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Archive for May, 2012

Summer 2012

With the USA 2012 trip behind us, Angie & I start looking forward to the next six months.

I’ll be working on putting together a 45 minute presentation with the highlights of USA 2012 which together with a 45 minute presentation of Bolivia 2011 will form What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012.

Angie has been invited to give 8 presentations as well this year including our first combined presentation, where we do a 45 minute programme each.

Our dates for 2012 are:

18 February Angie: California   & Arizon 2011 BCSS Portsmouth   Branch
21 Angie: California & Arizon 2011 BCSS Bristol
5 March Angie: California & Arizon 2011 BCSS Crawley
1 April What I Saw in   Mexico  – Baja Cactus and Succulent Society of Malta
What   I Saw in California
What   I Saw in Brazil – Rio Grande do Sul
Where   I Saw – Eriosyce – Thelocephala group
Where   I Saw – Eulychnia
What   I Saw in Chile – South of Santiago
3 What I Saw Last Winter 2010-2011 BCSS Lowestoft
4 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2011 BCSS Norwich
10 May Angie: Frailea   hunting in Rio Grande do Sul BCSS Kingston-upon-Thames
12 Angie – Arizona & California 2011 BCSS Gloucester
26 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Woking
5 June What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Southampton
6 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS North Devon
7 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Exeter
8 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Cornwall
9 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Plymouth
11 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Eltham
14 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Kingston-upon-Thames
16 A   trio of South American cacti BCSS Havering Branch
Angie: Arizona and California 2011
11 July What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Cardiff
13 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Waltham Forest
14 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Isle of Wight
18 Angie: Frailea Hunting in Rio Grandedo Sul BCSS Somerset (Taunton)
20 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Coventry
21 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Reading
2 August What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Hastings
13 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Macclesfield
14 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Stoke-on-Trent
15 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Taunton
23 What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Brighton
18 September What I Saw Last Winter 2011-2012 BCSS Bristol

On 19 September, David Neville, Cliff Thompson, Eunice Thompson and I are off for our next plant trip, a two month journey through South Africa and Namibia that is planned to feature in What I Saw Last Winter 2012 – 2013.

Saturday, 5 May 2012 – Phoenix and flying back to Blighty

We had to check out of Motel 6 by noon, but by around 11:30 we had enough of sitting in the small room without having had breakfast. Angie wanted to find a Columbia shop to buy some more lightweight – easy washable etc shirts and via the internet we learned there was such a shop at the Anthem Retail Outlets, 39 miles from the Motel. We had plenty of fuel left in the tank; our Platinum deal with Dollar meant that we could return the car on empty.

At least the shops were airconditioned but once again, the desert air was scorching at 96 F. I couldn’t resist a couple more shirts myself – they are so much cheaper in the US, especially in these out of town Outlets.  The Columbia cash desk recognised my name from last year in Palm Springs and gave me another $14 discount as a result of reward points collected on that occasion. Thank you – that covered the cost of one of my shirts!

The rental car pick up and drop off points for a comprehensive range of rental companies is found in its own ‘terminal’ with shuttle bus services from each of the four flight terminals to it. Very well arranged! It’s the first time that we’ve come across this – well done Phoenix!

Mileage at the drop off was 17,652. That means that with a mileage of 14,468 miles at the pick up, we had driven 3,184 miles during 20 days, so averaging just 160 miles per day.

We took off as the sun was setting, but the windows on the plane were not clean enough at this stage to take any worthwhile pictures.

Friday, 4 May 2012 – Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

When we plan our trips we’ve learned to build in some ‘escape’ options in case we should run into health or car problems that can cause unexpected delays. This includes arriving at your final destination in Cactus Country with a day to spare – just in case. This is when we fit in goals such as botanic gardens and the Desert Botanical Garden proved to be a great was to spend the day. For the first time this trip I managed to fill an 8 GB memory card, with lots of cacti and other desert plants, many in flower – S2558. In 2000, the late Ted Anderson, then recently retired as curator at the DBS, had agreed to be a speaker at the Derek Desborough Memorial Lectures then organised by the Crawley Branch of the British Cactus & Succulent Society. The day after the lecture I took him to the Holly Gate Cactus Nursery, then managed by Terry Hewitt, where we had a great day taking pictures that Ted still needed for The Cactus Family book that he was writing. As I dropped him off at the house he was renting during his stay in the UK, he said that we had to do this again at ‘his place in Phoenix’. Sadly Ted died in 2001, but I felt that he was there as we walked between the plants.

My pictures of Saguaros on earlier visits usually failed to catch them in flower, but this time, a bit later in the year, we had hit the jackpot. I always envied those who had taken pictures of birds feeding on the flowers’ pollen and here they were, doing their thing – I should have some great shots of them. Also of hummingbirds, feeding on Lobivia huascha from north west Argentina, of a ground squirrel that seemed intent on catching our attention by giving us a little performance right along the side of a path in the Gardens and of a Harris’ Antelope Squirrel climbing up Ferocactus to get to the fruits and seeds. Angie did even better by catching them on video.

Walking through the garden in the heat – temperatures went past the 38 degrees C (100 F ) mark and all the water we had brought had gone. By around 15:00 we were reduced to sitting in the shade sipping ice-cold Colas. Time for that other ritual at the end of the trip – the car wash! Compared to other trips, this had been a fairly easy trip for our Ford Escape and it had treated us well, but had picked up some dirt both inside and out, so we treated it to a valet make over, inside and out.

Back in Motel 6 we started to solve the riddle of how to get everything that should come back to the UK inside our luggage. Worn out walking boots and jeans were sacrificed and despite the fact that they were way past their best by date, we still felt a little emotional saying goodbye to these items that had served us well for a number of years. We’re old softies really.

Late tomorrow afternoon we leave for the UK where we arrive on Sunday. By Sunday night I plan to post the final report of the trip.

Thursday, 3 May 2012 – Holbrook to Phoenix

A quick look at the UK weather forecast for Salisbury, England makes depressive reading: 9.7 C max. So that’s what we’ll have to look forward to when we get home on Sunday! Better make the best of the days that we have left in the USA.

Cliff had suggested that if we saw Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Company, we stop, as this is where, years ago, he bought some great T-shirts that by now had served their time and needed replacing.. And soon after leaving Motel 6, there it was (S2554). It’s a cross between a builder’s yard where mechanical diggers are used to help you to take your shopping (lumps of petrified wood – to be used as garden landscape features) to your car. Not sure what you are supposed to do when you get home – how do you get several tons of stone out of the car? Inside, it is a cross between a museum – with cut and polished pieces of wood, plus fossils and crystals from every corner of the planet. Some are just exhibits (although I bet that at the right price you could take them home) while others are for sale, some at outside our budget prices, some outside our flight weight allowance but some very suitable as last-minute souvenir shopping. They no longer sold the line of T Shirts that Cliff wanted. Oh well.

Right on the Holbrook City limits – in fact, next to the sign – we stopped again to adjust the luggage as there was something knocking against something else. When you’re stopped, you may as well look around for plants right? Before too long, Cliff had found a small cactus on the gravely soil, probably Sclerocactus whipplei. Unlike our stop earlier this week at Mexican Hat, here the plants had finished flowering. We found about a dozen plants. (S2555)

As we carried, on the road crossed through an area of flat sandstone terraces, similar to where in Minas Gerais, Brazil, we had found Coleocephalocereus aurea, although there the terraces were made of limestone. Anyway: cactus country, so at the first available place we pulled off – S2556. Angie soon found a cactus in bud – Echinocereus sp. probably E. fendleri. The usual rule of thumb is: where there is one, there will be others, but during the 2 hours that we enjoyed out in the sun, this was the only Echinocereus found.

Throughout the trip, Cliff & I had told Angie to look out for Toumeya papyracantha, a master at mimicking its environment and almost indistinguishable from the grass clumps found just about everywhere in the desert.. She was still not 100% sure what these plants looked like, so Cliff obliged by spotting a single individual without the grass around it. It had recently flowered but the fruit was not ripe yet.

Pediocactus peeblesianus had been reported from around Holbrook, so, encouraged by our Toumeya find, we carried on looking while the temperature carried on going up and up. Cliff announced a find over the walkie talkies – small cactus, in flower under shrub. It did not look much like P. peeblesianus, but Cliff believes that it looks like Escobaria missouriensis that he used to grow in England. [Note to self: look up how a plant called missouriensis – from Missouri – ends up in Arizona. Answer: because it occurs over a huge distribution area in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska., New Mexico, North Dakota., Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming) and northern Mexico (Nuevo Leon, but strangely Missouri is not mentioned. Why?].

Angie found her ‘own’ Toumeya and another E. missouriensis in flower in an almost identical location, hidden underneath a small shrub. If not in flower, we would have walked straight by it and probably had passed by hundreds more. It seemed as though the area had enjoyed some rains a short while ago. The reddish sand in the cracks between the smooth sand stone rocks still seemed slightly moist. It seemed that the rains had washed some of the fine sand away to collects against rocks. As soon as the brain had registered this, I spotted two tiny plants that appeared to have been covered by this silt like sand and then had started to swell due to the availability of water. The had recently flowered but again, the fruits were not yet ripe.

Excited by these finds we had stayed perhaps longer out in the heat than might have been advisable. My mouth was getting very dry. Normally we would have carried bottles of water, but we had expected just a quick look around, so had not bothered. Back in the car we realised that we still had a good four hours to drive before reaching Phoenix.

S2557 was for images taken from the car, some 50 miles north of Phoenix, as the first Saguaros along the road. As we got closer to Phoenix we saw that most were in full flower, but there were no places on the highway to pull over and after the long drive, we did not look too hard – we still have tomorrow to take a look.

Another great day, slightly sad in the knowledge that all too soon we’ll be back home.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012 – Mexican Hat to Holbrook

Today was another day of sightseeing with cacti as the incidental support cast.

S2551 was for the drive from Mexican Hat to the settlement (a Census Designated Place) of Many Farms in Apache County, Arizona, just before the Canyon de Chelly National Monument at Chinley with short stops to stretch our legs or to take a comfort break. In the past I have been asked to act as quiz master in quizes between BCSS branches and I thought that the name sign would be a good question- ‘How Many Farms are there in Many Farms, AZ?’ I had hoped to find the answer on Google, but only learned that at the 2000 census there were 1,458 inhabitants in 606 housing units. No cacti were photographed.

S2552 was for the scenic pictures taken at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument and S2553 for the plants photographed in the Park. This included Juniper trees infected by a parasitic plant that I have not yet found in the Canyon de Chelly Flora, found on the internet. The Echinocerei in flower were no doubt the Claret Cup – here E. triglochidiatus spp mojavensis, but E. coccineus and E. fendleri are also reported from the park and can be difficult to ID in nature when the plant photographed is at the end of the 200 mm range of my zoom lens and is located between the cracks in rocks or on isolated ledges. Opuntia are always difficult to ID in nature and the plant list still includes Cylindropuntia in the super genus Opuntia, so that I’ll have to see which of the following fits the plants in the images taken and see which are accepted names and which are synonyms and of what: O. erinacea – the grizzlybear prickley pear – O. fragilis, O. macrorhiza, O. phaeacantha, O. polyacantha, O. whipplei and O. x viridiflora. Coryphantha vivipara and Sclerocactus whiplei are also listed but not seen / photographed. There were also at least a couple of Yucca species – the flora lists Y. angustissima and Y. baccata.

We finished the day at Motel 6 and dinner at Denny’s next door, where Cliff & I finished the day with an ice cream eating competition that finished in a draw. Angie was the judge and event photographer.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012 – around Mexican Hat

Where’s Angie?

Cliff and I had been checking emails for the latest news on the wettest drought that ever hit the UK. Angie had popped ‘across the road’ – actually, the San Juan River – to take some images of the San Juan Inn & Trading Post but that was 45 minutes ago. We took a look on the landing and saw Angie taking pictures of something close tothe ground. She spotted us and wrote a large ‘C’ in the sky. Cacti!

We spent the next 90 minutes in burning sunshine on the flats across the San Juan river and photographed hundreds of Sclerocactus parviflorus with every flower colour from pure white to deep purple and petal shapes from very rounded to very pointy. (S2547) We checked the internet to confirm the species searching for ‘Sclerocactus Mexican Hat’ and even found a field reference of  AM793 – Angie! you never told us that you had been here before!

Next on the aganda was Monument Valley for a scenic photo shoot. Not the best conditions as there seemed to be a lot of water vapour inthe air. Cliff was exhausted after our earlier ‘stomp in the sun’ so decided to stay ‘at home’. We had come quite used by now to impressive rock formations but seeing these famous silhouettes still brought out the cameras for images filed under S2548.

S2549 was for images taken at the actual Mexican Hat – the rock formation of a balanced rock in the shape of a sombrero, if you have a lot of imagination. Angie posed for the shot where the hat was lined up above her head, but her head was too big.

S2550 was for shots at and around the Goosenecks State Park. We had learned that State Park admissions are not covered by the Annual Pass for National Parks, Monuments etc, so made a stop half way to the entrance and took some nice shots of the river that had cut out some impressives canyons, just in case. We also spotted another Sclerocactus parviflorus in flower – after this morning’s session, we don’t take their picture anymore unless they are in flower.  When we arrived at the scenic view that was ‘the park’, there was no gate and no-one collecting entree fees. The scenery at the view point was much nicer than our earlier spot.

That would have been it for today, if it had not been for our dinner at the Swinging Steak restaurant where Cliff and I each made a 16oz rib-eye steak disappear. Angie took care of a more modest 10 oz New York strip and took videos as the monster steaks were swinging above the BBQ.

Another great day!