A 5600 Kms TOUR IN MEXICO

 

(By Oliver Gluch, August/September 2009

 

El Chico National Park, Hidalgo

After a first Pinguicula Mexican trip together with Hans Luhrs, Peter Harbarth and Bob McMorris in May 2005, we finally decided to make another trip again to Mexico to see different species in habitat but this time in August/September, which would allow to see some new species we had not seen on our first trip and to find some species from our last trip again but this time (hopefully) in flower.

Our group consisted of the following persons: Hans Luhrs, Peter Harbarth, Kamil Pasek, Radek Kastner and myself. On last minute Bob McMorris had to cancel his participation (sorry Bob, but you missed a great trip!), so we were 5 persons this time.

From Left to right :

Kamil, Hans, Peter, Radek (back) with our rented VW Eurovan on our 5600 km tour.

Photo : O.Gluch

In theory at that time period of the year in most "Pinguicula land" in Mexico it is rainy season. But during this expedition we had to learn that you cannot always rely on this for all relevant parts of Mexico, it can be pretty diverse and rainy season can be delayed or beginning earlier which impacts flowering period as well as rosette stage. But more about this later.

After having stayed in Pachuca in an old historical hotel close to the "Reloj Monumental de Pachuca", a clock tower built in 1904 at Mexico's independance, we were going first to the Chico National Park north of Pachuca, a mountain range where 3 different Pinguicula species are growing.

The species that grows at the top of the mountains at an altitude of around 3000 m is P. crassifolia. The plants grow on vertical volcanic rocks at different locations in the park. Last time, beginning of May, the plants were still in winter rosette with just emerging summer leaves and flowering period was just finished. Now all plants were in the impressive summer rosettes, growing almost always under shady conditions. Plants were growing mostly in moss cushions, others also in crevices on bare rock. Some larger plants had already formed the winter rosette in the centre of the plant.

Pinguicula crassifolia.

 

Photo : O. Gluch

Pinguicula crassifolia 's habitat. A vertical volcanic rocks

 

Photo : O. Gluch

Pinguicula crassifolia, winter rosette with late summer leaves.

 

Photo : O. Gluch

Typical other vegetation found there were Oxalis sp. as well as Echeveria sp.

Most seen habitats were quite dry, but plants probably get necessary humidity from the clouds and fogs developping in the afternoon and some rainy days. But definitely it was not raining every day there. According to the park information center, temperatures can fall in winter time at -5C on some days and also snow coverage in winter is common.

At this altitude as well as going down to 2500 m you can find also P.moranensis. As Zamudio has split up P. moranensis into 2 varieties, the variety here is var. neovolcanica, forming a more onion like winter rosette (but not all features described in his publication fit always to distinguish both varieties, intermediate types exist as well). Compared to P. crassifolia the P. moranensis plants were growing in more sunny places (even if also there Oxalis and Echeveria species were present as well), therefore the habitat was mostly very dry, especially in the higher altitudes. As a consequence the summer rosettes were pretty small in diameter (4-5 cm only)and looked a little suffering from dry conditions. In the higher altitudes some few plants were still in flower (when I have seen the site in July in 2008 plants were in full flower), but a the lower locations some more plants still were showing flowers. Flower coloration was pretty typical ranging from a darker violet to pinkish-lighter violet. As the site at the lower elevation seemed a little more moist, the summer rosettes of P.moranensis var. neovolcanica were larger (more the "ordinary" size of P. moranensis). In May 2005 we have only seen some winter rosettes, solely detectable by old dead summer leaves, as the winter rosettes were buried completely in the soil.

A flower of Pinguicula moranensis var. neovolcanica.

 

Photo : O. Gluch

 

Pinguicula moranensis var. neovolcanica.

 

Photo : O. Gluch

 

At elevations between 2400 and 2500 m the third species P. acuminata can be found. Habitat differs a lot from that of P. crassifolia. It often grows together with P. moranensis, but you can distinguish the plants by the longer petioles of P. acuminata as well as by the more heart shaped summer leaves. Often only 2 to 3 summer leaves are present at the same time, emerging from the growing center deep in the soil. The colour of the leaves varied from green to brown-green. While at the site of Mineral del Chico, the plants were not larger than 5-6 cm in diameter, the summer rosettes at the location Calicanto, at the northern edge of the El Chico mountain range, were 12-13 cm and only green coloured. Typical habitats are north facing slopes with a loamy soil in oak and pine tree forest (bosque pino-encino).

 

Pinguicula acuminata from Calicanto.

 

Photo : O. Gluch

 

Pinguicula acuminata from El Mineral del Chico.

 

Photo : O. Gluch

Next on the plan were 2 other sites in Hidalgo State. But more about it in the next postcard 2...

Oliver