Saturday, 16 October, 2010 – East of La Quiaca
Today our main target was the Oreocereus ‘forest’ known as the Harry Blossfeld site. It is where Juan and I were speechless with the sights we saw and promised to come back here with Florencia and Angie sometime in the future. Today, that day had come. Just as in 2008, we stopped off in the middle of a housing project between La Quiaca and Yavi. The plant list for S1062, made on 17 December 2008 is mouth watering: Cumulopuntia boliviana, Echinopsis (Lobivia) ferox (syn. Lobivia longispina), Echinopsis (Lobivia) pugionacantha, Maihueniopsis glomerata, Maihueniopsis hypogaea, Maihueniopsis subterranea, Tephrocactus nigrispinus, Tunilla erectoclada or was it Tunilla tilcarensis? Today the location received stop number S1924 and lack of recent moiture made for a much shorted stay and shorter list. C. boliviana was there, as were the Lobivias, shrunken into the ground and after a thorough search we finally found some M. subterranea, each requiring a ‘before’ and ‘after’ images, with paintbrushes in action in between, to make the plants presentable. Next, S1925, was the Blossfeld site, just as magnificent as we remembered it from 2008 and earlier from images shown by Leo van der Hoeven that gave it a ‘must see’ rating in our wish lists of cactus localities. owever, I already had so many images from the 2008 visit that I was struggling to find something different to take a shot at. This was presented by a llama that calmly walked between the plants and stopped occasionally to ‘graze’ at the flowers, buds and hair at the tops of the Oreocereus stems. One image has a close up of the beast looking curious at me, its mouth covered in the wool of the Oreocereus. Inspection of the plants visited showed that this was indiscriminate grazing, not looking for fruit as I had expected. Flowers were damaged and while I guess thare was a minimal chance of pollination resulting, I hardly expect to list Llamas among the pollinators of these Oreocereus. Angie took some movies as well that shows that it requires quite a yank to get the flowers and wool off. I also managed a couple of shots of a very large hummingbird briefly visiting a couple of flowers. The pictures are not sharp enough for inclusion in a talk. I made no attempt to match or add to the plant list for this location in 2008 which is included here for the benefit of those for whom this was the first visit: Cumulopuntia boliviana, C. chichensis (?), Echinopsis (Lobivia) ferox, Maihueniopsis glomerata (ssp. hypogaea?), Neowerdermannia chilensis, Oreocereus celsianus, O. trollii, Rebutia pygmaea,Tephrocactus nigrispinus, a taxon that seems to have mistified the botanists in putting together the NCL. It looks like a very dark spined form of C. boliviana to me. Finally, the white spined Tunilla corrugata and the famous hybrids between xOreocereus celsianus x Echinopsis ferox We decided to drive on beyond this location, S1926 into the hills, but after a short while regretted this as a sharp stone punctured one of the tyres of the Chevrolet. No drama, as the spare was quickly in place. As we drove into La Quiaca a tyre repair shop was easily found and although it was Saturday afternoon, the boss said that the repaired tyre would be ready for collection around 9 a.m. the next day. It was a nasty hole and he recommended that we’d only use the repaired tyre as a spare. Tomorrow we’ll be trying to find Yavias. As everything is so dry, this could be quite a challenge!