We just had one stop planned for today a John Miller stop for Ariocarpus trigonus was right along MEX85 as we headed for Monterrey. The weather forecast for today was HOT. 40C in Monclava, 38 C in Monterrey. We were in between, but in an airconditioned car. One stop sounded just fine.
And yet …. we followed MEX 30 from Villaldama to MEX85 and for part of the way were joined by a river to the left of the road, and a sheer rock wall, in the shade, to the right. As we drove by Eunice spotted Agave lophantha growing on the rockwall. We soon found a place to park and invited the greetings of cars passing by (hooting their horns at us pedestrians) as we explored the flora of this wall, S2261: Agave lophantha, Echeveria sp., Echinocereus scheeri, Escobaria sp., Ferocactus hamatacanthus, Mammillaria heyderi ssp meiacantha and Opuntia sp. (huge tree like plants hanging from the rocks) – not a bad rockery! and a great unexpected stop. And Honk Honk back to the cars that passed us!
S2262 was more of the same on road cuttings along MEX85. The Escobaria here has tentatively been identified by Juergen Menzel as Escobaria muehlbaueriana – not a name that I am familiar yet, but then I’m not a student of Escobaria. Thank you Juergen! The plant that Eunice sent Juergen a picture of was growing in a sheltered position while those growing in the open had a much denser spination but were not yet in flower or had already passed over. A bit more searching of the internet suggests that E. emskoetteriana may be the one favoured by followers of the New Cactus Lexicon – it has E. muehlbaueriana and E. runyoni, another candidate, as synonyms. Another great bonus stop – so often the unscheduled stops provide more interesting finds than hunting down a known location and not finding the target plants.
Talking of which, about 30 minutes later we arrived at our target stop, S2263. There had been a fire along the side of the road and as a result the fence posts had turned to piles of ash. It was as though someone left the door open and all we needed to do was walk in. Eunice used her handheld GPS to get to the exact coordinates while I walked around in the believe that plants grow in more than one finite spot. I found two small Coryphantha that were reported as C. salinensis but after some 15 minutes Eunice was the first and only one to claim her Ariocarpus find and then another, and another and another! Faster than I could photograph what I had found already. But then, despite another 15 minutes in the burning sun, no more Ariocarpus could be found. There were a number of square holes as though someone had used a machete to cut out a plant. Collecting? Who knows.
Eunice (again!) did find a huge very flat Ferocactus that I mistook for Ferocactus macrodiscus, but that would be way out of its range and the buds were wrong – our plant had dense bristly buds where as F. macrodiscus has bald buds, almost like a Gymnocalycium. Current thinking favours a very large Echinocactus texensis that was also reported from this area.
I can tell you that whether it was 38 or 40C out there, it was not healthy to be out in the sun for long.
Following the Baja trip I had already bought a 2 stop neutral density filter because even at the lowest ISO setting on my camera (L1.0), three licks less than ISO 200, many pictures still seemed over exposed. The filter works just great at ISO 200 but I have to remember to remove the filter when taking images of plants on shaded rock walls (or walk by the wall again to take the images again)
Tomorrow we revisit Huasteca Canyon, this time looking for the cacti that we missed in ignorance of their existence last year, distracted by so many other wonderful things to see and photograph.