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Archive for February, 2017

Sunday 19 February – Tehuantepec to Tangolunda

As unlikely as it seems, it is getting hotter and more humid, so that the most comfortable environments are hotel rooms and the car, with the air-conditioning system set to somewhere between 16 and 20C. Not very good for sinuses and eyes that tend to dry out, but at least we are over the worst of the medical issues that befell us at the start of the trip.  Today was a reasonably easy day with  172.07 km driven from door to door of our hotels. The character of the towns has changed from ‘olde-worldy Mexico’ to any modern resort, anywhere, with large groups of Canadians moving from bar to bar.

We made two stops with a third stop included as we walked ahead of the car to the final stop of the day. And the target plant today was not a Ferocactus, but Melocactus oaxensis. Well, that seems to be the local name, but there is a huge list of synonyms that will require a closer look back home (Melocactus obtusipetalus, Cactus obtusipetalus, Melocactus delessertianus, Melocactus caesius, Cactus caesius, Melocactus humilis, Melocactus lobelii, Melocactus ruestii, Melocactus salvador, Cactus salvador, Cactus maxonii, Melocactus maxonii, Melocactus ruestii maxonii, Melocactus guatemalensis, Cactus oaxacensis, Melocactus oaxacensis, Melocactus ruestii oaxacensis, Melocactus guitarii, Melocactus dawsonii, Melocactus loboguerreroi, Melocactus holguinensis, Melocactus jakusii, Melocactus maxonii sanctae-rosae, Melocactus ruestii sanctae-rosae, Melocactus ruestii cintalapensis).

The first stop was at last year’s AB668 at the Blue Rock Restaurant, a rather grand name for a shack selling beers and Pepsi before we continued our journey. Cacti included various Opuntia sp. including one that was losing its fight against a mealy bug infestation. I photographed just four Melos,  none of which looked very happy – in fact very thirsty, growing exposed to the elements on a high rock.

We drove on to the second Melocactus location but before reaching it, stopped to photograph Pereskia lychnidiflora that had been reported from here last year. Then it was included under AB669 but for the purpose of my S numbers, I’ll give the plants photographed along the track today’s S#2, as the habitat is distinct from the Melocactus hill at the end of the track. S#2 had a Hylocereus sp., near where we parked the car. Along the track, on the raised side, were clumps of Mammillaria (M. voburnensis?), a yellow flowered Opuntia sp. (same species as at S#1) and one or two more taxa waiting for an ID.

Arriving at the final destination, there were some tall cerioids that need an ID. Here the majority of the Melocacti looked better watered than at the first stop, but at the expense of their attractiveness, as many had been protected from excess evaporation by a thick layer of grasses and herbs that now, with Spring approaching, were dying back, covering the Melos with their remains. There were magnificent views over the Ocean, where pelicans and frigate birds were showing off their prowess of fishing just off-shore. Close to the edge of the hill, the Melocacti were more exposed and offered some great shots with the Ocean in the background.

It seems that the Canadian contingent is hell bound on celebrating the result of the Winnipeg v. Ottawa ice hockey game that was broadcast all over town. Every time a point was scored a large bell in the restaurant was rung and more beer was requested.  I’ll rely on sleeping on my good ear, with the deaf ear blocking out the BeeGees singing Staying Alive and Abba singing about the Dancing Queen. I must be getting old!

 

Saturday 18 February – Oaxaca to Tehuantepec

We woke up at 7 a.m. as usual and by 8 were enjoying a very civilised breakfast on the Cathedral Square. We needed to collect the car from the off-site car park by nine and we anticipated some delay there as last night cars were parked bumper to bumper, using up every inch of space. However, this morning we were only one of a few cars left and there were only two turns between the car park and the hotel, and no traffic so early in the day.

The drive out of town was also not the nightmare of last night and so we found ourselves on the road to Tehuantepec. We had just one stop planned, AB666 from Alain’s previous trip. But some 10 km before getting there, we asked for a quick stop to photograph the Pilosocereus sp that had started to appear along the side of the road.

The next stop, at AB666, gave us Mammillaria nejapensis growing in the shade of a dark rock wall, as well as Pachycereus pecten-boriginum and Ceiba pentandra (kapok tree), Stenocereus (Isolatocereus) dumortieri, Neobuxbaumia scoparia and the Pilosocereus. CactiGuide.com lists the following taxa for Oaxaca P. chrysacanthus, P. collinsii, P. purpusii and P. quadricentralis. That will take some more sorting out when I get home.

 

Friday 17 February – Tehuacan to Oaxaca

We had really enjoyed our stay in Hotel Blancavilla, but it seems that all good things come to an end, until we could visit again on our way back to the Airport in some ten days time.

Today we’d aim for some more AB stops from his 2016 trip with others, starting with AB662. On that occasion Ferocactus flavovirens, Coryphantha reduncispina and Mammillaria carnea were listed, but I’m sure that I photographed many more taxa this time. More homework for rainy days in England. For a Ferothon, it seems important to mention F. recurvus. As a general observation, after last year’s Baja Ferothon, the Fero’s here seemed to much more in favour of partially shaded forest locations as opposed to the Baja plants that were mostly happy to battle it out on more exposed places and so were easier to spot. The ceroids were again numerous and varied and often in flower. And Mammillaria sphacelata seems a candidate for a semi mat-forming plant with elongated stems, cowering in the shade.

We walked back on the track through sugarcane fields to the main road where we had parked the car.

The next stop was due to be AB663, but we found a nicer spot with the same plants, according to Alain so had an early leg stretch to see very large plants of Ferocactus recurvus growing under trees on hillsides with clumps of Coryphantha calipensis (?) and giant Pachycereus (Lemaireocereus) weberi. This was near San Juan de Los Cues.

AB664 was a view point over scenery with dense stands of P. weberi.

The large modern hotel in Tehuacan seemed deserted, should be full of coach trips at the peak tourist season.

 

Thursday 16 February – around Tehuacan

The lodgings at Hotel Villablanca in Tehuacan proved so comfortable last night with excellent food, that we decided to stay another night.

Our first goal of the day was a newly opened archaeological site at Tehuacan Viejo. We were greeted on arrival by an army of …..soldiers. We were asked to go and register at reception where the girl was clearly impressed by the multinational make up of our party. Unusual for such a huge new tourist attraction all the signage was in Spanish and none of the guides or soldiers spoke English. We were told firmly that we would not be allowed to take our ‘Professional Cameras’ inside as they did not want foreigners steal images of their national treasure. So Chris, with his Sony Compact (excellent camera) acted as our official photographer, supplemented by images by Alain & Jonathan taken on their mobile phones.

The Archeological content was disappointing – piles of old rubble with the centre piece newly restored with fresh cement and plaster and paint. Alain thought that it looked like Lego Town. If I had been able to take pictures, they would have been ruined by heavily armed security guards making it difficult to imagine that we were not in some science fiction film like Planet of the Apes.

We did see some interesting plants, duly photographed at our request by Chris. The first was a tree with attractive flaking bark, covered in red flowers and with Tillandsia.. But wait a minute, these flowers were Fouquieria flowers, coming from the tips of the tree’s branches, but not from the Tillandsia. So which Fouqueria is it? Once I receive Chris’ images I’ll send them to Eunice for ID.

 The second interesting plant was Ferocactus flavovirens – large heads, some 90+ heads to one plant! We’d see them again at later stops.

 Stop#2 of the day was along MEX125, south of San Antoinio Texcala, AB658 in 2016. That time Alain reports finding Ferocactus recurvus, Cephalocereus columna-trajani, Myrtillocactus schenkii, and Echinocactus platyacanthus. This time, I also photographed Ferocactus flavovirens and Beaucarnea gracilis, the latter making a useful addition to the pachycaul / caudiciform trees seen when I was in Madagascar on the previous trip.

 Stop #3: We arrived at the Jardin Botanico Dra Helia Bravo Hollis, set right in the middle of the densest stand of Cereus cacti I have seen – it easily puts the Argentinean Oreocereus forest to shame. Individually they are not the prettiest, most impressive plants in town, but en mass, they take a lot of beating! Just look at them and remember that they are all endangered species. The road to this place was the perfect road for the Dashcam and I sweated to get the thing working. All the right lights were flashing and the monitor was showing some extremely impressive images, but back at the hotel, the card was empty. It would have been the icing on the cake, but not mission critical.

I found the solution to this problem, The Dashcam came with a 32GB SD card and I thought that I had done the right thing by replacing it with a 64GB card. Wrong! Not compatible! I put the smaller card back in and everything is fine – until…. I managed to lose the tiny little card a few days latter! Aarrgghh! We are now hopeful in finding a replacement card in an Oxxo Shop!

Most of the Fero’s on our hit list were here, as well as some impressive Ponytail Palms (Beaucarnea sp.) plants. We walked in the heat up a steep stairway (to heaven?) followed by a walk along Fero alley to a view tower. Up to the top to film a 380 degree view, then back to the reception area for an ice lolly each, made of frozen cactus berries – mine were xlotl (?) berry juice. I knew that I should have photographed the wrapper.

The ceroids here were mostly Neobuxbaumia tetetzo. Fero recurvus and F. flavispina were there, as well as some very impressive Agave.

 Alain asked us to make one more brief stop, at a Salinas, a place where traditionally salt was harvested from large pans.

 

Wednesday 15 February – Puebla to Tehuacan

This morning Alain took us to one of the stops from their 2016 trip, (now S3580)  to see large clumps of Ferocactus robustus. There were clumps with flowers and fruits, what more could we ask for!?   Ian and Cliff must have stopped a bit farther along and Ian reports finding a Mammillaria pectinifera , along with a couple of other Mammillaria species as well as some Coryphantha.
‘It looked much drier than last year. No sign of the other car so we headed on to Canada Morelos (PK’s Stop number S3581). Their car was parked by the shrine and on climbing the correct hill this time I met up with them and we all saw the Ferocactus haematacanthus – a new plant for all of us. Some were in bud but no open flowers unfortunately. There were large clumps of Mammillaria sphacelata in flower as well as other Mammillarias, Coryphanthas etc. I was able to show them the Mammillaria napina.’
Ian’s nice article about their 2016 visit was in the March 2017 BCSS journal, but this year we couldn’t find any more M. pectinifera. The very large Mammillaria mystax were still there but much smaller and as at the previous location everything seemed very dry with the M. napina pulled down flush with the ground. I have owned a couple of grafted M. napina and it was difficult to reconcile these flat plants in habitat with the globular plants on a graft. A useful reminder that cultivated cacti often look quite different in habitat! In addition to F. haematacanthus, in bud, there were also some more large clumps of F. robustus including one with a fully opened flower. We agreed to come back here on 25th February to check progress of the buds. It has to be said that although they are fairly rare, both in cultivation and in habitat, that F. haematacanthus is not the most dynamic or desirable member of the genus. The base of most mature plants had all sustained quite serious damage around their base. The Agave that I’m calling A. titanota, with which they grow, attracted more action from my cameras than the Feros.
We said our goodbyes to Ian and Cliff, as they returned to Puebla and from there to Mexico City and their flight home while we headed on to Tehuacán where we found that the nice hotel that proved popular in 2016 was also appreciated by others, and was fully booked.
After trying a few more hotels, also fully booked, we found very comfortable beds at the nearby Hotel Villablanca – excellent margaritas and wonderful steaks in Roquefort sauce!

Tuesday 14 February – Metztitlan to Puebla

Ian persuaded us to stay in Puebla to help him celebrate his birthday. Alain asked me about the Dutch / Belgian tradition where the Birthday boy buys the first round to thank his friends for turning up. All I had to say was: Ian buy a drink?

The proposed restaurant had very loud music blaring right at us. Alain, Chris and I both have hearing difficulties and hated the environment so that we moved to another venue after the first round of drinks. Unfortunately, once we had sat down, this venue too turned out to need loud music to entertain the guests, plus, they ran out of food.

Here are excerpts of plants seen quoting from Ian’s missive for the 14th:

‘Today was always going to be mostly a driving day. The first cactus stop was where I’d found a clumping
Mammillaria growing 15 foot up on a Cephalocereus last year. It was still there though looking a bit more shrunken. An opportunity for the others to get more Cephalocereus shots including a seedling.

 

Cephalocereus senilis

Cephalocereus senilis with Mammillaria clump half way up its stem.

Close up of the Mammillaria clump

Close up of the Mammillaria clump

Before going to the restaurants we had posed for a group photo by an evacuation sign which was only held on by sticky tape. The lovely girl at reception had kindly taken the group picture. Unfortunately the sign had fallen down and broken when we were having the picture taken and when we returned she was quite distraught as her boss was demanding we pay for it (I think she was going to be charged herself but also felt bad asking us to pay). I did offer to tape it back up but no, a new sign is needed. Typical Mexico where most things are broken or heath Robinson efforts but in this case it has to be perfect.’

Monday 13 February – Around Metztitlan

There is no rule that says that I have to write the diaries for today.

It was a great day and I took a lot more images (with a total of six stops) than so far, so I must be feeling better, although by no means 100%.

We tried the dashcam out yesterday – the old one we used in Baja in 2016 and I was a little disappointed with how grainy the movies looked. Today we swapped over to the new one and it is MUCH better! The old one kept cutting out – poor connection I guess – as the power cable is one of four plugged into the dashboard, for mobile phones, SatNavs and iPods as well. Tomorrow I will put it in a higher position as today we have the bottom thirds of the screen looking at the windscreen wipers.

Tonight Jonathan discovered that my anti virus software, AVG was blocking access to my Blog, presumably to protect me from the WordPress hackers. There are still other issues to resolve about browsers, so for now pkcactus.info stays asleep. I can’t get into Facebook either, but that is no great shame.
From: Ian Woolnough: excerpts from ‘Monday around Metztitlan’.
‘… we headed off to a location we had gone last year, above the laguna de Metztitlan. At first we were unsure it was the right road as rather than a graded track the road was now concrete. We were here in March and apparently between March and June they had concreted the whole road at the cost of squillions and for the benefit of 130 people. The Stenocactus were in flower but looking tatty and we decided against climbing down … A bit further along we had an explore turning up a 20 headed Ferocactus glaucescens a couple of Mammillaria species and lots of big Coryphantha clavata. There was also the red flowering Ferocactus in bud. Further along again on a rocky bluff there were some large Ferocactus histrix, Dolicothele longimamma and some small Mammillaria compressa types. Retracing our steps we stopped for a wall with Ferocactus growing in it and there were also flat clumps of a nice deep purple flowered Mammillaria.
Our car then made stops for Cephalocereus senilis and Echinocactus platyacanhus carpeting the hillsides. I’ve been feeling a bit feverish and coughy today again so hope I’m not relapsing as the others seem to have.’
PK protests: I did not relapse! I had not got over the cold in the first place! Old folks just take longer to recover!

Sunday 12 February – Ixmiquilpan to Metztitlan

Greetings from the only Hotel according to Alain – La Quinta Espanol in Metztitlan, for two nights. Last year no wifi, this year …. fingers crossed. The trip down the Barranca de Metztitlan was very dramatic. I set up my dashcam and while I was irritated by the continuous wobbly connection, it seems that I have gained 209 MOV files some of which look very good.
Nice clumps of Mams, some Feros and some caudiciforms – Fouquieria fasciculatus I believe, but wifi not strong enough to send images to Eunice to confirm.
Fouquieria fasciculatus

Fouquieria fasciculatus

I was fine until around midday, when I hit another brickwall – remember Baja 2013, Angie? – weak as a piece of string.Dinner (rib eye) in 15 minutes if I’m strong enough to chew it.
Ian’s missive reports:
‘Today we drove the Barranca from West to East. Much less nerve wracking when one knows what is ahead and daylight isn’t running out as it was last year! An amazing road with cut backs and stunning scenery. We even added a new plant with clumps of Mammillaria gracilis on the way down to complement at least 3 other Mammillarias including M compressa, Coryphantha clavata, red flowering Ferocactus, large Astrophytum ornatum and Gymnocactus horripilus. Down near the river there were large M. compressa, Ferocactus glaucescens, Echinocactus (platyacanthus) and clumps of Dolicothele longimamma.
Dropping down into the farmed valleys we started seeing Cephalocereus senilis but they will be a target for tomorrow. ….(over dinner) Margaritas got lost in translation so Alain, Chris and Paul ended up with a salad type dish but following incredulity, the liquid beverage
duly arrived.’

Saturday 11 February – around Ixmiquilipan, Hidalgo

Apologies for the long silence. First of all, internet facilities, if present, were poor, probably not prepared for four people with electronic gadgets descending on them.
Secondly, we met up with Ian and Cliff last night. Cliff reported a news item that the WordPress server had been hit by a hacker. In any event, I have not been able to access it since the previous message on 5th February.
Thirdly, soon after arriving in Mexico we took turns in being laid up by ‘The Airline Lergy’, bugs picked up as we pass through the ‘petridishes of the world’ on the way here. Alain was the first to go down – I’ll spare you the details – Jonathan was next, followed by Chris and finally I succumbed.
After two days of not getting out of the car for stops and not being able to finish
off a pint of beer at night – yes, it WAS SERIOUS!! Today I’m feeling a bit better.
So, this message comes as a test from Jonathan’s laptop. An earlier attempt to use Alain’s keyboard (thanks for the offer, Alain) failed due to the fact that his laptop has a Belgium keyboard, with all the keys of a UK keyboard taken like a letters from a game of Scrabble, throwing them up in the air and rearranging them in random fashion. The result was worse than my usual laughable attempts, but would have so confused my proofreaders, Jonathan Clark and Brian Bates, to make them reach for that well known song of the 1960’s: ‘They’re coming to take me away haha hihi’ by Napoleon XIV.
I managed to take 99 images today, so must be feeling better, but when I compare the list of plants that I photographed with Ian’s missive for today, it seems that we were two
different trips!
I managed 99 images, with little walking – too weak!
Checking through the images back home, I listed:
Agave sp., Astrophytum ornatum, Coryphantha clavata, Echinocactus platyacanthus, Ferocactus glaucescens,F. histrix, F. latispinus, Fouquieria fasciculata, Hechtia sp., Mammillaria crinita wildii, M. geminispina, M. longimamma, M. polythele ‘obcanella’, Opuntia sp., Quercus sp (Oak), Sedum (?) sp., Tillandsia sp., Yucca sp.
And this is Ian’s for the Saturday 11th.: ‘… it was good to see Paul was looking better than
he had been last night. Ian’s list for the same stop(s) was ‘Mammillaria elongata and M. rhodantha mollendorfiana, Neolloydia conoidea, Ferocactus histrix, Coryphantha cornifera, Echinocactus platyacanthus, lots of Turbinicarpus pseudomacrochele most of which were in full flower. Much easier to find when in flower! Some more Coryphantha here as well.
The third stop (PK:S3571) was for another Turbinicarpus this time Tkrainzianus minimus. I found what I think was a T. pseudomacrochele and then higher up a nice group of T. krainzianus minimus. Chris was nearby so I showed him.
There was also a different Mammillaria that I need to id. A final stop yielded Ferocactus latispinus, lots of Stenocactus in flower, Coryphantha octacantha, and a M. formosa type.’
I thought that I had missed the Turbs  due to feeling unwell until, back in the UK, I found my images of the Turbs in the wrong folder on my HD! I have no memory of seeing these plants or taking the pictures! Scary!
Looking to confirm the ID of the Turbs: I seem to have taken only images of plants in flower, but the flowers hid the plant body and spination so that ‘one of the subspecies of Turbinicarpus schmiedickianus’ is perhaps the safest option.
Many thanks to Ian for his daily reports!

Friday 10 February – Ciudad Valles to Ixmiquilpan

We were heading for Ixmiquilpan to meet up with Ian Woolnough and Cliff Thompson, who had started their Mexico Trip about a week before us and had followed a different route.
But first we had to get there. I managed just eleven images during two stops,  S3567 and S3568. At least my sense of humour was coming back, judging by the image to the right. One tope too many?
topez

Beware for topez to turn you over!

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what genus a cactus belongs to!
Experts? Bah!