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Archive for November 2, 2009

Tuesday, 3 November 2009 – Around Caxais do Sul

We were joined today by Franco Celli, a botanist friend of Marlon’s at the Universidad do Caxais do Sul. On several occasions we had driven past the sign to a village called Ana Rech, the locality after which Buining named Brasiliparodia, now Parodia rechensis. Marlon knew that the type locality of this plant had been destroyed, flooded as a reservoir filled up behind a dam to generate electricity. Franco had been part of a University project to collect specimens of the cacti from Rio Grande do Sul and had found another location. And so we found our way making the usual walk, then climb through dense vegetation, with all plants determined to trip you up, tear you to bits or sting you, while the air force, consisting of horse flies and mosquitoes of various sizes provided their additional challenges. The whole walk was made even less comfortable for me as my nose picked up the scent of honeysuckle in flower all around us, always a good aroma to trigger my hay fever. Franco’s machete helped to clear a path. We ended up on a rocky plateau (S1484) some 200 m. above the lake – again the usual flat rock covered in patches of mosses and lichens and surrounded by shrubs. And there, underneath a bush, was a cluster or two of our target plant.

We were distracted by Woody who had spotted a couple of tarantulas in a courting ritual. The lady of the couple proved quite shy and disappeared into their burrow while he sat still, probably hoping that we had not seen him. Cameras clicked and pictures were taken – they turned out a bit too dark, but there is a lot you can do with image editors. Before we forget about cacti altogether, we also found the omni-present Parodia linkii here, about to open its flowers.

And so on to S1485, to a rock face near the road where Sinningia sp. and Parodia (Brasilicactus) haselbergii ssp graessneri were competing for the attentions of the local hummingbird. The plants had a bit more green and yellow to their spination than on yesterday’s stop, but it was still a far cry from the much darker spines that we are used to seeing in cultivation in Europe. Marlon and Franco tell us that these darker populations are found in the next State to the north, so we may pay a visit there during the next few days. In the mean time, they looked stunning against dark rocks and mosses and in one place, almost strangled by Lepismium lumbricoides.

We treated Franco to lunch after which he took us to S1486 for another population of P haselbergii proper, again, very photogenic. From here, Franco pointed to a rock face pointing into the valley and told us that P. leninghausii grew there. When we arrived at the spot (S1487), the vegetation along the edge of the steep drop down (for several 100 m sky-diving) was very dense and too crumbly to risk hacking through and find out that we’d reached the edge before our flight. I love my zoom lens that enabled me to add some half decent shots to my leninghausii portfolio. During the last two stops my GPS had been playing up – probably the connection with the camera. Or perhaps being close to the rock wall and with dense clouds building up for a mighty thunderstorm had blocked the satellite signal. We’ll see tomorrow. In the mean time I have Marlon’s GPS data.

Last stop of the day was at the University greenhouses or rather the plastic tunnels where Franco’s collection of habitat Parodias were housed. A change in role meant that somebody else was now looking after the plants and not doing as well as might be expected, with mealy bug outbreaks in a number of trays. But it was nice to see plants that we had seen in habitat here side by side and compare their appearance and guess their names. I didn’t do too badly, but need to carry on learning more.

Many thanks to Franco for showing us some wonderful stops.


Monday, 2 November 2009 – Cambará do Sul to Caxias do Sul

Sorry for the break in communications, but the last few nights were in accommodation where there was no internet facility or if there was, it blocked MSN.

Today would be Wiebe’s last day with us, so we spent the morning exploring and in the afternoon Cliff & I drove him to the airport at Porto Alegre.

We started with a look around Fazenda Pandorama, the farm converted to holiday cabanas where we had spent the night. The 3-4 ostriches kept in a pen were of interest, photographically as were the cacti, bromeliads, ferns, mosses and lichens covering the tree. Woody called us over to take a look at one Rhipsalis sp. in flower. Cliff posed for the traditional picture as the pollinator for this plant and I can confirm that the flowers had a lemon-like aroma. As there were plants here, This stop was numbered S1477.

We soon found the track from where our ‘target plant’ for the day was reported from and made a series of four stops, with some distance between our two cars, to cover as large an area as possible in the shortest possible time. S1478, S1479 and S1480 turned out to be just the usual Parodia linkii and P oxycostata growing on rocky outcrops again covered in mosses and lichens. It must at times get very wet around here and on a regular basis.

At S1481 I was about to return to the car from ‘my’ rocky outcrop, again to file a negative report, when Wiebe shouted and waved excitedly from his small hill. We all quickly rushed over, me arriving first, in time to be told by Wiebe to be quiet as I joined him, because in front of him was a hole below a rock and a small armadillo was sitting in the opening. Thoughts of looking for Parodia graessneri were forgotten, this was great! I managed a good few shots before the animal disappeared. Wiebe whispered that there were five young in total and when he first arrived they were all out at play.

He then told me that there were indeed P. graessneri as well. These were already being photographed by the others who were unaware of the armadillo burrow. These were not the P. graessneri with which I was familiar in Europe. In fact they looked more like P. haselbergii, with white rather than yellow spines. The greenish flowers however were indicative of P.graessneri.

P1482 was a bonus, another new (for this trip) species to add to the list: Parodia (Brasiliparodia) buenekeri with of course P. linkii also present.

S1483 combined a stop at a viewpoint for another waterfall with Wiebe’s goodbye. The two hour plus drive to Porto Alegre was a quiet one, as no one likes to say cheerio to a great travel companion. See you in Holland in 2010!

Cliff and I then had the challenge to find the other car and its occupants in Caxais do Sul. We reached the outskirts of town in good time and then (2nd attempt) found a phone box that worked, so that I could ring Marlon’s mobile to discover where they had booked into a hotel. Amazingly the call went through without problems. Even more amazingly they described a hotel along the main road that we had travelled by with five new blue tractors parked in front of it. As we had driven past it earlier on the way to Porto Alegre I had thought: ‘I hope that they pick this one.’ Finding it again turned out more tricky, as Brazilian road numbers seem to be used for more than one road (a new bypass?), but an hour later we were there!