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.