Yes, that’s right, Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil has a Santiago as well! And a wonderful hotel, the São João Palace Hotel. This was a welcome change from last night’s Palace Hotel, which just was not a palace – perhaps one in the making. I had a fairly miserable start to the day, but fortunately a couple of Imodium tablets settled things down quickly.
Again, it was a bright sunny day, but quite windy, causing my already red-raw eyes to run continuously. Thank God for auto-focus cameras, or else I would not have taken a single picture today.
Just two stops, but very nice ones, as we completed our list of Brazilian Frailea taxa. Marlon has been a mine of information and I’ll have to re-read his excellent article in Cactus World to match the information there to what we have seen. However, his studies were even more focussed on the Parodia (Notocactus) ottonis complex including investigations into their relationship with any of the other Parodia from this State, so I have been encouraging him to write an article for the Notocactus beginner, such as myself, that covers all the information and observations that he has shared with us.
First of the stops today was S1458, with the spectacular natural arch / bridge in the Cerro do Tigre on one side of the road with on the other side a walk through Lupines about to burst into bloom, to reach rock shelves with boulders (not quite Baja California’s boulder field at Catavina) and sand, with Frailea fulviseta and Parodia (Notocactus) glaucina growing in the sand on the edge of the rock shelves, between mosses and Dyckia sp. Marlon tells us that the natural arch has deteriorated significantly during the last 4 years and that at this rate it won’t be there for much longer.
Another climb up the boulders would have taken me to the type locality of Parodia (Notocactus) fusca, but my eyes were burning and watering so much from the wind and the dust (plus a good amount of pollen, causing hay fever just as in Spring in the UK) that I could not see where I was putting my feet. On this rocky terrain with tall grasses and shrubs hiding rodent burrows, it seemed wiser to give this climb a miss. Especially when Wiebe disturbed a wasp or hornet’s nest and received four stings for his efforts. Later, Cliff walked by too close as well and received a couple of stings before spotting the nest.
At the second stop, (S1459) my eyes had gotten worse, if that was possible. I followed the shapes of Cliff and Marlon, wiped my eyes and pointed my camera where they told me there were plants and auto-focus did the rest. A surprisingly good batch of images all things considered. Here Frailea cataphracta was the last name to join the list of Brazilian Frailea that we were to see on this trip. They were in plentiful supply and I could have pointed my camera almost anywhere along the ground to capture these tiny plants. Parodia (Notocactus) glaucina was also around, this time in better exposed locations and with the flowers opened wider.
The mountain goats in the group (all but me) had clambered up a rock face to photograph Gymnocalycium horstii ssp buenekeri. Eventually I followed gingerly. Who ever had named this plant for Rudi Bueneker could not have been very fond of the man, as the plants looked terrible in this harsh environment. If the aim of showing plants in UK C&S shows is to display cultivated plants that resemble their cousins in habitat, then all entries that I have seen in National and Branch shows should be disqualified for being too pretty. I made the point as my burning eyes ‘found’ a clump of plants that turned out to be ‘the brown form’ i.e. a mature cow pat. Echinopsis oxygona was seen by my fellow travellers but as it was not in flower, I was happy to find a shady spot underneath a tree until the others returned. The Frailea had again been the stars of this stop.