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Archive for October 19, 2009

Monday, 19 October 2009 – Canguçu to Caçapava do Sul

Still trying to get used to the hectic pace that can be part of field trips, my notes for today are abysmal. That is the great thing of being part of a group, others can help you out. So with the help of Angie via MSN chat and Marlon’s stop numbers and relevant data and with plotting these on Google Earth, I can tell you that we took road BR-392 from Santana da Boa Vista towards Canguçu, and that after some 32 km from the entrance of Santana da Boa Vista, we turned left (north) onto an unpaved road to Paredão, after 8.1 km granitic rock outcrops to the right of the road. was our first stop, S1408, providing us with pictures of Gymnocalycium horstii, Parodia ottonis nothominusculus and Frailea gracillima.

For S1409 we left the car at the same place as for S1408 but walked to a different hillside aspect where Frailea gracillima, Parodia (Wigginsia) langsdorfii (with strong central spine) and P. ottonis nothominusculus provided the cactus interest with a blueish Iris sp and small Petunia (endemic here) provided the colour.

Marlon was shocked to see what had happened here since his last visit in 2006. At the time it was obvious that the area would be cleared and planted up with trees – Eucalyptus and pine, mainly for the paper industry. It seems unlikely that the cacti can survive this change of habitat use. A great shame, but usually commercial interests outweigh plant conservation issues.

We moved some 2 km towards Santana da Boa Vista for S1410 and found two species of Eryngium, belonging to the family Apiaceae, although their appearance suggests that they are Bromeliads. Once the flower spikes are produced, things become clearer. The flowers are clustered in tight umbels, with a whorl of spiny basal bracts. Although these plants occur in Europe, their centre of diversity is in South America. I have no pictures of the P. ottonis that Marlon reports from here.

Things were a lot easier at S1411 where the raised side of the track, was covered in P. ottonis in advanced bud. In theory we only needed to wind the windows down to get the pictures, but with seven people jockeying for position, out of the car was easier.

S1412 was not for plants, but to take pictures of Cliff & Wiebe’s valiant efforts to get our Fiat Doblo up a steep part of the track. Woody had already managed this feat in the lead car, but our almost bald front tyres (on a front wheel drive car) had no chance and just spun round aimlessly. There was no other solution than to go back. Combined with a gutless engine (it became a bit better when we changed from an alcohol/petrol mix to pure petrol mix at the next fuel station). As consolation we still managed a few images of P. ottonis growing at the top of the hill where the car would not go.

Angie and I had been looking forward especially to S1413 where we again found P.ottonis, but growing alongside a new, yet to be described Frailea sp. Marlon had first come across this plant during previous trips and a picture of it appears on the back cover of one of the Cactus World journal (details to follow when I get home). Marlon had sent Angie some 20 seeds from the only fruit with ripe seed found and although there had been reasonable germination, Angie’s green fingers had failed this plant. Others who were given seedlings to graft were similarly disappointed. By Spring 2009 there was one plant left and it flowered. Angie stirred the flowers in the hope that self pollination would produce some seed and at least this was successful.

So you can imagine our excitement at seeing this plant in quite some numbers before us in habitat. It is nice to see that there are still things to be discovered and that mere mortals like ourselves can play a role in this. Quite a few plants were in flower. We should have some viable seed next year.

At S1414 we took more Frailea pictures, F. pygmaea, together with Parodia ottonis, Gymnocalycium denudatum, and Cereus hildmannianus and a variety of animal droppings for use in a future Zone Quiz. Animal grazing had taken the tops out of the Gymnocalycium and it was amazing to see how these plants had managed to generate new heads from the centre of the damaged stem. They must have a very deep meristem.

S1415 was for a tree that had a large Lepismium lumbricoides hanging from its branches.

The last stop (for Cliff & I) was S1416 for Frailea gracillima, Parodia ottonis. We again failed to negotiate a steep part of the track so Cliff & I waited by our car while Angie joined the other car to take a look at P. scopa, before returning and driving exhausted to our hotel.

Great day – again!