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Today was always going to be a ‘mainly driving day’ with just two target plant stops suggested by John from trips he made here during 1972 – 38 years ago, one some 22 km north of Hermosillo for Mammillaria mainiae and another for Mammillaria goldii.

So when the posts along Mex 14 announced km 22  we stopped (S1890), once again squeezed through barbed wire fencing and found Cylindropuntia sp. #1, sp. #2 (in flower) and C. leptocaulis (in bud), Stenocereus schottii, a light spined Mammillaria that I assume is M. grahamii and a darker spined, fatter stemmed form that could be M. dioica – no flowers or fruit to help with IDs and Stenocereus alamosensis (s.n. Rathbunia alamosensis). At first I thought that it was Stenocactus gummosus that we had seen so much around Baja California and along the coast in Sonora. On those occasions, we had seen some flowers, off white in colour and tubular cup-shaped. But the plants here had very different flowers: pink to red coloured, recurved petals and anthers and stamen poking out, almost like Nopalia flowers, designed for hummingbird pollination.  This and S. gummosus can not be accused of being the most dynamic plants in the desert, so while I take ‘for the record’ pictures at each stop that they appear, I never pay close attention, unless there are flowers, fruits or cristate stems, so I may have seen this species before without recognising it for what it is. This one is called the Octopus cactus, because of its sprawling habit. Stenocereus thurberi was also here, in bud and some open flowers as was Fouquieria macdougalii. John spotted a couple of caudiciform trunks of Ibervillia sonorensis and then found four individual plants of M. mainiana. growing in shade under Acacia trees. A very nice stop!

S1891 was for twelve images at a roadside comfort stop (a.k.a. a P break) along Mex 17. Pachycereus pecten-arboriginum (in fruit)  Stenocereus thurberi and a Bursera sp. were among plants of interest photographed.

Two hours later, the same excuse (P break) gave us S1892 where we saw Opuntia sp. C. sp. #1, Stenocereus thurberi, Fouquieria macdougalii. and one large Mammillaria (some 20+ cm in diameter) with large flowers (for the genus). Does. M. winterae occur here? Unfortunately only plant was found, as we had a limited time budget.

We arrived in Nacozari where John had found Mammillaria goldii, Echinocereus rigidissimus, Coryphantha recurvata and Agave parviflora in 1972, 38 years ago. His notes called for us to follow Mex 17 into town (there is now a bypass), cross two railway lines (there are no railway lines now, but a steam engine in the centre of town is a monument to a Mexican, who drove a burning ammunition train out town, where it exploded, killing the local hero, sometime in the 18 hundreds) and then look for the plants on the two low hills just outside of town (these were now built on as part of the urban expansion). We drove through town and around it on the bypass in the hope that John might recognise some likely features to suggest that M. goldii might grow here as well. Such locations needed to be accessible from the road, with an opportunity to park the car safely.

S1893 was judged to be a best fit and we allowed ourselves 30 minutes for a quick exploration. An hour later, we had found all the companion cacti, but sadly, not the Mam. It might have been here, but this is a very small growing plant that would be hard to find in the vegetation (denser than John remembered it) if not in flower.

Time had again beaten us – we had to be out of Mexico today (car insurance) and took two hours to cross at Agua Prieta. Potential travellers wanting to take their US rental car into Mexico should know that a recent change in law now necessitates a US$400 deposit to be paid as part of the import formalities. When we entered Mexico at Pedra Negra, the office to import the car was actually some 20 km inside Mexico, at Allende. Here, the office was actually at the border control, but at the point where you enter the country, not where you leave it. The process went very smoothly and friendly, but  contributed to the two hours that it took to enter Agua Prieta and cross the order into Douglas, AZ.

It was still a fairly lng drive on to Tucson where we stayed at the usual Motel 6 and had dinner at our usual steak house, The Silver Saddle, where a sign said that they did not accept the recession. Fine, but where on earlier visits we had to queue for a table to become available, today the restaurant was only about 20% full – may be because it was Monday night?

This report was written as we drove from Desert Centre to Riverside along I-10 on 13 April.

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