we decided to take another look at the Yavias, first at a site recommended by Brian for its numerous plant (S1065) and second back to the Antenna Site (this time S1066), but alas, still no flowers. Brian believes that the pictures that he and Leo took here on Boxing Day 2001 were taken in the morning. Never mind.