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Archive for March 5, 2009

Thursday 5 March 2009 – Isla Tiburon

I woke up at 5:45, about a minute before Eunice knocked on the door for the official wake up call. By 6:30 we were at the local OXXO shop for freshly made coffee and by 6:55 we drove up the beach where our skipper, Ariel, was getting ready to launch his boat. Unlike last year in Baja, where we had to get our feet wet to get into the boat, we were able to board while still on land. A tractor then pushed the trailer with boat into the water where the boat’s engine took over.

The sun was rising and peaking through quite dense cloud cover, but the Sea of Cortez was as smooth as a mill pond. This boat was quite a bit bigger than last year’s panga.

Earlier research on the net had revealed a report by a gentleman who had made a detailed study of the flora of the island group, published at:
http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.2181/1533-6085(2007)39%5B51:RTAAOS%5D2.0.CO%3B2 and http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.2985/1070-0048-14.1.127
I had extracted a list of the plants that we were interested in: Agave chrysoglossa, Bursera hindsiana, B. microphylla, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, Ferocactus tiburonensis, Lophocereus schottii, Mammillaria grahamii and Stenocereus gummosus. The Fero was our main target, although for Eunice the Agave was the most important.

As always, I was careful to take pictures of any cactus taxon that we saw (S1300 for this Stop) – even if ‘just for the record’, of an ugly plant that will never appear in a talk or publication. Of the plants listed, we did not see the Agave, the Cylindropuntia the Mammillaria or the Stenocereus gummosus. 

However, we did see our Fero, which mysteriously has been placed as a ssp of Ferocactus wislizenii, although our observations of plants, fruits (Alain) and flower (again Alain) suggest that is more likely to be related to F. cylindraceus, just like its island neighbour F. johnstonii on Isla Angel de la Guarda that we found last year.

We also found Stenocereus thurberi (NOT S. gummosus) and Fouquieria splendens and Carnegia gigantea. This last taxa grows also on the mainland here, alongside Pachycereus pringlei and it takes some second looks to check which is which, even though it should be easy. I still need to check if P. pecten-aboriginum occurs up here, ’cause without flowers / fruits etc. that could be a candidate for some of the plants we saw as well.

The island is reported to receive only 1 inch of rain per annum and there was no evidence of vegetation (such as Tillandsia, lychens etc) that elsewhere would suggest regular fogs, sufficient to sustain such a varied and dense flora. I bet the water table is not too far down and that the rock strata is able to filter out some of the salt.  

Next stop, S1301, was of the small island to the south of Isla Tiburon, which displayed a name plate of Isla Cholludo or Isla Cholludito. The leeside of the island was absolutely jam packed with tall Pachycereus prinlei. We did not have permits to land and the disembarkation and embarkation at S1300 had been sufficiently awkward to avoid it unless there was a rare cactus to see up close. There was not, so we missed seeing Ctenosaura hemilopha, also known as the Cape Spinytail Iguana. Even with permits, it would have been a real challenge to walk between the Cardon, as they grew so closely together and had Cholas fill the space between them.

Next we headed to a larger island that we believe to be Isla Turner, although Ariel called it Isla Danti, probably the Seris (the local tribe) word for the same island. Ariel said that we would not be able to land ‘because of the wind’. We wondered what he meant as the sea was still as smooth as a mill pond. We took pictures as we sailed along the island, a little disappointed that we would not stop. Next Ariel asked Alain to close the window at the front of the cabin – clearly he knew what was coming, as soon the wind picked up and I was treated to an almost continuous sea spray shower. Nice and refreshing, for a while, but after about an hour of regular soakings I became cold and crowded into the cabin, leaving Cliff ( on the lee side of the boat, to toughen it out.

It had been a great day but I was glad that we got back to the Hotel where I could change into some dry clothes. The cameras had been in plastic bags so were OK. My note book with recent kitty entries is still drying out.

It was still early. Alain & Eunice opted for lunch while I warmed up & Cliff had a snooze. When they got back, it was Eunice’s turn to feel tired, sending the 3 men out on our own for more cactus explorations.

We drove out to the north of Bahia Kino, past the spot where we had gone last night. We were surprised to find elderly US couples sitting with garden chairs and tables along the dirt track at intervals of a mile or so – strange way to spend a holiday, getting covered in dust – until we realised that they were marshals for an over 60s (or was it over 75s) rally for off road vehicles.   Anything went, it seemed, as we overtook anything from Doom Buggies to motorised golf carts. We stopped (S1302) to inspect some flowers on Fouqueria splendens. It seemed to me that the usually orange – red flowers were yellow on some of the plants. Closer inspection showed that when the flowers were fully open, the anthers, covered in pollen, caused the yellow appearance. As we were out of the car we decided to take stock of what else grew here and found the usual suspects:

S1303 had Pachycereus pringlei, including a stem that could not decide if it was going cristate or not, Fouquieria splendens, Bursera sp.(at least 2), Stenocactus schottii, S. thurberi, Pachycereus pringlei,

S1304 was a bit farther along and in addition to the above had Ferocactus sp. – I thought it looked the same at the Feros on the island, but Alain thought it was F. wislizenii – I’ll do a bit more reading & comparing images before I decide what I’ll be calling these plants – after all, naming is a personal opinion and we can all sometimes see different things, while looking at the same object. There was also a Mammilaria species here that I’ll continue to call M. sheldonii until a better name crops up. [PS: Mammillaria grahamii ssp. sheldonii is indeed reported from this area]. They do look like plants by that name that I have grown & killed in the UK. Stenocereus thurberi here was an absolute giant and I managed to get plants of P. pringlei & Carnegie gigantea side by side in the same picture!

S1305 was the last brief stop of the day as we found signs that we were on Seri territory and needed permits to take pictures. We found and photographed a Mam. and a Cylindropuntia sp. growing along the road, but decided to turn around rather than to invite problems.

We enjoyed another pleasant evening at the Red Fish Restaurant, where we spent as much on Margaritas and Tequila as we did on food – still, you’re only young once, as my kids keep telling me.