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Archive for April 5, 2010

Monday, 5 April, 2010 – Monclova to Saltillo via Hipolito

Another hot but wonderful day. Towards the end of the last stop, we heard the familiar sound (from previous trips in Brazil etc) of thunder and by the time that we were in the car on our way ‘home’, we ‘enjoyed’ rain and hail.

Today was made up of six stops (S1848 to S1853 incl.) and again was a treat with a number of species seen for the first time. There were also a number of plants that we’re just not sure about without further research, calling it an Echinomastus one day, Coryphantha on another and Thelocactus on a third. I’m hopeful that Cliff can sort out the Thelocactus bunch when bribed with a few bottles of Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon.

S1848 was an unscheduled stop, sort of. We intended to visit a location from The Database and after having been sent around the houses finally found the track that we were meant to follow, according to the SatNav. However, we seemed to be driving through a valley that was being quarried and the operators of the diggers creating new tracks had obviously not kept track of telling Garmin of the exploits. After a while we gave up and decided to have a stomp around before returning to the main road. Very rewarding, as we found Ariocarpus retusus fa., Thelocactus sp. (conothelos?), Escobaria sp., Echinocereus pectinatus, E. longisetus (?) Epithelantha micromeris, Agave scabra, A. lechuguilla, Coryphantha (?) sp.

The next stop, S1849 was a brain teaser supplied by John from Glass & Foster Log book notes, supposedly at a microwave tower, 27 of miles south of Monclova. But Monclova these days had grown to a fair size town. Where did they start their measurements from? And had the road been re-built since, and straightened out in the process? Had the tower been moved to a better position since the G&F notes from the sixties? In any even, the track to it had a locked gate and a sign telling us that we were not welcome. A little farther up the road, we found another gate, this time without signs, so we parked up and climbed over the gate.

We were barely 10 meters in, when a car stopped, one of the occupants unlocked the gate and drove in. We introduced ourselves to the driver and his mate, making the excuse that we had just stopped on the lay by and had crossed his border for a quick toilet stop (with Nikon cameras hanging from our necks!?!?!). We asked if we might take some pictures and were granted permission. Pictures taken here were of Opuntia sp, Agave scabra, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, C, spinosior, Coryphantha sp, Opuntia sp and a very shrivelled Echinocereus sp.

We pulled off the highway again at Ejido La Paloma, then followed a track for 7.2 km to arrive at S1850, near the ruins of what might have been a small village. Eunice & I explored one side of the road, while John climbed the hill on the other side of the road, then later had to guide me back to show me his star plant, a crested Ariocarpus retusus.

S1851 was just a brief stop caused by numerous clumps of Echinocereus sp in flower. It also brought us Thelocactus hexaedroflorus in flower, at least I think that is what I photographed, but according to limited resources at hand, this taxa comes from Nuevo Leon, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi while we were in Coahuila. Cliff to the rescue? And of course there was Opuntia sp. and Echinocactus horizonthalonus.

S1852 was prompted by seeing a largish lake of milky white water in the middle of the desert. Great photo opportunity. I recorded another ‘shoe in the desert’ picture, for a Rudolf Schulz potential book project, discussed when we all had too much wine. This time the shoe was drowning in the lake, but the lake was in a desert, so we may need to open a bottle of wine to discuss if this is allowed or not.

Opuntia sp., Coryphantha sp., Echinocactus horizonthalonus, and Echinocereus sp. the last one in flower completed the picture.

S1853 was our last main scheduled stop, particularly to see Yucca endlichiana, a plant with leaves barely 30 cm (12") tall with flowers hidden deep at the base of the leaves. I can see why this plant might have curiosity value, although I can not call it pretty. Photos taken will prove the point. But there was a wealth of other plants to make this a very worthwhile stop. We were greeted at the fence (usually exercise to attempt to avoid joining the boy sopranos as we squeezed between tight barbed wire) by very pretty bunches of daisy like flowers (Asteraceae, I’d guess), Agave lechuguilla, Euphorbia antisyphalitica, Sclerocactus scheeri (Ancistrocactus uncinatus on John’s list is now a synonym), Grusonia / Corynopuntia bulbispina, in advanced bud but not yet in flower, Echinocereus sp. (the large flowering clumps we’d been seeing at earlier stops), Echinocereus stramineus (?), Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, C. spinosior, Epithelantha micromeris, Thelocactus bicolor (some plants in flower, most in bud), T. hexaedroflorus (in flower) Opuntia rufida, Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha, Ferocactus hamathacanthus, Opuntia sp. (large pads), Yucca sp., Fouqueria splendens (in flower), Lophophora williamsii  (first a little shy to find, then we found them in clusters of many plants, often three to four individuals growing together). Coryphantha sp. and finally Leuchtenbergia principes, apparently a favourite with goats, with the centre of the plant being preferred to the  tougher, older, tubercles.

And if that was not enough …… our cactus explorations here were disturbed by me hitting a ‘brick wall’ in terms of energy levels – too long out in the hot sun? (30 C plus temperatures) dehydrated ? (I had brought along plenty of water, but did I drink enough?). A second factor was a nice thunder storm brewing up. You don’t want to be caught on foot in the flat desert when one of these opens up overhead. The winds caused by down draughts were there, the sky was darkening, thunder could be heard not too far away and as we got to the car the first rain drops fell.

So we decided to come back tomorrow morning. For the record, the stop then was recorded as S1855 and in addition to the plants already reported we were able to find an Echinocereus (Wilcoxia) poselgeri that Eunice had photographed today in flower, but which tomorrow would be only in bud. Well done Eunice for finding it again! Also new that morning: Astrophytum capricorne, just one plant but evidence that it grows there.