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Archive for April 6, 2010

Wednesday, 7 April, 2010 – Gomez Palacio to Durango

During breakfast at the Best Western in Gomez Palacio, the head waiter approached me and asked if he was correct in thinking that I had stayed with them before, about a year ago. Yes I had. Then I was with two large gentlemen; were they alright? Yes, Cliff & Alain are fine – nice to be remembered I guess – I trust that it was for the right reasons.

We are now entering familiar territory for Cliff & Alain, as our first stop (S1862) was just before the Presa where last year we were able to see Agave victoria reginae through telephoto lenses. They were still there this time. I’ll have to look up the list of plants seen from last year’s Diary, so that I don’t contradict myself this time. I can tell you that the Opuntia rufida, the Cylindropuntia spinosior and the Coryphantha durangensis were all in flower this time.

S1863 was at the Presa itself, a brief stop and nothing new to report since last year.

S1864 was a stop along the Rio Nazas, close to where we stopped last year. Then we had photographed a white flowered Fouquieria splendens. John tells us that this is known by the name of F. campanulata. Wikipediea has it down as F. splendens ssp. campanulata. Anyway, here is where we first encountered it this year

We stopped again at last year’s stop where we first saw the white flowered Fouquieria, (S1865) although our real purpose was to look for Ariocarpus fissuratus and Leuchtenbergia principes. That time we only found one Leuchtenbergia, but this time I was able to find that plant straight away and then found numerous plants – five near by, others higher up the hill. I believe that that time, short of day light hours left, we were unable to find any Ariocarpus. This time we fared better, over the hill, on to a second hill, finding a dozen or so plants, dead & alive, in the time allocated (actually, we overran, leaving John waiting at the car, sorry again, John! All the other plants reported in 2009 were found again (yes, I know that I’m chickening out). The database suggested the name A. intermedius, but according to the Living Rock’s website, this occurs in the Cuatrocienegas area in Coahuila, not here.

What next? Last year I was ill prepared with my stops – no break from five months continuous cactus travel had taken its toll. This year Eunice had accepted the challenge of planning a route that would take us past interesting plant locations and she has done really well. She reported two stops of Mammillaria, a little out of the way: M. theresa and M. guilzowiana.   We made it to the first, the one for M. guilzowiana, but the road was poor, approaching roads in Bahia, so our speed had been far below the 60 m.p.h. (100 km.p.h.) average on highways. I was none to hopeful at finding our plant as we stopped (S1866) near a pass, with a cooling wind howling through. Hats were left in the car. The hillsides seemed to be covered by the remains of ferns, thick layers, not the best place to look for small Mams. And yet, within minutes, John had found a flower poking through the ferns. Cameras clicked, and, after some of the dead plant material had been cleared away, clicked again, now at four or five small globular Mams, nowhere near as woolly as plants in cultivation had made me expect and much smaller. The flowers were on longer tubes, so that they could poke above the competing vegetation.

While trying to stay upright in the storm (we later discovered that this is the norm here) I found my first Stenocactus (Echinofossulocactus) with the body practically obscured by spines and a few white flowers with darker mid stripes on the outside of the petaloids. There was also a nice Echinocereus of the triglochidiatus group in flower.

Once again we had run out of time and even though the M. theresa stop seemed only 9 km away, it was along that track in poor condition, with light failing fast. Instead of driving to Hidalgo del Parral, some 250 km away, we headed for Durango where we had stayed in the Best Western in 2009. Nothing had changed here.

Tuesday, 6 April, 2010 – Saltillo, Coahuila to Gomez Palacio again

As described yesterday, we planned to return to S1853 to photograph some plants that I had missed the day before. It was only 3 km off our planned route, so no big deal.

First though we made a quick stop (four pictures) to photograph a fence of Fouqueria splendens – in flower (S1854). I am building up quite a collection of cacti and other xerophytic plants being used as fencing.

My stop numbers refer to a particular location on a specific date. The same location on a different date is given a different stop number. There are no hard rules that apply to creating these numbers, so I make up by own rules that fit my needs. So, S1853 on 5 April became S1855 and the additional plants found are all discussed in yesterday’s report.

S1856 was a stop suggested by the database. We forgot to see what we were supposed to be looking for so we kept our eyes open for any of the plants seen so far today. I guess the stop might originally been prompted by a coffee / beer stop as it was next to a cafeteria. We walked up to an electricity pylon as a marker, then back to the car having photographed Echinocereus sp in flower, Echinocactus horizonthalonius, Coryphantha sp, Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha and Yucca endlichiana. The stop will probably be remembered by me for its smell of the chicken farm (small) at the back of the restaurant, which might explain why they were not busy.

Our next stop could be seen for miles around, a large flat top hill known as El Pillar. We drove through a small village and eventually stopped some 6 km out of town ( S1857). The landscape provided a hint to what we might find: Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus. While it is exciting to hunt for the plants, by the time that you’ve taken 20 pictures at a stop, they become boring as plant & location all look the same. Easy to get spoiled I guess. Angie felt the same about some Frailea’s that grow pulled back into the sand. Guess that we’ll have to go back one October when they should be in flower.

We then drove on to Viesca (Mam. viesciensis fame) but found nothing, just dust, dust and more dust. Once back on asphalt we had to stop and clean the windows as it was like sitting in a car covered in snow – visibility nil.

S1858

S1859

S1860

S1861

to be continued