Why on earth would I go back to a place that I had visited so often? Well, because a review of previous visits revealed that there were still two species – one Mammillaria and one Dudleya that had somehow escaped my camera – Mammillaria tetrancistra and Dudley saxosa to be precise. The second reason of course is that we would pass Santa Ysabella where the Julian Pie Company serves up their excellent Apple Pie and may even sell you a whole one to have a second helping when you get home. Sadly we had completely run out of Apple Pie at Eunice’s kitchen.
Eunice had looked up location data on the on-line Jepson database from which I had made up entries on Google Earth, both for San Diego County (in and around Anza Borrego) and San Bernardino (in and around San Bernardino Co = Mojave State Park).
I selected just three locations from Google Earth based : a) on date, I did not want to check data reported in 1920 if there were locations available from 2009 b) on location: Anza Borrego is large and it would take several days to visit all spots. So I picked the first three along the 78 from Santa Ysabella (where a peach and apple frozen pie was purchased plus a slice of Apple-Dutch for lunch) and on to the first stop (data from 2009).
We pulled up in the first lay by after the location marker on SatNav, nearly a mile on (S3252). Lots of Echinocereus engelmannii here, clearly ready for the new season after having enjoyed some rain, but no obvious signs of buds yet, although based on previous visits, I expect them to be in full flower in a months time. There were also lots of Cylindropuntia, C. ganderi, not the prettiest in the genus. And finally, found by Eunice, a four headed plant that could be M. tetrancistra, but I’ve been caught out by look-alikes before elsewhere. How many central spines? 3-4? Difficult to tell, at least 2-3 dark spines per areole, but there were ‘invisible spines, that suddenly became visible when viewed from another angle. No flowers, but then it was too early for most other cacti to flower. I’ve learned since that this taxon has a different flowering season to the other cacti in the Park, waiting to the monsoon season in August, in Arizona before producing its flowers.
We went back to the actual location coordinates (S3253) and were able to park off the asphalt on the other side of the road. There was an outcrop of granite-like stone that had a number of Ferocactus cylindraceus growing on it, as well as all the cacti previously spotted. I walked up to the largest Ferro and found the first Mam. consistent with those found at the first stop. I wanted to take a shot of a group of young, still globular F. cylindraceus plants, but old enough to be full of yellow buds. I slid down the hillside to get a better angle and slid past three more M. tetrancistra and the first Dudleya saxosa, then a second and a third. I called Eunice over who found another growing almost in a clump of Echinocereus engelmannii, so success on finding both of today’s target plants. So why am I now confidently calling our find Mammillaria tetrancistra? Because just as I was about to cross the road on my way back to the car, Eunice called me back as she had found a plant in fruit with the characteristic large seeds inside.
We took a look at the second location (S3254), but this dated back to 1928. Earlier we had turned on the old, now out of use, CA78 and this had been narrower road – probably the 1928 version was little more than a track. Today’s main road had no space to pull over and was flanked by steep hillsides. Time was ticking on and if there were plants here, they would be in deep shade.
It was a good three hours drive back with the last hour in the dark, which Eunice did. After feeding Bosco (and my first attempt at a report) we went for dinner, again at the Lazy Dog restaurant which serves and excellent ‘Cadillac’ Margarita with a range of burgers and steak. It had become a regular place for dinner, outside, although tonight with the welcome help of an overhead heater.
Eunice had suggested a visit to one of the off-shore islands to look at some endemic Dudleya for Sunday, but the forecast suggests a drop in temperatures to 11C and a 50% chance of rain. We’ll see.
Early start tomorrow for a visit to Jürgen Menzel in the morning and to Steve Hammer in the afternoon.