Marlon had put together an intensive program for our stay here. In fact, his last line in the 19(!) page document says: ‘Well, I believe these locations will keep you busy for a while!!!
I’m sure that they will! The last 6 pages are dedicated to things to see around Morro do Chapéu alone! Mind you, one is a 150 km trip (and 150 km back?) that we might struggle to fit in. Most of the activities here were organised by taxon, so I spent last night separating them out into North, East, West and South of the town. Today we did some of the stops suggested for the north. We drove along the road to Jacobina (now a well patched up asphalt road, (dirt in 1999) and took the turning west at Ico, and from there proceeded to Brejões. All the instructions fitted, except that when we moved from location #1 (S1611) to #2 (across the river from white sand stone rock to limestone rock) the limestone was not there. We took pics at the #2 location, to prove that we were there. Not to worry, we enjoyed seeing Melocactus glaucescens, with spination like M. paucispinus, but white cephalium, Micranthocereus polyanthus ssp alvinii. Harissia adscendens, Pilosocereus pachycladus, Tacinga inamoena and T. palmadora. The ones that ‘escaped’, at least our attention, are T. funalis and Leocereus bahiensis. We found an enormous Euphorbia tree, but doubt that it is E. phosphorea. No flowers found.
On the way back to Brejões we stopped by a huge C. jamacaru. We measured the stem’s diameter: 125 cm. a giant!
S1612 was a random stop along the Jacobina – Morro do Chapeu road. I remembered that in the caatinga forest we found some Melocacti and Arrojadoa rhodacantha in 1999. This time, Cliff was sceptical about the terrain, we went our own way and I found no cacti, axcept for Tacinga palmadora. Cliff eventually emerged with a huge grin on his face, claiming to have seen lots of Melos, many bluish in colour, but none with a good cephalium. Old mature plants were already dying and had very grubby cephalia. Could it be M paucispinus here? I do not believe that it was M. zehntneri that we found near here in ’99. Cliff also found Cereus albicaulis, T. inamoena, Pilosocereus pachycladus and P. glaucochrus, plus Arrojadoa rhodantha while I managed a number of passion flowers wide open and some butterflies.
S1613 was for what could be the largest Cereus jamacaru on record today. Marlon first photographed it in 2002 and it appears as the inside header page of Nigel & Daniela’s book of the Cacti of NE Brazil. The hotel has a picture taken in 2006. It is huge! Reckoned to be 18 m tall and probably with an arm span of 10 m. So our picture today is the most recent one. We asked the owner of the shack if we could come into his yard and take its picture. The lady called hubby and in free translation shouted something along the lines of ‘There are some more crazy foreigners to look at our cactus!’ Amazing plant, but UK Show judges would criticize it for being marked and lack of evidence of recent flowering.
With time left to kill, I quickly looked up info of how to get to a spot that in 1999 we called the Radio Mast Stop. These days it is the Microwave hill with half a dozen masts still being added to as we were there. It was my 7th stop on a cactus trip and now 1607 stops later as S1614, it was great to make its re-acquaintance. In 1999 I believe we made this a morning stop, while today it was a late afternoon stop. This time everything looked a lot drier, with the Micranthocereus purpureus looking ‘dirty’, in need of a good shower to wash off the dust. Stephanocereus leutzelburgii looked badly marked, as though they had seen some rough times. Some of the Bromeliads looked in great shape but the Peperomia that we found in ’99 seemed to have gone into hiding.
Despite the additional towers, this habitat seems safe. Fires have swept through the lower part of the hill, but there seemed to be no great number of cacti there. I’ll have to come back to check out this favourite rock garden in years to come and do some ‘now & then’ comparisons when I get home between 1999 and 2009.
With the help of Google Translator we had managed to tell the hotel receptionist that we’d like to contact Delmar Alvin, whom we met in 1999, M. polyanthus ssp alvinii was named in his honour. We’ll meet him again at 8 in the morning for a visit to ‘his’ plant. Great!!