Yesterday’s rainstorms seemed to have passed by, but the sky was still overcast and looked threatening. A good day for driving as we headed south-west to a huge man-made lake, the Repressa Passo Peal. At the very south of the lake were the three dams that had stopped the natural flow in the river and so had caused the formation of the lake.
But this bright Sunday morning we drove through a countryside reminiscent of counties in the south west of England on a sunny August day. Only the odd Araucaria and palm tree in the landscape and the lack of traffic and electricity pylons provided a hint that all was as not as it seemed and that we were in Brazil.
It was a bit worrying that whenever we had seen plants from the Eriocactus group in habitat, they tended to grow in impossibly difficult places – on high cliffs overlooking wide rivers, usually with us at the wrong side of the water. This was very much agriculture country and we were driving through fields heavy with grain and corn crops, ready to be harvested. Here we were driving through low gently rolling hills. Was Parodia (Eriocactus) claviceps different from its cousins in its habitat preference?
We made a stop (S1503) for a tree, heavy with Tillandsia and Rhipsalis sp. growing epiphytically.
S1504 was for a rocky outcrop that on previous days would have given us P. linkii, but no cacti here. In the distance we could see the lake appearing.
Around 13:00 we arrived at Salto do Jacui, south of which was the area, along the Rio Jacui, where P. claviceps was supposed to grow or have grown. The type locality for this plant is now reported to be several meters below the water level of the man made lake. But were there any plants still alive in the area? We asked the owners of our hotel for information and they confirmed that between the three dams there were indeed still stretches of river with steep cliffs along their edge.
For S1505 we arrived at one such dam, the Barragem Itaúba. Here we could see the steep cliffs, but they had been severely disturbed by the building of the dam. We inspected one of the cliffs just after the dam and found it covered for a distance of some ten meters with P. linkii, a very pretty form, particularly in its adolescent phase. They stopped abruptly where rainwater would wash any plant away as water from higher up the hill drained away over the cliff face. A bit farther along, the cliff was covered in 2-3 meter tall Cereus hildmannianus, with the plants leaning against the cliff face. Other plants reported from this short stretch of road include Begonia, just like the plants we grow on our windowsills or in garden bedding displays and a Sinningia sp. Less usual was another tarantula, out for a stroll, finding the road easier to negotiate then the vegetation. That’s probably why we see a good number as road kill.
As the road twisted away from the dam we seemed to have lost the river, so followed a warren of dirt tracks of varying quality looking for a waterfall that was alleged to exist her. It was a well kept secret, but eventually we spotted a small sign and then a bit farther on, the land fell away and we could see the expected cliffs. And just like on previous occasions we were on the wrong side. We took a number of pictures that back at the hotel we could blow up to show that indeed, this was the home of P. claviceps (S1506). But frustrated we had to turn round as there was no way to get closer and light was beginning to fade for photography.
S1507 was a bridge over the Rio Jacuizinho where we again took pictures of the cliff faces, much more distant here. We were unable to detect cacti on these pictures. And so back to the hotel.