Thursday, 10 March, 2011 – San Luis Potosi to Rioverde
Our hotel spells it Rioverde (one word) so that’s what I’ll stick with. We’ve seen Rio Verde as well.
After reaching our turnaround point yesterday we discussed options for the way back to Bellflower, CA. I’d guess that we have enough location data to take at least a year to get back, if we were to visit locations in a 30 km wide corridor between here and the US border. So, without tying ourselves down to a rigid route we agreed to head to Tula for a few nights. We spent a little longer than planed on the road today, so one of those ‘Tula nights’ has been replaced by a ‘Rio Verde night’.
So what did we see today. We had a late start today (10 a.m.) and were further delayed by Eunice’s search for a post office – those who have been with us on trips during March will recognise the need to find a post office to get off a birthday card to the son of a friend in CA.
We took MEX 70 out of SLP, heading for Rio Verde. I had half expected this to be a dual carriage way, but it turned out to be a two lane hard top tat took us through some very scenic areas. Some of the scenery was lost on us as clouds had decended on the top of the hills that we were driving through, windscreen wipers and lights on, with the temperature outside, at 2,133 m altitude, dropping to 8 C (45 F).
We put on jumpers and stopped (S2307) on a piece of the old MEX 70 that was now a convenient lay by. We found two different Mams,: M. erythrosperma growing in cracks in the rocks, just like Michel Lacoste’s picture on the internet and along the same road as his ML322 which would make the other Mam. M. orcuttii, Opuntia sp, Cylindropuntia sp. and Agave attenuata. This Agave is one of California’s favourite landscape plants in gardens that are large enough to accommodate a display of several plants. Of course there were Opuntia and Cylindropuntia sp. as well.
A bit farther along the road (Still S2307) we found Selenicereus sp. growing on rocks – looking just like the plants that we saw in Cuba last year.
S2308 was a leg stretch to take some pictures of the large ceroids in flower along MEX 70. The flowers were much too high up for me to look into, but I could see insects (mainly bees) flying in and out. So could the small birds (finches?) and the larger bird with a long, turned down bill (bee eater?) that seemed to be feasting on something in the flower. what are these ceroids? we saw them yesterday at Xichu as well. Stenocereus seems to be a candidate.
A bit later than anticipated we headed for a John Miller stop for T. lophophoroides near Ciudad Fernandez. As mentioned before, JM stops are usually right on the money, unless some one had built a house on the spot, as happened at an earlier location. This time, a nice new tarmac road took us to the spot – right over it!!!! We stopped by the side of the road where the plant would have been, or were the coordinates no more than a ‘car park’ location with near by explorations carried out on foot? (S2309). We searched the area in quite some detail for more than half an hour, but apart from the Stenocereus (?), Opuntia sp and Cylindropuntia sp. there were no cacti to be seen. ‘The Turbinicarpus in San Luis Potosi’ book by Grupo San Luis, Published by Cactus & Co (2004) is proving very useful as the pictures show the overviews and close ups of the plants in habitat, which helps to get your eye in. Most of the close up pictures show the plant at their best, after rainfall and in flower. We were seeing a different picture.
T. lophophoroides is said to always grow together with Coryphantha maiz-tablasensis, so we were very pleased when Eunice found a group of three of these, the size of Thelocephala, growing pulled down into the soil in grazed grassland. Near by there were some holes in the ground that suggested human visitors. Animals tend to burrow at an angle, plant diggers tend to leave nice round holes going straight down.
On the 17 to 19th March there is a Peyote festival in the area and as the name suggests, this plant looks like a Lophophora and all Turbs contain some of the alkaloids that are used by the members of the native indian Church – so, by having the location so well known, I suggest that it was likely to have been plundered.
The Turb book suggested that we were right in the middle of the plant’s distribution area, so by driving a little distance away from the new tarmac road, we might have more luck. We had an hour or so to spare before we should look for hotels.
We headed back along the main road to the track that we had used to get there, from Cd. Fernandez. On the track, there was a fork in the road. ‘Which way?’ Eunice, driving, asked. ‘Right’ I said, ‘and at the next fork, you decide.’ The track seemed to head back to the main road, so I suggested that we’d pull up and look around for 10 minutes.
I stepped out of the car (S2310) and there, one step away, was T. lophophoroides!!!!!
We looked around for another 30 minutes, but it was the only one we found, no Coryphantha either. Eunice suggests I keep this turb spotting talent a secret, in case people want to rub my head for good luck 🙂
Their habitat is ‘different’ to the usual habitats that we see. Flat lands – grazed, on gypsum soil. It is said to get flooded when it rains in spring and autumn, but dries out quickly. Turb strategy seems to be ‘flower when ever there is water and grow from seedling to mature seed producing plant ASAP, so that the seedlings generated replace their parents who fall victim to grazing animals’ – horses and cows mainly, judging by droppings found, although goats seem to come through as well. A bit like Toumeya papyracantha and Pediocactus in the US.
Although we only found the one specimen today, it’s another tick in the ‘seen in habitat’ box; we seem to have broken the ‘look in alphabetical order’ rule that I thought had been haunting us.
Tomorrow we have an easy day’s drive over back roads via Las Tablas, the Type Locality for T. lophophoroides, so we have time to make a number of short stops to see if we can find more. And there are lots of other goodies reported as well, so we’ll see.