A mixed day: excellent weather, bright and sunny but not too hot (c 25C I guess) and with a light breeze. We had selected four known localities for Uebelmannia pectinifera from our data set. All were along the road from Diamantina to the village of President Kubitschek, named after arguably the most popular and successful President of Brazil during his 5 year term from 1956 to 1961. Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira was born and raised in this small village which is part of the Municipio of Diamantina where 33 years after his death he is still somewhat of a local hero.
But the first stop (S1519) was close to Diamantina. Here we hoped to find the form of Uebelmannia pectinifera that was sold in Europe under the name U. crebispina. We had the right idea and found a total of four plants about 500 m from the spot suggested and another two plants and four dead plants (borer beetle victims?) about 400 m. from the designated stop. Looking at Google Earth (no date for the images displayed there) it seemed to have been a lot wetter recently than at the time that the picture was taken. There was a sizeable bog between us and the location in the data base and the going was treacherous – there seemed to be huge cracks about 50 cm. (2ft) deep but covered in vegetation. These were half filled with water, if you were unfortunate to step into one of them. Google Earth suggested a nice ‘stone with quartz’ surface. Never mind, we were sure to find more at the next stop.
The next stop was at Datas, but was of a tourist nature, taking pictures of the architecture, particularly the church. We could always come back for the cactus location on the edge of town, although it was farther away from the main road then the other stops, but with ‘parking’ close to the town – it had looked a bit dodgy the day before as we passed with groups of youngsters enjoying themselves.
S1521 was the farthest away from Diamantina, a few km. before the turn to the village of Presidente Kubitschek. The plants were supposed to grow 10 m. from the road. The nearest ‘car park’ opportunity was a bit farther away but we recognised the habitat conditions, all the companion plants were there and we felt comfortable that we should find hundreds of Uebelmannia here.
Wrong! We found just one plant, less than 40 m. away from the spot that our database suggested. Cliff and I are convinced that on our way back to the car we actually walked over the database coordinates, but without finding any Uebelmannia.
Again, the place was thick with vegetation following October’s unusually heavy rains. But the ceroids here (Cipocereus minensis and ?? sp.) looked as though they had had a very hard time. Only recent new growth provided an indication to their identity. Cliff claims to have seen a third ceroid sp.
How did we know about these recent rains? We gave a lift back to Diamantina to a student couple. She was studying tourism and spoke very good English and he was reading agriculture. They had just finished a spell at the University farm looking after lambs. I was beginning to feel hungry. The amount of water (bog sites) was another indication of recent rain. And the vegetation was going mad!
After 90 minutes looking high and low, literally, we decided to call it a day and after a quick visit to the village named after the former President (again, nice church) we returned to our hotel. Better luck tomorrow, we hope.