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Today was probably the hardest hike that I have made for plants and our goal was not even a cactus! Dudleya pachyphytum, first found by Alfred Lau and described by Moran & Benedict, is is a plant that is not often seen in cultivation in Europe, probably because plants in the genus Pachyphytum itself are just as attractive and easier to propagate, from leaf cuttings. 

I recorded a total of eleven stops today (S1751 to S1761 inclusive). On these long hikes (10:30 hours in total) plus two hours each way by boat – the return journey was in the dark! – it is always difficult to decide how to split pictures taken into stops. My failing GPS for the camera provided the solution. From time to time I would check the connection and hold it tight until I had taken a picture that had recorded the coordinates. I’ll next upgrade my cameras when Nikon models with similar specifications or better include a built in GPS.

In simple terms, S1751 was for images taken during the boat ride along the eastern shore of the island. S1752 – S1759 were for pictures taken on the way to our target, S1760 was the place where the plants grew and S1761 were pictures taken on the way back. There were not many in S1761 as I was dog tired, walking on robot power, very thirsty, despite the litre of water that I had taken and eventually needing a rest to let the tail-enders catch up, as I was getting cramps in both legs, from thighs to my toes – not nice. Jose eventually breezed by to say that he was on his way to base camp to collect fresh water. I realised why his second name is Angel! Never did pure water taste so good!

So what about the plants that we saw? Well, certainly Dudleya pachyphytum, a very nice plant in habitat but critically endangered, as it is very rare, just found in one relatively small location with nearby pine forests having suffered badly from forest fires. There was plenty of evidence burnt clumps of D. pachyphytum. Its remoteness will probably be the plants’ best protection and I feel confident that Jose understands the issues and will fight for these plants and their habitat. Please let me know if there is anyway in which I can help.

Other plants, in the order we came across them were:

  • Pachycormus discolor var veatchiana, easily spotted from the boat and a constant companion along the trail that brought us to our end point.

  • Opuntia sp. as I said yesterday, O. oricola and O. prolifera are reported from the island so it may just be a matter of finding a picture that matches what we saw.

  • Agave sebastiana – in large numbers, a very pretty member of the genus. Again, it was almost omni present.

  • Ferocactus chrysacanthion, with us from start to finish, most plants not large, and with spination colour ranging from yellow to red. No buds or flowers seen. As I am writing up this notes a day late, I can say that the flowering season differs from that of F. fordii that we would see on Isla Navidad.

  • Echinocereus maritimus forming some very large mounds with impressive spination. Usually they were smaller plants with small clumps looking pretty beat up by the environment. The yellow flower was the give away. E. engelmannii is also reported from the island but I can’t say that I saw any candidates for the species. It can be very variable in nature and may be at the height of the flowering season, the flowers will give away their identity.

  • Mammillaria (Cochemiea) pondii. While yesterday we found just one plant in flower and were told that October is the peak flowering season for these plants on the island, today we saw many more plants in flower. Because I am colour blind, their bright red flowers do not leap out for me, but my travel companions were very helpful to point out their presence. I’d guess that some 5% of the plants that we saw were in bud or flower. The flower colour is one that digital cameras seem to struggle with, showing flowers where the colour is over saturated.

  • Dudleya sp., probably D. cedrosensis, as the name suggests, an endemic from this island, but there are other species listed from the island, so more research needed to show which name matches the plants that we photographed.

  • Mammillaria goodridgei and its ssp. rectispinus although not photographed until later on our hike, they seem happy to crop up in small numbers all along the track. Usually small and solitary, pulled back into the gravel, they are not so easy to spot, with lots of more obvious plants distracting our attention.

  • Dwarf Lupine sp.

  • Pine trees – I’ll need to look up the plant list to tell which one. They seem to indicate the presence of water when seen at lower altitude and show the reliance on regular fogs in small clusters growing right at the top of hills in the north of the island. It was quite disheartening early on in the trip, when we spotted these trees high on hill tops above us, that we’d have to climb that high! Sometimes it is easier to be ignorant of such facts.

What is interesting to note as I review my pictures, is that all these plants are very abundant along the route that we took. At every point that I stopped to take a picture I could have taken pictures of dozens of that species, with the exception of D. pachyphytum.

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