We made the Goosenecks section in the Capitol Reef National Park our first stop of the day – S2520. Here the Freemonte River wound its way nearly 250 m. (800 ft) below us. Spectacular views but no cacti photographed here. Some ancient tortured pine trees proved interesting subjects for our cameras.
Having seen Sclerocactus in advanced bud near the Capitol Reef National Park Visitors Center yesterday, we dropped by again on our way to Green River to see if the buds had opened – this time recorded as S2518b. Rain was forecast for later this afternoon and perhaps the majority of the plants were waiting for the extra water to open their flowers. One flower, on an offset at the base of one plant had opened and for a while that seemed to be the best that we would get, until Cliff spotted a plant with two flowers open as we were heading back to the car. We called Angie back as she was already at the Visitors Center but her arrival took a bit longer as she ran into a crested Sclerocactus on the way! Yesterday I called the Sclero S. wrightiae. Sclerocactus wrightiae is said to display considerable morphologic variation, presumably due to introgression with S. parviflorus; however, it can usually be recognized by its noticeably fragrant flowers with pink to white tepals, and magenta staminal filaments. ‘Our’ plant in flower had a yellow stamen and although Cliff had announced that he would sniff the flowers, I did not see him do so, or I would have taken a picture to be able to list him among the potential pollinators. Although S. wrightiae generally has smaller stems and flowers and shorter spines than S. parviflorus, there are many exceptions. So what were the plants that we had photographed? Just to confuce matters, the Park’s plant list suggests S. whipplei as another candidate.
That would have made it a very good stop, but it was further enhanced by Cliff spotting a Pediocactus simpsonii on the hill. Had this hillside been seeded by National Park staff? The Rangers denied this, everything that we had seen had been put there by Mother Nature. I took some more pictures of the Echinocereus triglochidiatus, their bright flowers are bound to get a Wow! at future presentations in the UK.
We had GPS co-ordinates for a Pediocactus winkleri on the way to Green River. This involved turrning off Highway 24 and as we had plenty of time, we decided on anothe scenic stop to see what was here – S2521 – just Opuntia polyacantha found.
[Mapping this spot onto Google Earth shows that I had keyed in the wrong coordinates for the P. winkleri location, explaining why we did not find it here.]
S2522 was the supposed P. winkleri stop. I double checked the coordinates and again the GPS suggested that we’d take a .2 mile hike up a hill. Cliff and I spread out as best as two people could – Angie stayed around the car – the temperature was in the mid 30’s C (mid 90s F). We could see a heavy storm depositing snow on the hills below it. No cacti were found, presumably because the rains had not yet woken the plants that were still hiding below the soil or between grasses and stones.
We made one more stop S2523 and found more Sclerocactus – they looked identical to plants found in the Capitol Reef NP Stop 2518a/b. Echinocereus triglochidiatus and the usual white spined Opuntia (polyacantha?) were also around.
We had not booked accommodation at Green River until tomorrow night, but found rooms at the Budget Inn in Green River – clean and safe, if a little noisy right along Highway 191.