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Archive for November 25, 2018

Sunday, 25 November 2018 – Serra Escura

Nothing much had changed at the entrance to the entrance of the Serra Escura Farm since our previous visit on 13 December 2009, except that there was now a paved track to the base of the hill where in the past we had to walk there. Quite a bonus in this heat!

In 2009 we explored into a short tunnel used by a mineral company to check the content of the inside of the hill. This proved that the entire hill was made of 99.94% pure quartz, a commodity that is highly valued by the steel industry. At the time we were told that the Government would not permit quarrying at a location where endangered species were present. But laws can change, and a new sign now appeared at the entrance to the site. In 2009 we left the the tunnel in a hurry as sticks of dynamite were left lying about!

Can a sign and all the legislation justify the extinction of a species only known from this location? Looks impressive, but is actually very sad!
Clearly they had started without us!
Where once some 5,000 cacti had enjoyed the view over the surrounding countryside
diggers had started their destructive work.
Our visit was on a Sunday. Although the humans were enjoying their rest day, the pollinators were still fighting against time to support their food source.
Delicately balanced: Marylan on a balanced rock and the Arrojadoa that she discovered and is named after her on the edge of extinction. Yes, they can grow over 3 m tall!

Now, almost a year after the event, I still feel sad at the thought that by now most of the Arrojadoa will have gone. Taking down a hill starts at the top, where the plants grow, and stops at the bottom, among the trees and shrubs where the Arrojadoa marylaniae and Espostoopsis dybowskii refuse to grow.

Arrojadoa marylaniae, Rest In Peace!

PS A. marylaniae is not the most dynamic cactus. But, according to IUCN records since its start in 1964, it is the first cactus to have become extinct in nature. At the recent ELK cactus mart in Belgium I looked to see if there were any plants for sale but I was always disappointed to find that the plant I had struggled to find in the crowded sales room had been a Weberbauero-cereus johnsonii or a seedling Notocactus leninghausii, one of the most common cacti in cultivation. The niche for a golden spined columnar cactus seems to have been filled in cultivation. Even if I were able to obtain A. marylaniae seed by the kilogram or mature plants with cephalia at some 150 cm in height by the container load, I doubt that there would be many customers for this plant; at least not until it flowers. No question of ‘death through over collecting’ here!