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We had been so impressed with yesterday’s rest day, the relaxed atmosphere and idyllic setting of our hotel that we decided to spend another day hanging around the pool and stay another night. After dinner, the arrangements were made with Reception. No problem. So our only challenge would be not to spend too long in the sun and get burned.

Wrong! It was overcast when we woke up, it was drizzling as we walked to breakfast and it was pouring down so hard while we had breakfast that we had extra coffees to stay out of the rain and delay the 30 m. dash to our cabanas. In the end I just took off my shirt – I was already in swimming trunks – and made a dash for it while Cliff & Mike hung around reception until it eased off a little. The floor in Cliff’s room was flooded as the rain had come in through the air-conditioning system.

Never mind. We are well ahead of our time budget. We still have to visit the smaller populations of other Melos on Cuba. Next we’ll see the M. guitartii group, including M. holguinensis, probably no more than Cuban members of the M. curvispinus group that is common in Columbia and Venezuela. It occurs around Holguin, our destination tomorrow, where it grows in places alongside the interesting Coryphantha / Escobaria cubensis. Apparently these plants are going to be difficult to find – we’ll need to look for serpentine and pyroxene-andesite outcrops. As though I don’t struggle enough recognising cacti, I now need to be a geologist as well!

The M. matanzanus group is the final group to find, again reported from serpentine outcrops, this time around the town of Matazan. Ironically, while this species is probably the most common Melocactus in cultivation in Europe, it is probably the least common in habitat. It forms a bright red cephalium while still comparatively young and small, and so is a popular houseplant with the general public and cactophiles alike.

The day turned out a strange mixture of threatening skies but no more rain. We are now very well rested! And half of my Cuba presentation for What I Saw Last Winter has been done.

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