Today was different. We had been swapping people between the two cars to prevent the ‘two isolated car parties’ syndrome, that can lead to problems. Angie and I had so far been a permanent feature in ‘our’ car, but now that she had gone home, I joined Woody and John. As you know, I’m a cactus nut, but equally mad about music. In fact, I’d go mad if I had to spend long times without my music. To prevent this, I take an iPod on my trips loaded up with 27,277 ‘songs’, some are just tracks from CDs while others are complete albums (Albumwraps) or radio programs like the hour long Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio programs. So today I turned into DJ PK and made the car rock. Woody and John were putting in their requests, so we had, amongst others, Dion & the Belmonts, The Four Seasons, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the BeeGees and a string of Neil Young’s greatest at full volume as we bumped across the tracks of RGdS. We moaned in frustration when Marlon in the other car called a stop and could not wait to get back to the car for another music session. I’ll never forget the music aspect of today’s experiences.
The cactus content of today’s report got overlooked by the actual cactus activities and airport runs at the time. Marlon suggested another day around Lajeado and I’ll use the images of that day to tell the story of the three stops that we made.
The first stop of the day, S1471, was at a bridge over a river with those cliffs that we had come to recognise from yesterday’s leninghausii experience as potential cactus locations and sure enough, Marlon promised that after the usual hike through dense undergrowth between the river and the foot of the cliff, we should be able to see Parodia leninghausi‘s sister species, P. warasi. That just leaves P. claviceps as the only remaining species, in what used to be the genus Eriocactus, to be found. Marlon reports that the habitat of P claviceps has been destroyed through the building of a dam. The plants drowned in the lake that was formed to generate electricity. We hope to visit the site later on the trip and hope to explore to see if there are any nearby survivors. Other cacti spotted here are Lepismium cruciforme, Lepismium warmingianum, Cereus hildmannianus, and Rhipsalis sp. growing alongside Begonia sp, Oxalis sp. and a host of unidentified plants that are of little interest to cactologists.
S1472 was a similar walk to the previous hike, except that this time the dense vegetation was replaced by a ploughed field with huge boulders. The field had already been planted with tobacco plants and we wanted to be careful not to damage the crop. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun – and cactoholics from any corner of the planet!. When we reached the base of the steep cliff, we could see the plants hanging above us, but not the large clumps like the P. warasi at the previous site and the P. magnificus earlier. These were individual globular plants the size of an orange, some reaching grapefruit size. Nicely white spined and some with red flowers. Now to get to them without killing ourselves. At one stage, John, Woody and I were perched on a narrow ledge. OK, so it was ‘only’ 10 m. down, but a fall would likely have killed or severely injured us. Only cactusmaniacs …..
There was also a nice Dyckia sp. here – Marlon has promised to provide names in due course, and Sinningia (loads of these around), popular with hummingbirds. And if I only new the names for the hundreds of species of field flowers that we have seen on our strip I could do a complete presentation on these alone – what diversity compared to a walk in nature in the UK! Or do I just keep my eyes shut there in the knowledge that I won’t see cacti?
S1473 was simply a road cutting with the 3 m high sides covered in yellow flowers: P. linkii and P. oxycostata with Marlon giving lessons on how to distinguish the two: flower size, stigma colour, rib count and form etc. First we became super lumpers, giving them all the same, then, adopting German accents, became super splitters, observing the minute differences in spine counts etc between individual plants that can give rise to ‘new discoveries’ named after friends.
We arrived back in Lajeado exhausted before making another run to the restaurant complex in the nearby shopping centre where we pigged out on meat washed down with generous quantities of beer and cola.