Thursday 15 November – Itamarandiba to Diamantina
Today I have a fair idea of where we went, as I switched on the DashCam and recorded our travels today as seen through the front windscreen of our Duster. When we started in Belo Horizonte, the car was a nice dark brown (? – I’m colour blind!) colour, but by now it had taken on a nice ‘splashed in chocolate milk’ appearance. The result was 105 three minute movie clips i.e. 5 hours and 15 minutes of bumping along country roads. The footage includes the time, speed and GPS coordinates of where we were. The majority of the time the movies are quite boring, only of interest if we should have an accident, to help determine who was to blame. I have included just two minutes in my current presentation, to give the audience an appreciation of what it is like to drive in Minas Gerais. The cacti certainly don’t stand to attention by the side of the road, but it is possible to pick out quartz patches on distant hills that look promising for exploration for cacti.
We managed to visit Uebelmannia gummifera subsp. meninensis in 1999, after a brief reception by the mayor and a second member of the city council, dressed in suits on a day that was much too hot for looking smart. In 2009, without Marlon, but working from his very detailed notes, Cliff and I managed to make our way to the ‘drive through’ site of U. gummifera.
This time, S3668 was a different location to the 1999 stop but is it the same spot as in 2009?
Marlon and Jared noted that there were several small plants, just some 5 cm across, that looked unwell. Marlon cut the plant in two and revealed that it was no more than a hollow shell. A borer beetle, or rather its larvae, had done their evil work. A similar phenomenon occurs in Sclerocactus in the USA and has been well studied and documented. It would be interesting if a Brazilian student could look into the details of what we observed here.
All the affected plants were of a similar size. Fortunately there were still a good number of fully grown plants around.
However, U. buiningii had always eluded me. It is the most remote location, from Diamantina, if you want to see the other members of the group as well. But here it is!! Found by Jared, found by looking over my shoulder (I was sitting on a rock!) and asking:’Is that one?’ You bet!
I understand that three more plants were found at the other end of the site. We just need to find Uebelmannia horrida to complete the set, planned for the end of the trip. Make no mistake! Although we were very pleased to have seen just a few plants, this is a critically endangered species, unless there are more locations, less accessible, yet to be found.
We headed back to Itamarandiba as our Dusters were low on fuel. As we approached the town Marlon received a message that one of us had left a bag behind. I had not noticed it yet, but the bag was mine. That is the trouble, with luggage split over two cars; my luggage includes a soft IKEA bag, mainly containing cables and chargers that I can either squeeze into my main luggage suitcase or use as ‘filler’ in the boot of whatever of our cars is handy. On this occasion my Nikon D750 was also in the bag, so that the honesty of the staff in the hotel prevented quite a financial loss.