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As in previous years, my second ‘gig’ of this mini tour of The Potteries took me to Stoke-on-Trent where a friend of many years, Maurice Williams would be my host. The number of glasshouses had greatly increased since my last visit a few years ago. The main feature was still a large collection of Matucana. There were many plants that looked very similar but with large labels recording many of the locations where the ex-habitat plants had come from – very mature plants from the days when it was still legal to import such plants and younger plants raised from ex-habitat seed a real collection aimed at studying the plants and to learn the similarities and affinities between the taxa and how to distinguish each from the other. I have a similar, but much smaller collection given to me by my good friend Bart Hensel from the Netherlands.

As is the case with most hobby collections the rarest thing to find is ‘Space’ Although I have visited Peru, they area where we travelled south of the capital Lima, the Matucana occur farther to the north and to the east. Another good friend, Leo van der Hoeven, had shown me pictures of his Peru adventures, one of which had been with Maurice, so I was at least in broad terms familiar with the genus and its habitat.

I grow my plants outside from mid-May to late September / early October, depending on when I set out on my own cactus adventures. During the winter, the whole collection is squeezed into my conservatory where the display crates are placed on racks, 3 to 5 shelves high with every other window panel able to tilt or fully open to provide plenty of air circulation as and when the weather allows. My new pottery hobby encouraged me to combine a stock take with an exercise of moving some plants from sometimes oversized plastic pots and trays into smaller ceramic pots. When I looked at the dozen or more Matucana haynei and M. weberbaueri taking up my display trays and wondered how they would all fit back into the Conservatory in months to come. I decided to surprise Maurice and make him a gift of these plants. Sadly, most had lost their labels – not important for an expert who had grown the many plants in the genus for many year. Sadly, with the names, the all important habitat data had also gone. Still, Maurice had soon found enough space to give my gift (originally Bart’s gift) a good home and once thoroughly studied might join the sales plants and perhaps benefit the Branch.

After a nice bite to eat at the local Toby Carvery we thought that we might be pushing it a bit, arriving at 19:10, but in fact turned out to be 20 minutes early.

Again the What I Saw Last Winter turned out to be a great success and resulted for another visit this time next year that I was happy to accept, subject to my travel plans falling into place.

BCSS Stoke-on-Trent branch

       BCSS Stoke-on-Trent branch

After the meeting we returned to Maurice’s where he impressed me with a nice bottle of Italian wine – I normally prefer Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon or Argentinian Malbec must will readily admit that I am by no means a wine buff and that much of the pleasure comes from the memories of visits to the countries where the wines hail from.

As the sun was now in a better angle we returned to Maurices greenhouses where it seemed that not only had his collection grown, but also the range of plants that now included Ariocarpus, Thelocactus and Stenocactus/Echinofossulocactus, many with ex-habitat information before setting off on my journey back to Wiltshire.

Maurice Williams and part of his collection of Matucana

Maurice Williams and part of his collection of Matucana

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