We finally had a relatively relaxed day, away by around 9 a.m. and back by 4 p.m. The aim was to find as many Parodia haselbergii ssp graessneri (to give them their full name, P. graessneri for short) in habitat. We had found a circuit of dirt tracks that would take us through the Araucaria covered hills (up to 1,250 m altitude yesterday). In this scenery we would occasionally see the high steep cliffs that are the preferred location for our target plant.
This turned out a more challenging task than first imagined, after yesterday’s spell of good luck. Murphy’s Law was at work which meant that although we could see some magnificent cliffs, they would have the wrong aspect (our plants prefer north facing cliffs, where, at midday, they can bake in the sun) or they would be on the other side of a valley, with a wide, fast flowing river between us, too far away even to confirm their presence through binoculars or zoom lenses.
On occasions we found that the track that we had driven on had run along the edge of such a cliff, but that we had been blissfully unaware of this as dense vegetation, perhaps only a meter deep, had kept us from seeing the opportunity. Occasionally we went back to such a spot but only found more and more P. linkii, providing only useful additional dots on the distribution map for this species. Never mind, we took the opportunity to try to improve on our linkii pictures,
S1497 was therefore for general scenery along the track, including a reasonably sized tarantula spider that refused to pose on Cliff’s hand. Should provide some useful video though.
At S1498 we barely had time to climb some 40 m above the road before two farmers on horseback commandeered us down, wanting to know what we were up to. Marlon explained, but they remained suspicious, perhaps because of our out-of-state plates on the car. They did tell us that the previous evening and through the night there had been heavy rains which explained the puddles that at times made the track a slippery mud bath. We also learned that Santa Catarina was the State of the Apple with orchards on the hillside where ever the slope would allow. This in turn explained why occasionally we would quickly close our windows as clouds of pesticide, fungicide and other nasties were being sprayed on the fruit trees. Wonder if they’ll hit the supermarket shelves as ‘organic produce’ at a premium price. Wonder if they still use DDT out here, or other chemicals that work but have long been banned in Europe.
Pictures taken at S1499 include one of Marlon, flat on his belly at the cliff’s edge, carefully poking his nose over the edge in search of P. graessneri, while likely crushing a dozen plants of P.linkii in the process. The plants seemed to be moving to the edge of the cliffs and some had even managed to find some sort of foothold (roothold?) on the vertical rock face.
S1500 is to show that P. linkii grows in the Araucaria forest as well as in open exposed rock faces. It’s flexibility in growing in a range of locations is a good reason why it is much more plentiful than P. graessneri. It also produced an amusing video clip of two beetles pushing a ball of mud (no, not dung) along the track.
We agreed to have a cooked lunch as our hotel does not seem to do this in the evening. Reaching tarmac at Bom Jardin da Serra (the Good Garden of the Hills) seemed a good place for yet another meat feast.
S1501 was a stop at a viewpoint along the road at the Rio do Rastro Eco Resort. A truly dramatic scene of the road zigzagging down into the valley. We had timed it well as within 15 minutes of our arrival the clouds closed in and we found ourselves in a mist. So instead the cameras were pointed at a family of ring tailed coati, as pushy as ever, taking biscuits and apples from the tourists. Not the diet that the doctor ordered, me thinks. Nice pics though, that should get a few oohs and aahs at talks. Should have used the camcorder as well. The altitude here was 1,422 m, as high as we had been during this trip.
As mentioned before, we returned to our hotel around 4 for downloading images and writing and sending out Diary reports. By 5 it was raining and with that the internet went down, so more patience all round is the solution for now.