It was another 5 a.m. breakfast day, to be at the harbour by six to discover the weather forecast for the day. Calm seas would see us take two pangas to Islas San Benito.
Sadly the winds were too strong to make the trip today, but I keep my fingers tightly crossed for the next few days as I’m keen to see and photograph Mammillaria neopalmeri there – it’s an island endemic.
Instead, we boarded three very capable 4×4 vehicles for a drive to La Colorado and six plant stops on the way there and back. For some people we now get to the interesting bit of the Diaries, the plant stop list! Other’s will now reach for the ‘next’ button before their eyes glaze over. Here we go:
Immediately west of Cedros we passed through an area that seems to be in regular use as the town’s rubbish dump. Rubbish is an issue in any small community where its size does not yet necessitate a strict disposal policy with related (costly) services. Here the rubbish was spread out over a very large area, as though it was being sorted and readied for collection at a future date. Time will tell. As tourism might increase the number of people sharing this island environment in the future, the rubbish disposal problem will only become worse, unless it is put in place to put people off from coming.
S1745 – Mammillaria goodridgei (endemic) was spotted almost straight away by our eagle eyed Japanese companions. It took a while before I spotted my one and only plant – it’s great to travel in a group! The plant was in flower, but at 9 a.m. it was still too early for the flower to be open. We found a few more of these very small, solitary plants before finding a similar but more robust plant. Here, at 9:10, the flowers were open and the plant had a number of ripe berries as well. But was it the same species or another member of the M. dioica complex? M. blossfeldiana and M. hutchinsoniana are also reported from here and are non endemics, also occurring in Baja California south of Ensenada. Pachycormus discolor variety veatchana (with smaller leaves and different flowers from the main species that we had seen on BC in 2008) was here as was a hairy caterpillar.
S1746 again had P. discolor var veatchiana, but as we were now almost right on the coast, the plants were windswept and looked like huge bonsais, if that is not too much of a contradiction in terms. But the attraction cactus-wise here was Ferocactus chrysacanthus, nice plants with very tight spination and only few plants in fruit – no buds or flowers seen.
S1747 – We almost stumbled across a large Mammillaria as soon as we stepped out of the cars – but which one? It took until a few stops later, when we saw it in flower, to realise that this was Mammillaria (Cochemiea) pondii. Agave sebastiana was here too, many plants beginning to flower. Also, we saw our first Dudleya on the island, but which one? They formed impressive clumps of many hundreds of heads. A Google search suggests that D. cedrosensis is an island endemic, but Paul Thomson’s monograph on the genus dismisses this as an invalid name. Instead, he lists D. acuminata and D. moranii as occurring on the island. In addition to D. pachyphytum of course. More on that distinctive taxon later. The distinctive flower stalks required to ID Dudleyas were unfortunately not seen or at least not photographed by me.
S1748 is where we finally saw our one and only M. pondii in flower. Later, I learned from the owner of the cabanas where we were staying that this plant usually flowers in October on the island. More reading necessary to discover the trigger; fogs? rain? shortening day time hours? Presence of a migratory pollinator? A combination of all these factors? It seems that just as on Isla Magdalena, where we found M. halei in 2008, fogs (rather than rain) occur regularly on the island. So just like the Chilean Atacama Desert coastal zone then.
Also here were Ferocactus chrysacanthus, Agave sebastiana, Dudleya sp. (or was there more than one?) Echinocereus maritimus with the yellow flower (only one found) providing the clue. Interesting to see that the outside petals are red, just as in Copiapoa in Chile. Jose was getting the taste for cactus hunting and found a tiny Mammillaria goodridgei.
S1749 was at Punta Colorada, where we stopped for lunch, while snapping more pictures of ocean scenes and the ever popular group photo with much hilarity as the self-timer on one of the cameras failed to co-operate.
S1750 was more of the same, but this time pictures of Euphorbia misera, to remind me that we had seen it at all the previous stops as well. The Pachycormus discolor were much taller here, real giants compared to the ‘bonsai’ forms seen earlier.
After a 90 minute rest back at the cabanas the group was off again, this time to excursions to the Salt Works and an Abalone farm. I had seen these elsewhere before, so stayed behind to catch up on the Diaries. I’ll try to add some pictures tomorrow if time permits.