Three days after leaving the UK and I had yet to click a shutter with the camera pointing at a cactus or succulent in habitat. The shutter finger was becoming impatient! Eunice had promised to take me to see Dudleya anthonyi in habitat.
From the hotel, we could see low hills along the coast to the north of San Quintín. The newly acquired Baja California Almanac told us that these were three volcanoes, long time inactive. They stood out clearly in the plain around San Quintín, so we were soon at the foot of one of them, the one with a microwave station on top.
S2196 was a quick stop to allow Eunice to get her bearings as a warren of tracks went off in all direction. During my short stroll I managed to spot just one Dudleya, D. cultrata, growing with Euphorbia misera and Mesembryanthemum chrystalinum. The first shots had been fired!
S2197 was called as soon as we saw large silver white Dudleya growing to the left of the track. The habitat was quite difficult to negotiate as it was an old lava flow with the gaps between the jagged clumps of lava hidden by shrubs. The lava itself was covered in lichens and algae. D. anthonyi is a beautiful plant in habitat. It is notoriously difficult to distinguish from D. brittonii and D. pulverulenta that also form large rosettes of leaves covered in white farina.
D. brittonii invariably has bright green forms growing side by side with the white farina covered forms. whenever I have seen them in habitat, they grow on vertical cliff faces. D. anthonyi is not reported to have a green form. The plants here all grew on volcanic rocks on the flat. All mature plants found were growing on a formidable stem that looked at least three times its true thickness, due to a thick layer of blackened dried up leaves covering the true stem. I have not seen these trunks on the other similar white leaved species. Comments in literature suggest that the only reliable way to distinguish the three species from each other is to compare flower structures. Flowering usually takes place from April to June, when I have not been able to visit Dudleya habitats.
Fortunately the three species do not seem to share habitats with each other as far as we have been able to make out.
There were two other Dudleya species here: D. cultrata and D. attenuata.
During the two hours at this location there was a thick wall of cloud – fog that hang over the Pacific Ocean a few km. off shore. Isla San Martin, that lies more or less opposite this location and is the Type Locality for D. anthonyi was repeatedly partly or fully shrouded with mist. The scene was very similar to the camanchaca that we are so familiar with from Chilean cactus trips. The lichen and algae that cover the lava rocks and shrubs suggest that these fogs regularly cover this area.
We drove back to the hotel, making a detour through San Quintín to visit a street market where I picked up my 2011 Mexican Cowboy hat and a couple of souvenirs.