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This year, updating the Diaries is done as soon as I wake up and finish abruptly as soon as I am called for breakfast. The ‘To be continued’ notes at the end of some messages are to remind me to complete that day’s entry once I get home.

Today I have 10 minutes left after breakfast and before we hit the road, so time to mention some points to be expanded later.

  • On the whole we have seen very few Copiapoa in flower, especially here, in the north.
  • Exception: C. ahremephiana where a few clumps on the beach were in bud. We will go back to Botija in a few weeks time for a longer visit.
  • We did see Copiapoa with evidence of flowering, probably in response to the August rains, but NO FRUITS.
    Is it possible that the pollinators are also confused by the unusual events in nature this year?
    Francisca, our friend in Hotel Plaza, reported that children were swimming in the bay of Taltal in September – very early! But now, in November, it is too cold!
  • Dead Copiapoa remain a feature of the northern Chilean landscape. Many dead plants in photos taken years earlier are still there now – it seems that nature’s recyclers such as fungi, worms and small insects are missing here and plants eventually turn to ash, ‘burnt’ by the sun over many years.
  • Often, dead stems of Copiapoa are infected by ‘worms’, borers that leave a large amount of ‘frass’, waste material,
    Pablo is convinced that these ‘worms’ (most likely the larvae of beetles seen with Copiapoa) are the cause of death of the plant and he fears that an ‘outbreak’ of this beetle could kill off significant numbers of plants. I have a different take on this and see the beetles and their larvae as part of nature’s recycling team – they are found in plants that have been dead for many years but they are not the cause of death.
  • Similarly, yesterday’s dead solaris plants had large numbers of dead snails around them. These plants had grown many kilometers from the Ocean and there was no evidence of water near by.
  • We plan to visit the natural history museum in Vicuna during this trip to learn more about the life cycles of the beetle that we photographed and of the snails and so, gain a better understanding of these phenomenon as well. Rudolf Schulz’s books Copiapoa in their Environment 1996 and 2006 mention these phenomenon as well, without conclusions. Is Copiapoa 2016 on schedule, Rudolf?

Duty calls for another day

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