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Many of you have asked me how I go about writing up the Diaries. Today’s missive is actually written on 15 December, while I’m cozily tucked up in front of the telly in Amesbury, Wiltshire UK, but when ever possible, I like to get the daily report out ‘from the field (hotel)’ on the actual day. So how does this work? As soon as we check into the hotel I look for the bed nearest the mains socket and switch on my laptop. This allows fellow travellers to take showers, or find the bar to (hopefully) come back with cold beers or similar. First task is to down load today’s images, so that I can reformat the memory card and have a capacity for up to 739 images for the next day. Next the search is on for an internet connection. If found, I check if Angie is still up, for a quick chat – unless she is my roomy on the trip of course, in which case we have already been chatting all day and need a break. The MSN chat is a bit like a brain dump, a muddle of the significant events of the day in the order of their importance or the order in which they happened. Often I save these chats as MS Word documents that I can then edit, to get the events in the right order, run spell check (honestly!) and cut and paste them into wordpress. If time runs out, they may appear as ‘to be continued’ reports that need to be tidied up later, possibly at home. By now, the image download has probably finished (time for another beer! – cactus exploring is a thirsty business!) and I quickly open today’s folder (created by the download process) and look for the images that mark the start of each stop.

In the past, this marker image would be the hand held GPS unit informing me where we had parked the car. Now that I have a GPS unit on my camera that records the coordinates for every image I take (when I remember to switch the unit on) I take a close up picture of the car or anything else that stands out as not being a plant or scenery image.

These marker images enable me to quickly move the images taken at a particular location to stop folders in that day’s folder. Next, if time permits, I open up my Stop Database, created in MS Access, and by going through the images of each stop, I noted the taxa that we saw. Some of the Diary audience only read the Diaries for this information, so I cut and paste the plant stop information into the Diaries and pad it out. For today, the plant data reads as follows:

S2419: Opuntia sulphurea – in flower, Unidentified genus species – Tradescantia?, Echinopsis (Lobivia) mamillosa – this is reported from a few km south at BB1369.04.

S2420: Cleistocactus strausii, Echinopsis mamillosa, in bud and in flower (red),  E. (Trichocereus) sp, Rebutia (Aylostera) fiebrigii, R. (A.) heliosa, E. calorubra var. cardenasiana ?, Lichen.

S2421 and S2422:  Rebutia (Aylostera) heliosa var condorensis, R. (A.) deminuta ssp kupperiana – s.n. R. robustispina (reported at nearby BB 289.02), E. calorubra var. cardenasiana (reported at nearby  BB 289.03),  Lichen,  Echinopsis mamillosa.

I only started to record the presence of Lichen around this time and, when time permits, will go back and check images from earlier stops too. Rebutia s.l. were often found growing in ‘moss’ – I’m not sure of its botanic status. Some seem similar to a species of Selaginella that I have seen around other cactus habitats, e.g. ‘spike moss’ and Echinocereus viridiflorus ssp davisii south of Marathon, Texas, USA. The presence of such ‘mosses’ may be significant. In 2003, part of my collection survived a damp but relatively warm winter on Angie’s patio in Amesbury, Wiltshire, UK. Many of the pots of the smaller cacti developed quite a dense growth of ‘moss’ around the cacti, that as a result seemed to be more resistant to damp cold, almost as though it made the cacti more resistant to the fungi and bacteria of plants that were not ‘protected’ in that way. Could there be a symbiotic relationship? Should we use moss rather than gravel as a top dressing for our plants?

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