Saturday, 21 November – around Diamantina
As we can afford the time, we thought that today we’d do some conservative exploring. That meant taking another look near some places that we missed for various reasons earlier in the week on our way to Inhai.
You may recall that last Monday (16th) we were still feeling like a couple of greenhorns out in Uebelmannia country. There was a certain tension as I had high expectations of the digital images I would take to supplement the relatively small number of slides that I had from my ’99 stay in Diamantina. We gained a lot more experience and confidence since then.
First stop of the day was at last Monday’s Discocactus placentiformis site (S1523). This time (S1539) we almost stumbled over Arthrocereus melanurus ssp odorus that Marlon had told us we would find here. But the real reason to return here was to explore (walk 290 m.) to where he had found Uebelmannia pectinifera (Inhai form). In fact, we did not have to go that far. We spotted some black rocks and headed for them instead and sure enough, before long we had found the Uebels. Now, with digital cameras at our disposal, it is possible to take several pictures of each plant we see, compared of the 36 pictures for the day at perhaps 6 or 7 stops. I have been really impressed with the variability of these plants in habitat, with spines ranging from very short (and spreading on immature plants) to the rigid row of porrect spines, much longer than ever seen in cultivation on old plants. So far we have only seen flowers at one population. Why?
Also photographed here was a humming bird feeding on an unidentified shrub, Cipocereus minensis and the odd few Discocactus placentiformis that had survived crossing the road. Why is it that sometimes roads seem to provide a natural limit to a plant’s habitat.
We became convinced that anywhere along this track we could stop the car, walk west towards the Rio Jequitinhonha and found a rocky outcrop with Uebelmannia growing on it. To prove the point we made a random stop (S1540) and BINGO! Uebelmannia pectinifera as well as A. melanurus ssp odorus, P. aurisetus (the plant that I reported yesterday as ‘bugging me for a name), Euphorbia sipolisii and a Philodendron sp. (Cheese plant) with aerial roots that ran 10 m or more from the plant over the rocks. There was also the Tigridia (Tiger Lily) that we had been seeing all over Rio Grande do Sul, but this time taller, larger and yellow in colour.
S1541 was to prove us wrong – all the usual companion flora was there, but no Uebelmannia. Why?!? To make up for matters we found our first, but only few, plants of Cipocereus crassisepalus. It would seem that these are the rare plants, not the Uebelmannia!
On the snow white quartz sand that the river had deposited as a small ‘beach’ there were tracks to indicate that a snake had been through here.
Just before the famous bridge over the Rio Jequitinhonha was a turn east, to the village of Maria Nunes. The track ran along the river and we could see kids from the village play in the river from snow white quartz sand beaches. We had our daily Coca Colas from the fridge of the tiny village bar, again, much to the surprise of the owner and her family.
The last stop of the day (S1542) was on the south (Diamantina) side of the bridge over the Rio Jequitinhonha that we reported as being under repair last time that we crossed it. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a suggestion that although we parked at the bridge, we walked some 500 m. back along the track and then walked towards the river, through dense vegetation on rough quartzite rocks to find Uebelmannia. So we repeated the experience and within seconds had found a dozen plants. By now, it was boiling hot and we had more images of Uebelmannia from today then I had taken during the whole of the 1999 trip! Time to cool down in the air-conditioned car again.
We made one more (unnumbered) stop that yielded no cacti for the day. It was at the end of a short track from where a foot path ran about 20 m. to the river for a nice picture where the clouds reflected briefly on a smooth river, before a welcome breeze started up again and disturbed the water. A ‘no cactus found’ stop.
It was our last night at the Hotel bar and snack bar, where for the last week Raphael, our barman and Nilsa the cook had been very welcoming and interested in what these ‘cactus loco’ people from England had done each day. Most nights, we were the only customers, with most other customers ordering food and drinks to be taken to their rooms. They learned more English (and we Portuguese) than either of us knew before and I’m sure that each time that they see a cactus, they’ll think of us. We have very fond memories of them.