Today was much more than a drive along MEX 1 between San Ignacio and Guerrero Negro. Not discouraged by yesterday’s drive into the Sierra San Francisco, today we took another road into the mountains but this time heading for the village of San Francisco de la Sierra. Our target plant was Dudleya rubens that is said to be not common and to grow in out of the way places.
Most of the tourist activity in this area is whale watching, with pre-historic cave paintings a close second. Obviously, the whale watching happens along the coast but the cave paintings are found in the mountains. The Cueva del Raton (Cave of the Rats) is one such cave and the CSSA Dudleya Special Edition journal makes mention of D. rubens growing on the rockwall next to the cave.
As we turned off MEX1, sign posts told us that we had to drive 38 km to get to the village with the cave being near by. Eunice had been on this track for Christmas 2009, but on that occassion it had been very wet and some of the cars in the party just had city tyres and could not make the track that was covered in mud. That was then. This time we were faced with a newly tarmac-ed road! I had seen this before and expected the hard top to turn to dirt after the first bent. Not so. After some 12 km the inevitable happened and the nice smooth road surface turned to dust. Never mind – we had already covered a signifacant distance, so we had our bonus in advance and had already reached an altitude of 342 meters when we made our first stop (S2215). We found: Agave cerulata, Bursera microphylla, Cylindropuntia sp., Dudleya cultrata, Echinocereus brandegeei, Ferocactus sp., Mammillaria dioica, Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha, Myrtillocactus cochal, Pachycereus pringlei, Stenocereus (Hertrichocereus) thurberi, Stenocereus (Machaerocereus) gummosus, Tillandsia sp. Not bad for a first stop!
The list for S2216, farther along the track, was very similar but the star of the show here was an Echinocereus that at first glance looked nothing like any Echinocereus that I had seen or grown. Reid Moran’s field notes suggested E. engelmannii grows here and on closer inspection, there was some resemblance to this species, especially when I found just a few plants with the more familiar (but variable) strong spination. A quick email to friends at the Echinocereus Study Group confirmed that these were indeed E. engelmannii (Thanks Martina & Andreas). The plants were coming into bud and the flower remains from the previous season were still in evidence, but no fruits. There were also large clumps of Mammillaria (Cochemia) pondii ssp setispina and another small globular white spined Mam. with black hooked tips to the spine. (M. fitkaui?).
For S2217 we arrived at the Ecotourism facility of San Francisco de la Sierra, or so the sign claimed. There was no one in – a lady from a neighbouring house confirmed that nothing was open. A farmer came by with a truck full of goats milk. Did we want to see the cave paintings? No thank you, we were here for the plants. We asked if he knew where we could find ‘Semperviva’ – this is the local name for Dudleya (and Echeveria and probably all of the Crassulaceae). Yes, they grew in the hills but it was very dry and they would be more easily found during the rainy season.They would lead us there in their car, after dropping off the milk. They drove off in the opposite direction that we had understood. Perhaps they were going back to take the milk home and would then come and find us? We went tto the nearby Cueva del Raton. This is where an article in the CSSJ Dudleya special had reported seeing the plants. We found the caves, with a most formidable barbed wire fence making sure that the ancient art treasures were safe.
We took a look with zoom lenses along the edge of the rock face and thought that tere might be Dudleyas growing there. Our hopeful pictures confirmed that we were right once we were able to zoom in on the pictures at our computers (S2217)
We took a look in the hills above the village, but had to keep an eye on the clock as I did not want to be stuck on the mountain in the dark. S2218.
Time had come to turn back. We approached a steep rockface along the side of the trac., heavily in shadow. I bet if they grow any where it will be here. We allowed ourselves 10 minutes (S2219) to point our zoom lenses at the rockface and snapped away in the hope of obtaining some reasonable picks. It worked!
S2220 was for odd pictures taken on our way down to road. We had already reserved rooms in Guerrero Negro so arriving as the sun set was not too much of a worry.
Another great day.