Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for April 2, 2010

Saturday, 3 April, 2010 – Saltillo, Coahuila to Gomez Palacio, Durango

On these trips, as soon as you’ve stayed in a hotel for three nights, it feels like home. So it was high time that we moved on. Today we were going to start the first leg of a loop that would see us back in our hotel in Saltillo sometime next week.

Our destination tonight brought me back to one of the places were we stayed in 2009. We’re booked into the same Best Western hotel.

Today’s stops continue to add new taxa to my ‘plants seen in nature’ CV.

S1833 was a leg stretch stop. We were not disappointed as we found the ground covered with low shrubs with the space between them almost completely taken over by Thelocactus bicolor – not sure which one of the many forms. Where there were no shrubs, there was Agave lechuguilla, the Mexican shin stabber. And where the Thelocactus had left a gap, we found Coryphantha sp. or Neoloydia conoidea. Dotted around the place were clumps of a large, open Echinocereus, E. enneacanthus fa dubius (?) coming into flower, also E. stramineus, a tall Yucca sp. and the odd Astrophytum capricorne, Thelocactus setispinus / Ferocactus hamatacanthus and Echinocactus horizonthalonius.

If that was what an unscheduled stop gave us in terms of plants, then the next stop, just outside General Cepeda, S1834, had to be even better! And it was! To the above taxa, add Epithelantha micromeris, a form that produced clumps with up to 30 heads! And not to be forgotten, Ariocarpus retusus (A. furfuraceus)! As a bonus, an Easter Parade (?) passed by: several pick ups with a Mexican band in the back, followed by more pick up trucks with kids and women and the whole lot surrounded by Mexican cowboys in their finest. I see that Backeberg described Epithelantha polycephalus (many headed) and that would certainly fit most of the plants photographed here. Charlie Glass made it E. micromeris sso. polycephala.

There were so many cacti here and the same type of hills continued along the road for miles, that I suggested that all these plants would occur anywhere that we’d chose to stop.

Eventually we did, S1835, and certainly did not find everything that we had expected, but perhaps the gap between the stops was too long / far apart. We saw Dasylirion leiophillum – Sorry, I tend not to take pictures of Dasylirion unless there is something special to report about them, or there is nothing very special to report about a stop, such as is the case here. A Yucca sp. and Agave stricta / striata were also photographed, as were Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Coryphantha sp., Echinomastus sp (or Thelocactus macdowellii?) which in nature seems to be solitary while in my collection I have a six headed clump. Also photographed was a plant that resembled Agave stricta / striata but with filaments along the leaf margin. John suggested Nolina erumpens – foothill bear grass, as a name – very nice plant, and Agave lechuguilla, which should be known under the common name of ‘ugly everywhere Agave’.

S1836 was a bit of an accident. We were looking for an Ariocarpus site but found, by 16:00 p.m. that we’d have to drive some 10 km along a 0 km p hr track and back again, so did a reality check and decided to have a look where we were and turn back on to a main road to our destination. We saw plenty of A. lechuguilla, Neolloydia conoidea (I have just learned that Wikipedia lists 6 species of Neolloydia, which I had assumed to be a monotypic genus – more study when I get home!), Opuntia sp., Cylindroputia spinosior (?), a robust form of C. leptocaulis which might be a hybrid with C. spinosior?, Opuntia rufida, and of course Echinocactus horizonthalonius that also seems to pop up everywhere.

S1837 was the most likely habitat to find Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus, but despite us willing it to be there, none were found. There was no data base info to suggest that it would be, but I gained a collection of seven images of cracked silt, which is the expected environment for this Ariocarpus.

The GPS still plays tricks on us when trying to find the hotel, but not as bad as in 2009 when it tried to send us the wrong way up a for lane one way street, or along a railway track. Earlier though, it had suggested a 126 km route when we overshot a turning to a track by 2.6 km! They are great tools but still require a human intelligence interface rather than blind faith.

At our Best Western in Gomez Palacio, Eunice and I felt that we were recognised by some of the staff, but they looked confused when they could not spot Cliff & Alain. We had the car washed and hardly recognised our faithful carrier – well, it deserved an Easter treat!

Happy Easter! 

Friday, 2 April, 2010 – Around Saltillo

Yesterday’s early stops focussed on trying to find the Chicken Farm Stop at km 27 on the Mex  40 Saltillo to Monterey road. Unfortunately, this is now the location of a huge motorway intersection. Although there are plenty of chicken farms around the intersection, the one that was here in 1973 is likely to have been destroyed by the development, together with many thousands of plants, if today’s exploration of the surrounding hills provides an indication.

We made five stops between 8:45 and 15:49, all in a relatively small area around this intersection, with temperatures approaching 30 C, but with a stiff breeze cooling us down and threatening at times to take our hats off. The sixth and unnumbered stop was at the local Walmart where John and I sat down in the air conditioned cafeteria, drinking a ice cold Sprite while Eunice went shopping – incl. three pairs of sunglasses to replace the pair broken the previous day.

S1828 was a disused quarry reached after we turned off at km 25 on Mex 40. We climbed the hill and I took an amazing 165 images of what seemed initially a none too promising location. As we climbed the limestone hill, we photographed: the White Prickly Poppy (Argemone grandiflora), Thelocactus rinconensis (s.n. T. phymatothelos), Evening Primrose (Oenothera sp.), Echinocereus stramineus (?), Mammillaria pottsii, Echinocereus pectinatus, Echeveria cuspidata, Epithelanta micromeris, Mammillaria woodsii [PS No. occurs much farther south], including a dichotomously splitting plant.  

As we pulled away, I spotted an Opuntia in flower, bright yellow. All the Opuntias are heavy with buds after a wet winter (relatively) but they are late opening their buds (cold spring, although with temperatures around 30 C around midday, that too is relative. S1829, here at the bottom of the hill that was S1828, turned out to be more than just a quick picture. 30  minutes later we left having taken pictures of Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha, Coryphantha sp., Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Echinocereus pectinatus, Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha, Mammillaria pottsii, Opuntia sp.

We tried to find another location suggested by John, based on his notes (or were they from the Glass & Foster Logbook?), but this time found the track blocked by a locked gate. We parked near the gate (S1830), disappointed at not being able to reach our goal, but 75 minutes later left happy after finding an impressive selection of plants: Agave lechuguilla, Corynopuntia sp., Coryphantha sp1, C. sulcata, Cylindropuntia spinosior, C. tunicata, Echinocereus stramineus, Epithelantha micromeris, Euphorbia antisyphalitica, Hechtia sp., Lophophora williamsii, Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha, Neolloydia conoidia, Opuntia sp., Sedum sp, Thelocactus bicolor ssp bolaensis and Tradescantia sp. Quite a catch!

We returned to yesterday’s S1818, now S1831, for a more detailed look around. An impressive list of plants found now included another one of the ‘painted Agave’: A. fernandi-regis. Also found: A. stricta, Ariocarpus retusus, Echeveria cuspidata, Echinocereus pectinatus, E. stramineus, Escobaria sp. Hechtia sp., Lophophora williamsii, Mammillaria formosa ssp chionocephala, M. heyderi ssp meiacantha, M. pottsii, Neolloydia conoidia, Opuntia rufida, Thelocactus bicolor ssp bolaensis, Thelocactus rinconensis, T. setispinus (?) I must check how to distinguish this last taxon from Ferocactus hamatacanthus, especially when there are no flowers and fruits to examine.

With a bit of time to spare John and I decided to take a look around a near by the flat area at yet another Chicken Farm (S1832) and found Ferocactus hamatacanthus, Agave lechuguilla, Agave scabra, Coryphantha sp, Cylindropuntia sp., Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha, Thelocactus rinconensis, Echinocereus stramineus, Fouquieria splendens, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, Lophophora williamsii, with evidence of digging, most likely for the peyote. Peyote omelettes anyone?

A great selection of plants here – I think that I’ll be back at some future date.