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Today I wanted to see if Cumulopuntia grandiflora, growing near Mina El Indio was still accessible and alive. That meant that we drove inland, into the Andean foothills. I had never seen the Desert in Flower phenomenon here before, but it exists this year as complete hillsides covered in Callendrinia.

Plenty of evidence that they had experienced a rumble here not too long ago, as the roads were still covered in small and not so small rocks that must have come from the hillside during such events.

We saw (very few) of the bright yellow spined Eriosyce eriosyzoides – mainly plants that had been knocked down the cliffs but also two plants alive, in situ.

We reached the border posed with the sign indicating that the Paso Negra was still closed – too early in the season for a pass that crosses a glacier. There was a chain across the road to El Indio, so the continued well being of C. grandiflora remains a mystery for another year.

Normally, with time to spare,  I would have suggested a visit to Gabriella Mistral’s birthplace, but as Jonathan had only been on a teaser visit to the Eriosyce aurata ‘Golden Ball’s’ site yesterday, I suggested that we’d return for a more relaxed second visit. As usual, it was difficult to limit the number of images taken. Still no evidence of goats – great – and that includes droppings from recent visits. And Jonathan found a small (2 year old?) plant that suggests that there is plenty of seed in the soil for the population to recover. We even took time to take more ‘wild flower’ pictures. Jonathan found a plant with unusual flowers that turned out to be Aristolochia chilensis. Nice pictures too of the incredible long spined Trichocereus chiloensis that really looked better than I have ever seen them, amazing what a bit of rain can do.

I forgot to mention that when we left Vicuna this morning, we stopped and said hello to the small ‘cactus nursery’ in town where they grow plants in tin cans, coffee cups etc – many prbably habitat collected. Ian Woolnough reported good germination from E. aurata seed obtained from here in the past, so I topped up my stocks and might get around to some seed sowing. There was also a large Trichocereus in a sunflower oil tin – covered in buds and with one or to open flowers. But was this a different species / form? Where were the long spines? The owner confirmed that they had been removed for health & safety reasons – so I’ll call it ‘nail-clipperiensis’. Jonathan took pictures and film.

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