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All over Holland and Belgium, children were sweetly at play with their toys, brought to them by Sinterklaas.

It was a bright but overcast day as Cliff and I set out with our toys, our cameras, bought many moons ago.

S1572 took us back to the Itaobim – Itinga road where yesterday we had left the stop nearest to the hotel for another day, due to the weather at the time. It was here that in 1999 we found a large population of Melocactus ernestii with multiple cephalia. The plants have also been known under the name of M. multiceps as a result. This time, we found only Melocacti and Coleocephalocereus aureus to the north of the road and only one of the Melos had a multiple (double) cephalium. We can only assume that the others have disappeared due to collecting with the hobby in Europe, the USA and Japan as the main takers. If you have a habitat collected plant from here – shame on you! All the other plants found yesterday were here too, except C. purpureus.

Most remarkable find: a 3m (yes, 9 ft) tall Arrojadoa penicillata growing against the trunk of a tree for support. Is this the tallest A. penicillata recorded? No, I do not intend to erect the ssp. elongata for just a single specimen.

Cliff just remarked that C. aureus seeds collected here seem to be smaller than seeds from 3 pods collected yesterday of C. purpureus. There appear to be more but less accessible places along this road that seem ideal for these two species. If we had an infinite time budget, it would be interesting to check these places and also to stray off the main road, that follows the south side of the Rio Jequitinhonha and see what lies over the hills. In addition, Google Earth and our map suggests that there is a perfectly good road / track on the north side of the river with a number of exposed granite rock areas similar to where we scored with these taxa. Recorded for a future visit, if time permits.

Once again we saw and tried to photograph numerous diverse butterflies.

We also found one very untidy member of Hylo- or Selenicereus sp. The stems seemed too fat for H. setaceus that we would in this general area in ’99. I have included a picture in today’s photo album.

We returned to the BR 116 (the main Salvador to Rio de Janeiro road, but still only a two lane affair, with a third crawler lane up the steeper hill sides) and headed for the town of Padre Paraiso where Marlon had suggested a location (TL) for Coleocephalocereus fluminensis ssp. decumbens. (s.n. C. decumbens)

We had already seen these plants from the road, a few km north of the town (and photographed later as S1577) so when we found the entrance to the track suggested by Marlon, without any difficulty, we decided to sail by and instead took a right turn and some 20 km along a good but sometimes muddy track arrived at a likely place. You would be forgiven if you have never heard of this plant as it is not a plant that you would want to give space in a small greenhouse or windowsill. As a result it has hardly suffered from commercial or hobby collecting. It favours similar granite rock faces to its cousins aureus and purpureus, but prefers the really steep parts. So steep that here (S1573) we could not even get to the rock face where they grew together with a very large species of Bromeliad that would seem to be the typical companion plant to look out for, together with a white flowered sp. of Velloziaceae. We managed to climb up a ‘steep-as-we-could-manage’ hillside in what turned out to be a coffee plantation (Eunice, please note!) to get the best view of plants on the other side of a 4 m. wide and deep gully. There are not many reported localities for this plant, so we are glad to add this one to the list

We turned round here and stopped at S1574, a spot where the road ran along the edge of a granite rock face that had the large Bromeliads and Velloziaceae that we had spotted at the previous spot. We were optimistic that a closer look would find C. decumbens here. Wrong! The rock face was mostly so steep that we could hardly walk up it. Even on all fours it proved a problem. That was when it was dry. The recent rainfall meant that about 50% of the rock face was a wet seeping slide, as the mosses (?) that cover these rocks had absorbed the water and now had high lubricant qualities. Trying to find a route that made use of places where the Velloziaceae had found a foot hold proved a success, but the Bromeliads were to be avoided as the stems with which they appeared to be attached to the rock were rotten and disintegrated as soon as you stood on them. Despite this I managed to get to the top of the rock to where the tree line started (and the impenetrable vegetation! Father Christmas please note that I would like a machete for Christmas!) No cacti! We believe in recording ‘No Cacti’ stops as well, to help others expanding their energy to come to the same conclusion. The reward here was a large Orchid sp. with several spikes of yellow flowers. Nice!

S1575 was another no cactus stop, but it was again on a large granite slab that could have supported Coleocephalocereus. Instead there was a herd of cows here and a peculiar tree with most of the soil washed away from its roots. How could it survive?

On the way to BR116 we came across a hedge of a variegated Cereus (?) sp. Normal green stems with bright yellow parts. We had seen them before in the area and always thought that the stems had been painted or sprayed with something nasty.

We finally arrived at the spot that had been suggested by Marlon (S1576). At the farm where we were supposed to park the car, an old man came to greet us. Our Portuguese must have approved as he sighed ‘Oh yes’ and signalled for us to come on to his property. After introductions to his wife, who I think wanted to offer us coffee or tea or food we made our excuses and pointed up the hill and at our watch. He just wanted to show us his two man eating guard dogs that were straining at the lead to make sure that we did not want to do anything silly.

Again, the dark, moss (?) covered rocks were almost too steep to get up. Too steep to walk, not steep enough to climb, in the heat, high humidity and with all the photographic equipment. Cliff went one way, I the other. I must have lost my lens hood a dozen times, each time returning some 10 m down to pick it up, then start again. In the end my pocket was the only sensible place for it.

From time to time I’d look back and on one occasion I had worked my way right by a 2 m. long stem that seemed to be crawling up hill like a creeping devil in Baja, except that they have the good sense of growing along the road and on the flat. When time ran out and common sense dictated that it was time to go back, Cliff was already at the car. He was having problems with his feet and steep hills were not the best therapy. I saw more C. decumbens on the way back than when I was focussed on climbing, but only one long stem with cephalium. I failed to look for any of the other cacti that Marlon mentions from here and certainly saw nothing that resembles Nigel Taylor’s picture in his ‘Cacti of Eastern Brazil’ taken around this area in 2002.

S1577 was just a ‘drive by stop’, literally, as stopping (or even just slowing down to less than 30 km p. hr.) is suicidal on BR 116. On the way south we had spotted a hillside full of C. decumbens right along the road (west side) but in an even more inaccessible place. We could not do better than drive by slowly and stop briefly firing off some shots with a 200 mm zoom lens. Still, for the record…

Another great day!

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