Friday, 11 March, 2011 – Rio Verde to Tula
After yesterday’s remarkable find of a single T. lophophoroides and after another look for a post office, we headed east out of Rio Verde on MEX 70 and not far out of town stopped at another known location for the plant (S2311). This time we had more luck and my first find was a tiny seedling while Eunice found a little lime stone mound that was home for half a dozen plants, nicely exposed. After that things became easier and more plants were found.
Back on Mex 70 we soon turned north on a road signed for Santa Rita and San Francisco that would eventually take us to Las Tablas, the Type Locality for Turbinicarpus lophophorioides. Our next stop (S2312) took us onto a gentle sloping hill side where we looked for and found Ariocarpus retusus v scapharostroides. I’m not much of an Ariocarpus officionado and was not familiar with this particular variety. Back in the UK, I’ll have to set up a Gallery of the Ariocarpus locations visited and pictures from each population. Nice, large chunky plants. There was also a nice little Coryphantha sp. here. I see that C. glassii has been reported from near by, so will check that taxon out in literature once I’m back with my books.
With the number of stops we make and the huge cactus and other succulent plant diversity encountered, I’ll just mention the key taxa for each stop rather than a full run down that would end up to be rather repetitive.
S2313 was just a leg stretch stop with nothing cactus wise that we had not seen already.
S2314 was something else. Close, south to Las Tablas we may have expected to find T. lophophoroides here but the terrain (hilly) was completely different from where we had already seen them, so we did not specifically look for them and did not find any either. So what was noteworthy here? Last year we had seen Astrophytum capricorne in Coahuila but none of the other Astrophytums. A. myriostigma had been reported from here so that became my prime target for this walk in the heat. ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ again and as I am Dutch, I guess that I’m included in the Mad Dogs. These are very photogenic plants, especially when not damaged by passing animals, so just about every plant spotted was photographed. We were dumbfounded by one plant that had the number 74 written on it with a felt tip pen. Anyone lost their Astro #74? Applications to the third rock from the giant Echinocactus down the road.
Mammillaria candida was a note worthy companion, as was M. albata, distinguishable from each other by their flowers. The Ariocarpus was reported from here, but as we had just seen that, we were not specifically looking for this plant and did not find any. And I would not specifically mention Echinocactus platyacanthus that we now know to be wide spread and able to grow into real giants, if it had not been for the largest ‘globular’ cactus I have ever seen, a specimen that measured more than 3 m (yes, 9 ft) in height – a giant amongst giants. Eunice was elsewhere on the hill, so I could not ask her to take a picture of me being dwarfed for once. She came back past the same plant (how could you miss it?) and also had failed to include herself with the plant in a picture. Tripods are just another item to lug around with limited use, so mine stays at home. Eunice’s stayed in the car and there were no convenient rocks with a clear line of vision to the plant. There was also a quite large green cactus here that I first thought was Coryphantha elephantes, but on reflection it might be Thelocactus hexaedroforus. If I can’t get the genus right, what chance do I stand with the specific name? And what I have been calling Echinocereus pentalophus may have been E. leonensis. Well, I gather that the current name in favour is Echinocereus pentalophus ssp leonensis, sothey are recognised to be similar. Again, something to do during the summer – check out how to distinguish one from the other. This was our ‘keynote’ stop of the day.
We dragged ourselves away as we still had a fair way to go and time was getting on. S2315 was a brief stop to look at some large clumps of Echinocereus (enneacanthus?) growing in open land with a few low shrubs scattered around. All looking fairly well beaten up.
After the spell of driving through the flat countryside we could not help but stop when a rocky outcrop reached the road.S2316. Astrophytum and white Mams were again the main plants of interest. Opuntia microdasys was in bud and flower.
We had spent a long day out in the sun and bouncing on a poor quality track so were glad when dusty dirt turned to (badly worn) asphalt. It contained more pot holes than the average road in the UK after another hard winter. We hit a pothole full on and soon afterwards Eunice stopped explaining that the car felt ‘funny’. All wheels tyres still inflated but the rear off-side tyre had a blister the size of a fist right in the middle of the thread on the running surface. We limped on to village of Palomas where a local Vulkan (tyre repair man) confirmed our suspicion that the tyre was a write off, but kindly used his powered tools to change the wheel for us.
We had been heading for Tula, but our tyre expert advised us to go in the opposite direction to Cuidad del Maiz (Corn City) where there were more tyre shops. 28 km on tarmac without a spare were OK and we had soon reached the Corn town. The roadside in and out of the town must have had a dozen tyre shops, or at least, repair men. None had a tyre to match our needs. Time was pushing on, so we looked for a Hotel but the lady who ran the largest tyre shop smiled and said to Eunice ‘not here, go to Tula or Ciudad Victoria.’ Always keen to follow good advice, we headed off in the direction from where we had just come and past the spot where we had joined it and turned right onto MEX 101 as the sun set behind the hills to the west. The remaining 31 km (crossing into Tamaulipas) were driven in the dark, against our plans, but needs must. The town was pretty dead and we gave up our search for a place where we could buy a tyre, switching our search to accommodation. Eventually we found a Hotel San Jorge, a string of terraced chalets at a very cheap 250 pesos for the night. Breakfast was not included and there was no wifi, so having dumped our luggage we made the journey back to MEX101 where a large truck stop still had a restaurant open where my steak resembled the sole of my boots. Still, once again we did not go hungry.