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Archive for January 6, 2010

Thursday, 7 January – west of Irecê

We ‘enjoyed’ torrential rains and thunderstorms during the night – or at least so I was told; I of course slept. Marlon & John’s room sprang a leak resulting in a big puddle in one corner. As I write these notes, it is pouring down again.

I expect that the snow in the UK will be followed by floods once the snow starts melting.

On the brighter side: Marlon had proposed a day of exploring today, visits to some dozen locations that on Google Earth looked similar to known localities of Melocactus azureus in the area. Fortunately, limestone pavements are reasonably easy to spot on Google Earth and Marlon then meticulously selected locations within  a given radius from the main road, with areas of a reasonable size. There are many more sites farther away and many more smaller areas than Marlon selected, both inside and outside his selected radius. From the evidence today, it is reasonable to expect M. azureus to grow in dense populations at all these locations.

Nigel Taylor and Daniela Zappi in ‘The Cacti of Eastern Brazil’ (2004) writes, regarding the conservation status of M. azureus:

‘Conservation ex situ may be the only viable option unless populations discovered in 2002 can be adequately protected….

… Specifically for Melocactus azureus, whose known habitats are in imminent peril of destruction and hold wild populations that are highly fragmented or numbering only tens of individuals.’

Plants that we had photographed in 1999 in the believe that they were M. azureus, turned out to be the blue form of M. zehntneri.

Today’s report is going to be quite straight forward in terms of reporting plants. We made 11 stops (S1667 to 1677), all new to Marlon and the rest of us, with the exception of S1677, along BA-052. At all stops we found Melocactus azureus, not in their tens, but in their tens of thousands! Great news for the conservation status of this taxon.

What about the other cacti? These were all spotted during the day and are not specific to any particular stop. The special one for me was seeing Stephanocereus leucostele in flower and fruit. As a night flowering plant, the flowers were either opening for tonight or passed over from last night. Others spotted in the area: Tacinga inamoena, T. palmadora and hybrids between them, Cereus jamacaru (is there anywhere in Bahia where it does not grow?), Arrojadoa rhodantha and Pilosocereus gounellei

We had hoped to finish today with another ‘hummer session’ but as we were some distance from asphalt and storms were once again gathering, we thought it best to retreat to one of Marlon’s 2002 discoveries, along BA-052, so that if and when the heavens opened we would not find ourselves in too much of a mudslide. Again, the hummer exercise ended in frustration. Light was not good enough for photography and the hummers thought that it was too dark for flying as well, at least they gave the area I had selected a wide berth. I did experiment with setting up my cam-corder on Cliff’s mini tri-pod and have not yet checked the result, but expect that I have about 45 minutes of a movie of two Melos with four flowers between them, with the soundtrack of traffic passing on the near by BA-052 and the four of us shouting ‘Any luck as yet?’ to each other. That film clip could win an art price for one of the most boring films to date, but could fill the first part of a talk when I get back to the UK, to take us up to the coffee break.

John, who is particularly keen on Melocactus, had a great day, felt excited at being part of a team discovering new things, standing knee deep in his favourite plants and to cap it all, enjoying an hour of his favourite Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons on my ‘cactus trip jukebox’! Life can’t get much better than this.

We’ll try again tomorrow.

The heavens did open up, but not until we were safely back in the hotel.

Wednesday, 6 January – around Irecê

Marlon had given us the morning off, so that we could all catch up with ‘admin’ matters, such as copying GPS data from the metadata of my pictures into Google Earth and into my Stops Database, chatting with Angie and watching England in the snow on Brazilian Breakfast TV.

It was a wonderful sunny morning and between these activities we sat around the swimming pool and watched bikini clad ladies float up an down in the pool, it being too hot for any serious swimming.

Around 13:00 we left for the Melocactus azureus type locality at Jussara, where, from c. 15:00 hours, the flowers would be open and attract hummingbirds to come and feast on the nectar.

So, are you sitting comfortably for the Hummer Show?

Tough!!

As we turned out of the hotel car park we noticed some huge showers build up. Great. Nice dramatic skies again. Instead the skies opened right above our site (S1665) and we stayed in the car for a brief spell hoping that things would ease up. In the mean time, the village kids had recognised ‘Uncle Marlon’ from two previous visits, one with the CSSA Convention trip and one with a party of Americans and French cactophiles, both in 2008. On those occasions they had been given biscuits and had helped Marlon to collect some Melocactus fruits.

Marlon acted as decoy for the kids, allowing the three of us to get on with taking pictures of cacti in the rain. They are not what I had expected but I’m still very pleased with the unusual pictures of Melocacti in water.

It was not a long stop and we decided to try our luck doing some exploring along BA-805, past Pres. Dutra and ended up at Uibai, where we followed a track to the Balneário do Brejo, parked the car (S1666) and continued on foot. Very soon, Marlon had spotted something unusual between the shrubs: Facheiroa ulei, previously only reported from its type locality but here, and a few days ago, at two new areas, suggesting quite a wide distribution range.

Again, clouds threatened and we drove back to the hotel, stopping from time to time for some photos of clouds before we enjoyed a free car wash.

Sometime things don’t work out the way that you had expected, but we still had a great day!