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Archive for March 21, 2014

Friday 21 March 2014 – Cuatro Cienegas to Ramos Arizpe

Yes, we’re back at Ramos Arizpe,with the noise of Mex 40 making this the worst accommodation of the trip. But it’s on the way to tomorrow’s planned stops, so what.

Apologies to those who also read Ian’s email reports, from which they will have learned that my companions are behaving like a special needs group outing; leaving things at the hotel, joking with heavily armed soldiers at check points, talking to Yuccas (never talk to strangers Cliff, wait until they introduce themselves) and people who open gates and then lock themselves out as they close it.

Our hotel in Ramos Arizpe is the same as previously reported as being in Saltillo. The two towns have grown together with industrial development along MEX40. A good place to leave soon after breakfast!

I had made a request to revisit a stop where in 2010 I had seen the most magnificent crested Ariocarpus retusus. That time we had just driven to the location where Eunice and I had climbed the hill to one  side of the track while John Bleck had ventured to the other side where he found the plant. This time (S3094) we approached the site through a series of gates, the last one of which was bolted, we approached the site on foot and so I missed my friend from 2010. Still found lots of interesting plants which had their picture taken, including another, not quite so spectacular crest.

Ariocarpus retusus - S3094

Ariocarpus retusus – S3094

Again, there was an interesting mix of cacti_etc that crossed our camera lenses: Agave lechuguilla, A. sp. Ario resusus, Coryphantha sp x2m Echinocereus enneacanthus, E.  longisetus, E. pectinatus, Epithelantha micromeris, Ferocactus hamatacanthus, Fouquieria splendens, Mammillaria sp, Sclerocactus scheeri, Selaginella pedidophylla (resurection fern) and Yucca sp.

The second and last stop of the day (S3095) was again at a place I had visited in 2010, as it had Leuchtenbergia principis growing there. This is a plant that we had probably walked by a dozen or more times on our trip, but which is so well camouflaged, by looking dead, that unless you look for it specifically, you miss it. Ian found a young seedling, looking as though it had just arrived from a Dutch nursery, but had walked straight past the parent, an undamaged specimen that would have caught admiring glances if it had been displayed on a showbench in the UK. Of course the plant stayed where it was born, in Mexico, for others to admire it, should they pass.

Leuchtenbergia principis - S3095

Leuchtenbergia principis – S3095

The Lophophora williamsii found here (by Ian) was not bad either, enough to make your mouth water!

Lophophora williamsii - S3095

Lophophora williamsii – S3095

Thursday 20 March 2014 – south of Cuatro Cienegas

First thing Cliff and Ian went to search for a Vulka to sort out our tyre. They were back too soon – bad news, yesterday’s puncture had turned into a write off – our only luck had been that it lasted until we parked up at the hotel. The boys returned to break the news and planned to leave for Monclova to purchase a new one. While Cliff was breaking the bad news to me, Ian was chatting to one of the hotel staff who suggested he knew a place in town that could help us. Sure enough, the three went off and came back with a good quality but slightly wider second. Job done.

In the mean time I had enquired about the  availability of breakfast and was given a firm, ‘Yes, of course!’ This was followed by various members of staff being dispersed on shopping trips and the cook was called in. Eventually we sat down to a Full Mexican and then we set off.

Our target plant had been in doubt even during our planning stages in the UK. Thelocactus lausseri is only known from a private property (probably the size of Wiltshire) north of Cuatro Cienegas. We had coordinates for the gate, but it was known that the owner did not entertain cactophile callers. Well the news is that there are now gates 8.5 km from the gates for which we had the coordinates and that they were double padlocked.  So that was as far as it went for T. lausseri this time.

Expecting this outcome I had lined up some visits to local stops that had impressed me on previous visits. The first was one for Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus where in the past we had followed the SatNav to reach the coordinates, open the car door and found that we had a few of the plants right below us. The same happened again this time. Unbelievable how many plants there were here for a plant that is CITES I status is Appendix I – Extremely endangered. But then it only takes one developer to see the potential of using the land to cover the area with solar panels to destroy all the Arios.

We moved (for the first time) closer to the mountains surrounding this area. It is easy to assume when you see the dried up marsh area (Cuatro Cinegas = 4 marshes) covered in Arios to assume that they cover the whole of the area, but walking from the foothills back into the dried up marsh revealed no Arios for up to a thousands meters. Just some Coryphantha poselgeriana and Echinocereus enneacanthus.

Next stop was the Fouquieria shreveii stop from 2010, with plants in full flower. Interesting, unusual plants but nothing else.

Finally, Ian had mentioned as we drove off road to the kotschoubeyanus site (unpaved track this time) unto MEX 30 that he had spotted what he thought were Astrophytum capricorne. We indulged his fantasies with a stop and found a large number of large Astros – well done Ian, fantastic eyesight for a youngster!

Then it was back to our hotel, where we nervously check the state of the tyres, just in case. All good so far…..