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John’s outline itinerary continues west, 249 km along Ruta 4 running south of the National Parks mentioned yesterday and promised  Sulcorebutia and Echinopsis. I recorded 9 stops, just brief stops along the main road to see the huge diversity in just one species of Rebutia (Sulcorebutia) steinbachii; plants that we might also grow under various varietal names of Sulcorebutia tiraquensis.

But first, first impressions of Bolivia. It seemed very familiar and yet quite different. There were many features in common with other cactus countries. The roads so far have been good with their twists and turns being the main factor for slowing us down. Outside the towns of Santa Cuz a few days ago now, and now outside Cochabamba, the road passes through suburban sprawl that forces the speed down and Brendan was said to have made a spectacular flier off one of the speed bumps that seems to be part of the landscape everywhere that ‘civilisation’ spreads. We did not see it, but Chris Pugh was looking for a shop that sells crash helmets – none found. So in this respect, I felt at times that I was on Mex1 in Baja California.

Everything is very green and lush after recent rains. We tested the windscreen wipers on a few drops yesterday, but it was only the briefest and lightest of showers. The lushness again reminded me of Baja in February – March and of areas in Bahia and Minas Gerais in Brazil. The ‘costumes’ of the native population sets it apart from these other countries, but had things in common with Peru and NW Argentina, which is not that unexpected as they are just across the border.

I won’t do a detailed plant stop list here, with 9 stops today and ten yesterday, it would just take too long and have too much duplication, so I’ll just stick to things that stood out. At S2372, that was without doubt an Echeveria sp, one of several (7?) reported from Bolivia and one that perhaps Myran Kimnach could put a name to. Memories of driving through the Copper Canyon area in Chihuahua, Mexico came back.

At S2379, we parked along a side track and I was reminded of Patagonia, with a strong wind blowing through the Eucalyptus trees and blowing away our voices as we were trying to communicate. The version of Rebutia steinbachii that we had come to see here is still labelled Sulcorebutia bicolorispinus in my collection – if it survived last year’s harsh UK winter. This was where the light shower spoiled the light. My usual request at plant stops with some really nice plants, is for a crested plant in full flower. So too here. John obliged by finding the crest, but the flowers (they had already closed due to bad light) were on the plant next to it. But this stop will be firmly fixed in my memory as ‘The (first?) Blockade stop’. When we got back to the two cars, a group of Bolivians, families with people of all ages, had gathered. As we looked down the track,  it appeared to be blocked by a truck. While we had been looking for plants, the people had also rolled large boulders onto the track and the kids had stones in their hands, ready to bombard our cars if we had wanted to make a break for it. Nice! But nowhere as threatening as it might have been in Mexico where guns and machetes would have been on show. John asked us to keep our cameras out of sight and walked over for a chat with some of the senior members. ‘Was there a problem?’ Lots of smiles. They indicated that we had been on their land, what had we been up too? John explained that we were tourists, looking for cacti and showed pictures on his camera of the plants that we had seen. ‘OK, no problema’ and they started to clear away the blockade. Just a bit of boredom on a Sunday afternoon? Just showing foreigners to treat them with a bit of respect when they entered their lands?

PS: update from England, a list of what we saw today.

S2372, Opuntia sp., Echeveria decumbens, Echinopsis calochlora, s.n. Echinopsis hammerschmidii is reported by BB, Bromeliad sp., Cleistocactus samaipatanus, hanging, Birds – parrots / paraquites, Orchidaceae sp., Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss)

S2373, Opuntia sp., weak spined, yellow flowered

S2374, Tillandsia sp, Unidentified genus species – Tree ferns, Calceolaria sp., Oxalis sp, Passiflora sp,

S2375, Cleistocactus sp., Opuntia sp., Echinopsis (Trichocereus) sp or Harrissia spTillandsia sp, several taxa, Echinopsis calorubra, in flower, Orchidaceae sp.

S2376, Philibertia lysimachioides, yellow flowered Asclepiad, Rebutia (Sulcorebutia) steinbachii?

S2377, Rebutia (Sulcorebutia) steinbachii ssp tiraquensis, Very variable spine colour. BB 0246 reports Sulcorebutia tiraquensis var. totorensis from here.

S2378, Echinopsis (Trichocereus) tacaquirensis?

S2379, Rebutia (Sulcorebutia) steinbachii ssp tiraquensis, including one crested plant, in flower. s.n. Sulcorebutia tiraquensis var. bicolorispina, Sulcorebutia tiraquensis var. bicolorispina fma. nigrispina n.n. Slaba, Echinopsis (Trichocereus) sp, Puya sp, in flower, Echinopsis sp. – Lobivia sp or Echinopsis sp?

S2380, Austrocylindropuntia verschaffeltii, reported by BMLT 009 but not found this time. Did they confuse C. rossiana with this plant? Rebutia (Sulcorebutia) steinbachii, s.n. Sulcorebutia steinbachii var. polymorpha, Puya sp, Echinopsis (Lobivia) maximilliana ssp caespitosa, ? Also reported from here E. calorubra & E. obrepanda, Cumulopuntia rossiana, s.n. Maihueniopsis rossiana

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