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Today’s entry is an excellent example of why I write  these Diary reports – I need them! It seems that lack of time and internet access on the day had prevented me from writing down our adventures of the day so that now (11 July 2011) I’ll have to  squeeze the brain cells to try and get to the information on what we did in Chos Mahal. Fortunately, as ever I have my pictures nicely filed away that tell me that  I recorded four stops and took  112 digital images.

S2102 was a ‘no cacti or other succulent plants in habitat recorded’ stop, about2 km east of Milla Michico. The 13 images include two of different screens of my GPS to record the coordinates and altitude, an indication that the GPS connected to my Nikon D300 was again playing up. The scenery shows a pine tree plantation with a field full of yellow flowering Oxalis plants and some large birds (lapwings?) that I still need to ask Mike Harvey to ID. We were at 1,368 m. altitude.

We had climbed 100 m by the time we stopped at S2103 at Mirador La Puntilla – yes, it pays to take images of the signs as well! The Mirador, a view point, was a wooden walk way with viewing platforms offering nice views over the valley below. But our point of interest was a group of small stems, similar to a small form of Echinocereus pentalophus, but that plant is from Texas. This was an Austrocactus and we followed the lumper’s approach and called it A. bertinii, although we now understand that there are a number of differences between these Andean foothill plants and A. bertinii that has its habitat near sea level, on sand dunes along the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles away. The other plant that drew our attention was what looks like a wild tea rose that was abundant and in full flower. Is this a Patagonian endemic or an escapee horticultural plant that escaped from somebody’s garden, hundreds of years ago?

The road was still climbing and we stopped again at 1,636 m altitude (S2104) and found Mahuenia poeppigii, an indication that we were close to Chile. We also found a nice Viola sp. (V. columnaris?), Calceolarea sp  and an Anemone sp.

We were on our way back, at 1,145 m altitude we (= Juan) spotted large clumps of densely spined cacti – this time resembling Echinocereus engelmannii, a plant from the American SW and northern Mexico. I was happy to let the zoom lens do the work to get a picture, but Juan made several attempts to get a good close up. We recorded it as another Austrocactus species.

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