Friday the Thirteenth. Another one! Still, the last one turned out OK (was that really a month ago?!)
We set off late. We needed to decide which way we wanted to head home to the US. Where as in Sonora & Sinaloa the obvious choice was limited to one main highway, we now had a number of options open. And while in the previous states it was reasonably easy to select targets for a plant hunt, here we were really spoiled for choice. the list of 1,500 plant names and locations (some no more than the name of a town) was like browsing through a Mexican Cactus Lexicon. Just like kids in a sweetie shop with only a few minutes to decide what they wanted. The time budget is relentless. Because of the late start (due to deciding what was where and what, sadly, could not be fitted in) we decided to head for Gomez Palacio, part of a trio of towns that had merged together (the others were Ciudad Lerdo and Torreon, which is across the border in the State of Coahuila.
Again, to make the best of the time available, we used the (expensive – but empty and reasonable quality) toll road to get to a selected side road from where ‘cactus clusters’ had been reported. After our experiences to date, we had become quite cynical about today’s success rate.
We left the Mex 40 toll road at Guadelupe Victoria and continued on the free Mex 40, liberally strewn with topes and vibrasiones to keep our speed down and massage my back (which has improved nicely) and made our first stop of the day (S1335) when Eunice spotted a Yucca in flower along the road. It was not long before we had spotted a few Coryphantha sp. growing behind a barbed wire fence – no problem for experienced Cactus Explorers. Eunice in the mean time found more Corys at the ‘legal’ side of the fence than we did behind it. Other plants recorded were Cylindropuntia sp. with bright yellow fruits and very dark body contrasting nicely with each other, Fouquieria splendens, Opuntia ‘santa rita’ (the name everyone understands, pending a look as to what current name is in favour this time) Opuntia robusta (again, needs a check when I get home), Opuntia sp. #1 & 2.
The next stop was just outside Pedriceña, as Eunice had spotted two Agave sp. and no fencing on her side of the car. ‘Just a quick one then’, we grumbled, as we grudgingly went for a ‘stomp about’ to see what else might be here (S1336). BINGO! Sclerocactus uncinatus ssp wrightii, ironically called the Chihuahuan Fishhook cactus, while we were far south in Durango. It is quite impressive how this plant has been moved around by botanists, having been in Ancistrocactus, Echinocactus, Ferocactus and Glandulicactus, probably lined up for a spell in Thelocactus when Cliff gets home. The area was covered by A. lechuguilla and on the hills (and also a few dotted along the road) was A. scabra. Other very welcome surprises included the species recorded at the previous stop, plus Coryphantha sp. (these looked different from those at the previous stop), Cylindropuntia kleiniai, or was it C. leptocaulis? Echinocereus sp. (probably E. stramineus), a small opuntioid that looked a bit like O. standleyi, Mammillaria laisiacantha fa. and a Yucca sp. Not bad at all, and clearly more than just a quick stop.
S1337 was again prompted by Eunice spotting some Agave, Yucca and Hechtia (2 different sp.). Ah well, the last stops she had called turned out excellent, so let’s take a look. Ferocactus hamatacanthus! Opuntia sp. #1 and #2 and a plant that could be a Coryphantha sp, Mammillaria sp. or Neoloydia conoidea – no flowers, fruits to give the game away and the plants were dry and not showing off their tubercles to allow us to look for groves etc. Come to thing of it, I would not be surprised if all three genera were here and photographed. Looking for Agave etc. turned out to be not such a bad thing, as they seemed to like similar habitats to cacti and their spent flower stalks were easy to spot. The plants grew in very photogenic situations on a steep rock face – attractive but tricky to get close to plants.
The last stop was at the Presa Francisco Zarco, a dam and a man-made lake with a very nice view across the lake that made it tempting to wait for sunset, but common sense prevailed and we managed to pull into our Best Western hotel before it was dark.
Let’s hope that today’s great day heralds a change in fortunes.