Four stops today, our last proper ‘day with stops’ of this trip.
Last night we ‘enjoyed’ again some very heavy thunderstorms, John and Marlon again woke up with the floor in their room flooded. But again, we woke up to sunshine and that was the most important thing.
S1683 was a location along the side of the BA-052 at km 345, some 12 km east of Irecê. It was the type locality of Buining & Brederoo’s Melocactus krainzianus, that has long since been reduced to synonymy under M. azureus. These days we could only find very few plants, all youngsters, no mature plants with cephalia. It would be interesting to track down any photos or notes by Buining and / or Horst about this, their collection number Horst 264, to compare the few plants against the appearance of this location at the time of its discovery in the 1970s. (PCL?)
Marlon tells us that local people seem to remove the plants systematically from the limestone pavement, as their spines are a danger to both people and cattle that cross this area that separates the BA-052 from a small but growing settlement. We can confirm the damage that Melocactus spine clusters can do to feet, with spines penetrating thick soles of walking boots and training shoes and having to be removed from the soles with pliers!
Other cacti photographed-for-the-record: Pilosocereus gounellei, Cereus jamacaru and Tacinga inamoena
S1684 was for another Horst / Buining collection, Melocactus ferreophilus, again, right along the BA-052. Not an easy plant to get to, growing on lose limestone rocks, very sharp to hands and feet. Not many plants on this mall site, but limestone rocks farther away and not easily accessible are likely to be home for more of these plants. Another day perhaps for a look. The other remarkable plant was a crested P. gounellei. We had noted how few crested cacti we had seen here, far fewer than in Chile it seemed.
On to S1685, a repeat for Cliff and myself of S1617 (370 m. to the south of our stop on 24 December 2009). This was to show John the form of M. zehntneri with blue epidermis that is still seen in collections under the name of M. douradaensis, another Buining & Brederoo name.
We drove on to Morro do Chapéu again and booked into the highly recommended Pousada Ecological das Bromelias, where we had stayed in December as well. We were greeted like old friends, as was Marlon who had taken two tours here in 2008. We met up with Delmar Alvin again and while Cliff chose to have a rest, the remaining four of us set off to one of my favourite places on the planet (S1686 this time), the place where Marlon had found 16 species of cactus growing together on a previous occasion. This was my third visit here this trip! This time Marlon could show me the plant of P. gounellei that he believes has the longest spines that he has seen on this taxon. So out came the tape measure and spines were recorded up to 22 cm (9") in length.
The main object of the visit was to get that absolute killer shot of hummingbirds and cacti but we were too early – the Melocactus flowers were still closed. I walked around and eventually found a good spot with some ten plants with buds in front of me, all a similar distance away, the same range for my zoom lens. I also found a nice plant to set my cam-corder up for, but just when I was all set to go, taking some sample pictures, I noticed the dramatic sky, practically above us. And sure enough, rain was beginning to fall. I stayed for five more minutes, but as cameras etc don’t like water, hummingbirds don’t fly in the rain and the light was too poor for photography, it was time to admit defeat.
I found the others, but Marlon pointed at a group of half a dozen mature plants and reported that they had been visited regularly by hummers. The rain had stopped and I was contemplating setting up here, but then it started again, much harder this time, so that a brisk walk back to the car was in order. It is good to have unfinished business as an excuse to come back here again some time in the future.
The rain came down hard again, as usual, accompanied my lightning and thunder. I was looking forward to an MSN chat with Angie, to confirm pick up procedures for Tuesday – a last opportunity as on Sunday we travel to Marlon’s place in Feira de Santana (no internet) and on Monday we drive to Salvador Airport for our flights home (expensive internet facilities). However, the weather had knocked out the Internet in Morro do Chapéu, so most likely you’ll have to wait until Tuesday to learn about the end of a wonderful three month cactus adventure.