Over breakfast, Cliff & I remembered back to Christmas Eve 2008 when we were with Juan Acosta in Famatina, Argentina, taking pictures of Echinopsis (Lobivia) famatinensis. A hard act to follow. But we did our best!
We managed a total of four stops and 469 pictures that are downloading while all around firework crackers are being let off to herald the start of the festive season proper.
Our day started early, as we had arranged to meet Delmar Alvin at 8 a.m. I think he was a little surprised that, with the help of Marlon’s notes and my well trained GPS, we were anticipating all his directions. When we were here in 1999 with Delmar, he told us that the land was for sale and could be bought and treated as a private nature reserve. Keith Grantham and I pledged to find the money, but Brazilian law dictates that only Brazilians can buy land here. The solution was for a Brazilian Company to be set up with Marlon as Chief Executive, who could then invite foreigners to join him on the board and pay in funds. When Keith died, Leo van der Hoeven took over the commitment to co-fund the project. Marlon has since bought the land, we understand, but his studies abroad have gotten in the way of his setting up the necessary formalities to make it legal for our money to be paid in.
It was the first time since 1999 that I had been back here. Nothing much had changed. Marlon has since described the Micranthocereus that grows here as M. polyanthus ssp alvini, in honour of Delmar Alvin. So for the second tie this trip, we were at the type locality of a cactus with the person that it was named for (S1615). Delmar told us that Micranthocereus tend to flower here around June – which is why they looked good and in flower in May 1999, but rather tired and dried out this time round. Melocactus paucispinus and M. concinnus (?) were growing here too, with a few Stephanocereus leutzelburgii, again the one branching profusely from the base with a less pronounced bottle shape then we have seen elsewhere and with Pilosocereus gounellei. Everything was very dry which was confirmed by dry water holes dug to see where the water table was – some 16 m down!
I had forgotten how large this area was and with deep dry white sand to walk through, quite exhausting in the heat.
Our next stop, S1616, was near the village of São Rafael for the type population of Discocactus bahiensis ssp gracilis (HU 485, BRAUN 642) Melocactus concinnus, M. zehntneri, Pilosocereus gounellei, Tacinga inamoena. I had never seen this plant in habitat before, but Leo’s pictures suggested a miniature Gymnocalycium spegazzini from Argentina. We were not disappointed, but the habitat is a lot more restricted from what we have seen so far than of the Spegs.
Back out of São Rafael travelling north towards Tareco, Marlon recommended a road side stop (S1617) just outside of São Rafael for ‘some beautiful stands of golden spined Pilosocereus gounellei’. Sure enough, they had not moved! We also found Melocactus zehntneri, the blue form which was described as M. douradaensis as well as the green form – M. zehntneri. A bit confusing here as young plants would seem to be blue, but mature plants with a cephalium seem to lose their glaucus appearance and are green.
Finally, we visited the D. zehntneri ssp boomianus location that we visited in 1999 (this time S1618). Marlon writes:
‘The most interesting are the extensive rock outcrops 21 km to the west of Morro do Chapéu along the road BA 052 towards Irecê. A total of 16 cactus taxa grow there: Arrojadoa rhodantha, Discocactus zehntneri subsp. boomianus, Melocactus glaucescens, Melocactus ernestii (erythracanthus), Melocactus albicephalus, Melocactus concinnus, Micranthocereus flaviflorus (densiflorus), Pilosocereus pachycladus, Pilosocereus gounellei, Cereus albicaulis, Cereus jamacaru, Leocereus bahiensis, Pereskia bahiensis, Tacinga inamoena, Tacinga funalis, Tacinga werneri, and also the succulents Euphorbia phosphorea and Euphorbia sarcodes.’
I think that I managed 13, missing out on Cereus albicaulis, T. funalis and T. werneri that I had already seen elsewhere. Not bad as I was doing my best not to trip over the Discocactus and Melocactus plants. I wonder if this is a record for the number of cacti & other succulent plant taxa found in one location (other than a botanical garden – and some of those would struggle to come up with that many!!) I’ll leave Marlon to confirm which Melocactus is which.
Have a great Christmas. I know that we will!