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Archive for November 28, 2009

Saturday, 28 November – Grão Mogol to Salinas

Two nights earlier than planned we decided to move on. Salinas is a bigger town and as you can see, we have found a hotel with Internet Broadband facilities, so important to the modern day cactus explorer, so he can keep friends and family up to date with the goings on.

It continues to be the case that there are no obvious cactus stops that suggest themselves along the road. Unfortunately on the very smooth hard top but two lanes only BR 251, it is dangerous to slow down when things may start to look promising as the risk of being run down by giant trucks motoring along at 100 km p. hr. is not insignificant. Also, a car park lay by from which we might launch ourselves into the wilderness are few and far between and usually NOT near places with potential. So we resorted to noting a few known localities from the database and set off on our next stretch.

The first stop earmarked illustrated the problem. I had GPS coordinates for a spot along the road, and as we approached it there was a lorry on our tale and no car park. So, 750 m along, on a now deserted road, we did a U-turn and pulled over on the hard shoulder, parked the car and disappeared into the thick vegetation (S1554). Yes, through the trees was a rocky outcrop that promised cacti! The vegetation could be divided into three groups:

  1. Thorny, hanging on to clothes and hat or scratching bare skin

  2. Vines etc, trying to tie you in knots while you are trying to avoid (1) above

  3. Dead branches that the vines from (2) are attached to and drop on you when you pull too hard.

Each night I check for ticks but so far they have missed me.

You can see that in these circumstances it comes as a pleasant surprise when the aroma of a very pleasant perfume enters the nose. Where is the young lady wearing such pleasant perfume? Instead I noticed that I was standing next to an Orchid displaying two or three spikes of delicate green and white flowers.

I finally reached a huge rock and immediately found our target plant: nice azure blue Pilosocereus aurisetus the form previously known as P. supthutianus. I am still confused in the huge range of forms that are now classified under this name and might include a sequence of them in a future talk, particularly if I can explain the what & why for.

Climbing to the top of the rock got me to the nicest plants, plus a look at the other two cacti listed: Tacinga inamoena, that we will see ad nausea in Bahia, and a Melocactus ernestii form, may be ssp longicarpus. I only found one Melo and it was hanging precariously from one root over the edge of the rock, well out of my reach, but within zoom lens reach.

With the pictures taken, I noticed a car pull up in front of our car and two men in uniform getting out and taking a look at it. I was quickly back at the side of the road where they turned out to be a breakdown patrol. Either some one had phoned in a report of a deserted vehicle, or they had just happened on us during their regular patrol. There was much smiling and thumbs-up from me to indicate that all was OK and that we were just cactus loco tourists.

Later we saw that the use of the hard shoulder in Brazil is not such a great idea, as it is frequently used when lorries overtake each other as an escape route for oncoming traffic.

S1555 was a track off BR 251 in the hope that we might find somewhere interesting to take a look without the parking and lorry problems. Only one problem remained: no cacti!

S1556 was a pleasant surprise. At the Type locality of Micranthocereus violaciflorus (HU275), we readily found the plants, growing on rocks behind a microwave communication tower. I bet that was not there when the plants were discovered in the 60s/70s! What the location notes did not reveal was that there was also an abundance of Discocactus here, probably D. placentiformis, as well as P. fulvilanatus. The bad news was that, probably within the last twelve months, a fire had swept through here. Bare quartz with many charcoal black Velloziaceae stems were the scene, with blackened Micranthocereus on the rocks. Most of the Discocactus again seemed to have survived, although most were badly scorched by the flames. There were old and young plants and evidence that some had flowered last night, so it looks as though these plants will survive. Many of the Micranthocereus looked less fortunate – time will tell.

Brasilicereus markgraffii was also here, but that plant always looks ‘beaten up’ so seemed unaffected.