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Archive for March 21, 2009

Saturday, 21 March 2009 – La Junta to Ciudad Chihuahua

The area where we spent the night was flat and uninspiring. How were we going to find cacti here? To the east and to the north was Mennonite country. I was surprised to find how little I knew about these people. To learn more about this curious religious sect, take a look at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mennonites

The area where they live is flat and featureless. All small settlements are known as a Campo and given a number. The problem was that these numbers are written as text on the map we had, and in numbers on the signs, and I never took the Spanish classes where we did numbers greater than 12. Needless to say, very cm / inch of land had been cultivated and we did not even bother to look for cacti. Pictures of Mennonite country have been filed under ‘S1369 – no cacti or other succulent plants’.

We wanted to get to the Cumbres de Majalca National Park, north of the town of Chihuahua. There is only one road in, at the south-east side and we approached from the south-west, had taken the long route north, then east, then south to get there. The route north was the Mennonite stretch already discussed. When we turned east (shown as CHIH 50 on road side signs, but as CHIH 160 on the road map) we saw some low hills and as we hit the rocks, farming stopped abruptly. A few km in (still outside the park) and we stopped to take a ‘quick look’ (S1370) that was really welcome after the cactus less morning: We found Agave parryi – massive plants as well as young seedlings, Coryphantha sp., Echinocereus polyacanthus – including two plants in flower and Mammillaria barbata (syn. M. morricalli), just three tiny plants, but one in bud and the other in flower. It seems we’ve been arriving just a bit too soon for flowering here. Going through my pictures, it seems that I travelled most of the day with the camera’s GPS switched off, so will have to retrace my steps the hard way.

S1371 was a bit farther along on CHIH 50 as the road went through large patches of Agave parryi – very impressive, and some equally impressive scenery.

We hit the main Juarez / El Paso (border with the US) to Chihuahua road, MEX 45 and after some 40 km turned west on to the road into the Park. S1372 was at km 21 and on the road into the park. Here we found more Agave parryi, but also Echinocereus pectinatus / dasyacanthus – difficult to tell when not in flower, I’ll call them all pectinatus, short for ‘pectinatus complex’ for now and will read up about them when I get home (I did translate a book on this complex from German into English, for the German Arbeitsgruppe Echinocereenfreund but my memory does not go back far enough to remember the main differences). Alain got quite excited about a Euphorbia sp. that looked at first glance like Edelweiss*. We found it in flower and in fruit. It is not really succulent, but looked cute. During this time I noticed that the GPS had been off all day. So I’m back with having accurate Stop data from this stop on again.

S1373 is for scenic shots and brief leg stretches between S1372 and our turn around point in the village of Cumbres de Majalca. Plants recorded include: Agave parryi, Coryphantha sp., and an Opuntia sp – huge pads, yellow flowers, but mainly still in bud.

Tomorrow we start looking at cacti close to Chihuahua on the way to El Paso.

Dear Alain,
What you found is Euphorbia radians var. radians. Indeed, it looks very much like an edelweiss when in flower – but hidden underneath soil level there is a big tuber. It always surprises me that it isn’t more popular  in collections.
Wouldn’t its discovery make a nice article in the Euphorbia World?
Greetings Volker Buddensiek