POSTCARD from Mexico N14

 

(By Fernando Rivadavia, April 3 to 12, 2004

              

 

 

A TRIP THROUGH CHIAPAS & OAXACA

 

PART 2:  

            The 3rd day of our trip was not yet over and we still had a bit of driving to do. We continued driving S along the Guatemalan border, trying to get as close as possible to what would be our main objective the following day: isolated highlands around the small towns of El Porvenir and la Grandeza. Our hope was to find the elusive P.clivorum.

            P.clivorum was discovered and described in the 1940s, the type specimen coming from San Juan Ixcoy, Huehuetenango, Guatemala (~100km E of el Porvenir). But in the 60s it was synonimized to P.lilacina by Casper and was thus considered until 1997 when Zamudio published an errata showing that the P.barbata hed published in 1986 from El Porvenir was in fact synonymous with P.clivorum which was a good species after all.

            We began the 4th day of the trip at dawn, as usual, the road climbing steadily from dry valleys to humid pine forests at nearly 3000m altitude. Arriving at El Porvenir we explored a road, stopping at several places along the way, but saw no Pings. We headed back to El Porvenir and began exploring another road. No luck again and a few dozen km later turned back and headed back to El Porvenir. Not wanting to give up, I decided to stop and check out one last place : a small rock outcrop just above the road, semi-shaded by trees. We climbed up through a cow pasture and soon enough Ed called out: I found something!! I quickly clambered down to where Ed and the others were oohing and aahing, knowing that something was certainly not P.moranensis. Yep, it was P.clivorum alright!

The habitat of Pinguicula clivorum : a small rock outcrop just above the road, semi-shaded by trees.

Photo : F. Rivadavia

Fernando and Ed. at work in front of P. clivorum.

Photo : Joe Mullins

 

P.clivorum was growing on what seemed to be calcareous rocks covered in fine mosses and red or white lichens(?).

Photo : Joe Mullins

 

Fernando smilling close to P. clivorum.

He can be happy : his personal species counting now count one more rare species of Pinguicula .

Photo : F. Rivadavia

            P.clivorum was growing on what seemed to be calcareous rocks covered in fine mosses and red or white lichens(?). The vertical wall was pretty dry, but the air was cool and humid. The site was at nearly 2700m altitude, about 200m below what was reported for the type location of P.barbata (although I suspect it was the same place). Very close by along the road we found 2 other very similar spots with plenty of P.clivorum, also growing on vertical walls, one of these heavily shaded. The plants were not only facing N (as is the rule for Pings in Mexico) but also E. I guess the fact that they were more or less shaded by trees excluded the necessity of being N-facing (similar to what Id observed with P.conzattii and P.hemiepiphytica).

P.clivorum in habitat.

Photo : F. Rivadavia

P.clivorum grows on what seemed to be calcareous rocks covered in fine mosses and red or white lichens(?).

Photo : F. Rivadavia

 

P.clivorum in habitat.

Photo : Ed. Read

Close-up of the flower of P. clivorum showing the greenish patch at the base of the central lower lobe.

Photo : F. Rivadavia

P. clivorum, lilac flower form.

Photo : F. Rivadavia

P. clivorum, white flower form.

Photo : F. Rivadavia

             The yellow-green rosettes of P.clivorum were in full growth, the leaves often with very distinct petioles. Plenty of prey of all sorts were observed on the leaves. The lilac to white flowers were very abundant, many rosettes had numerous flower scapes each. The backside of the flowers sometimes had slight purplish veining, a yellow-green spur sticking straight out. The base of the 3 lower corolla lobes were covered with numerous hairs going into the throat and there was a greenish patch at the base of the central lower lobe.

A prey caught on this leaf. It is true that these plants are carnivorous plants.

Photo : Ed. Read

 

The base of the 3 lower corolla lobes are covered with numerous hairs going into the throat.  

Photo : F. Rivadavia

There is a greenish patch at the base of the central lower lobe. This is a white flower form.

Photo : Ed. Read

This is a  lilac flower form showing a subnumerous number of lobes.

Photo : Ed. Read

            One of the most interesting features we observed on P.clivorum was that the flower scapes are initially sticking straight out and after pollination bend backwards towards the rocks in order to drop the seeds on the wall and not on the ground below. 

You can observed on P.clivorum that the flower scapes are initially sticking straight out and after pollination bend backwards towards the rocks in order to drop the seeds on the wall and not on the ground below. 

Photo : F. Rivadavia

Side view of flower scapes. 

Photo : F. Rivadavia

I had also observed this with P.emarginata, P.immaculata, and P.nivalis. Not surprisingly, all these species belong to subgenus Temnoceras section Temnoceras. And here is where it gets really freaky: P.clivorum was amazingly similar to P.gracilis, another member of this same section! Although I only know the latter species from pictures, the overall aspect of P.clivorum simply reeked of P.gracilis: the flower shape, the numerous hairs and green patch on the lower corolla lobes, the rounded leaves with distinct petioles. It is clear theyre very closely related species, separated by a little over a thousand kilometers. In fact the flowers of P.nivalis are also similar in shape to those of P.clivorum and P.gracilis, although the rest of the plant is nearly identical to P.immaculata.

 

Close-up of the flower of Pinguicula gracilis

 

Photo : Vic Brown

Close-up of the flower of Pinguicula clivorum.

 

Photo : Ed. Read

 

Close-up of the flower of Pinguicula immaculata (top) and Pinguicula nivalis (bottom)

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

            One thing we could not agree or come to any conclusion about was whether P.clivorum is an annual or not. Different characters pointed one way or the other. We were surprised with the relatively large rounded seeds of this species none of which have germinated in cultivation yet, unfortunately. No live plants made it into cultivation either. The morning after we saw them in the wild, the few plants wed picked up had surprisingly rotted completely! This quick demise, such fragility of plant tissues, is highly indicative that P.clivorum is an annual (Ive seen this happen with other annual CPs, including other Pings, Drosera, and Genlisea).

            From the P.clivorum site, we drove a few hundred km NW to the capital of Chiapas state, Tuxtla Gutierrez. Although we headed out from El Porvenir early in the afternoon, we only arrived in Tuxtla around 9 or 10pm. This is because I hate driving back and forth along the same road, so I decided to take an alternate route a risky one, but different, hahaha! According to our maps this alternate route had an indeterminate number of km by dirt. It proved to be several dozen km and a really bad dirt road too. I almost thought we wouldnt make it at some places, having to even ask everyone to get out of the car to get past a few steep & bumpy stretches. The poor car! Not to mention the several forks we passed which were not on our maps. Luckily we didnt get lost and best of all we saw some really cool scenery. There is certainly much potential for new Pings out there

               

To be continued on POSTCARD N14 Part 3