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Alain had studied Pillbeam’s Ferocactus book, Eunice had found Lindsay papers on the internet and between them they suggested another location for Ferocactus schwarzii, near Cofradia. Eunice had asked her SatNav system how to get there and it seemed possible to get to the area, have a look round, hopefully find the plants and drive to Mazatlan, arriving before sunset.

Getting out of Culiacan was the usual problem of a large town with insufficient signage. SatNav has its merits, but here, we often found ourselves on fresh tarmac that the Navigation system did not yet know about, even though it had received the latest updates available via the internet. Once out of the town we stopped to photograph Agaves (S1323), not in natural habitat, but fields of A. tequiliana being cultivated for the production of Mescal as only the drink produced in the state of Jalisco produced under licence from the fermentation of parts of this Agave may legally be called Tequilla – the shots might come in useful for a future talk as it illustrates one of the many uses of cacti and other succulents.

We changed from tarmac to dirt. These tracks were wide enough for one car, with overtaking bays created to deal with the challenge of oncoming traffic. Fortunately these tracks are very quiet and the drivers we have met, very considerate, just like we are. We made a stop at S1324, for an Agave found growing by the side of the road. Soon, others of the same taxon were found. We’re not totally sure of the name, so it remains Agave sp. for now. While we were there, we photographed Opuntia sp.#1 (the boring ‘seen anywhere’ type) and O. sp. #2, (a ‘different’ growing tall, with long pads and bluish fruits and Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum ‘just for the record’. As we were climbing aboard in our car, I think that it was Alain who spotted another ‘different’ cactus. This was a plant with green thin (to 5 cm diameter) stems that was growing leaning on the branches of a beaten up tree. Most of the stems had just three ribs. I’m familiar with Hylocereus as grafting stock used in Europe – and not very long lived in that role as most European growers are not prepared to provide the heat that this plant requires. I have no idea what it looks like in habitat or if it has been reported from these regions, but that would be my guess: Hylocereus sp.

If I had been in Brazil, I would have described the vegetation as Catinga, low deciduous forest. The vegetation is quite dense, with just about every plant equipped with long sharp spines to keep animals (including humans) out.  This had been quite typical for the area east of Mex15. We had been lucky to have spotted Ferocactus pottsii in this dense vegetation a few days ago. Literature seemed to suggest that F. schwarzii would be found on ‘open hills’. We searched for these as well, but no luck. 

A bit farther along, we could see a structure rising from the forest, a dam, which had created a huge man made lake. We drove to the dam (Presa de Sanalona, still S1324) to take some pictures of the lake and to see if, from this vantage point, we could see some ‘open hillsides’. No such luck. When we passed by the dam again later in the day, we saw a group of snow white pelicans on its shore. Mike H., any suggestions to name and rareness?

I believe that S1325 was just a brief comfort break stop with seven ‘just for the record’ pictures of Agave sp., Opuntia sp. (the boring type), Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum and Stenocereus alamosensis.

We had tried all day to get to Cofradia and although I had no hope that we would find F. schwarzii in the village itself, it had become important to me to actually get there before considering how to get to Mazatlan for the night and how many more stops to make. S1326 was at the sign welcoming us to the few houses that are Cofradia and more ‘for the record’ pictures of Agave sp., Hylocereus sp, Opuntia sp #1 (boring type) and O. sp. #2 (yesterday’s ‘very interesting plant with flat growth habit), Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum, as well as of some ‘interesting trees’ with interesting peeling bark that is not a bursera as far as we could tell and other with ‘interesting fruits’. These were obvious signs of frustration, of lack of cacti on a cactoholic. I stopped myself just in time taking some pictures of cow pats ‘because of ‘their interesting patterns’ before the men in white coats came to take me away.

Please send emergency parcels of cacti to be dropped liberally in the road between Mazatlan and Durango!

But seriously, we have learned a great deal about the Mexican States on Sonora and Sinaloa and have been fortunate to have found a number of cacti, some expected, some unexpected and some yet to be identified. We’ve been impressed and ultimately depressed by the amount of corn that is grown in this area – no Mexican should go hungry as long as they do not have a corn allergy.

We still have to agree the detail of what we’ll do tomorrow as I can’t get on the internet in our 4th floor hotel room overlooking the Sea of Cortez, where I just managed to snap the tail end of ‘not another bloody sunset’. I need to check data on Google Earth that can only be checked out once I have a connection – which will happen in the foyer in the morning when I send this message out.

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