POSTCARD from Mexico N23

 

(By Fernando Rivadavia, November 29, 2008

              

 

SIERRA GORDA

              

            My 3rd weekend exploring for Pings in Mexico was the most exciting of the four. Because of all the Pings I saw that weekend, I will have to split my findings into three postcards. In this postcard I will describe what I discovered on Saturday the 29th of November, 2008.

            I left Guanajuato late in the afternoon of Friday the 28th and only stopped to sleep at a cheap roadside motel near Zimapan. I left before sunrise on Saturday since I had a few hundred kilometers of winding roads up and down highlands ahead of me towards Xilitla. Along the way, between the towns of Jacala and Tamazunchale, I did see a few roadside P.moranensis populations, none with flowers unfortunately. Most rosettes were entering dormancy, but some were still in their summer stage.

The habitat of P. moranensis in Jacala Tamazunchale.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

P. moranensis winter rosette in Jacala Tamazunchale, road habitat.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. moranensis in Jacala Tamazunchale, road habitat.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

            Because of all the endless curves and trucks on that single-lane highway, it took me quite a while longer than Id foreseen and I only arrived in Xilitla around noon. It was a beautiful cloudless day and I had a fantastic view of the Sierra Gorda from below, rising above Xilitla. I had never really seen these mountains before, although Id been there before on two occasions in the past both times it had been too rainy and foggy to see them.

Sierra Gorda seen from Southeast.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Sierra Gorda and Xilitla

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

            The Sierra Gorda was my goal for that day, and maybe for the whole weekend, depending on how lucky I was in trying to find the two native Ping species: P.calderoniae and P.martinezii. My two previous attempts (see my postcard 1 and postcard 19) had taught me where NOT to look for them. Since my last try in 2006 with friends Ed Read and Ruben Resendiz, Id spent many hours studying maps searching for alternative routes that could lead me to the top of the Sierra Gorda. My present bets were on two new routes Id identified.

            Luck was definitely with me that day and my first option quickly led me straight up the mountains. I saw P.moranensis at several spots along the way, growing on rocky outcrops semi-shaded by pine and oak forests and even growing along the trail itself. They were mostly flowerless rosettes (summer and winter rosettes), but I did find a few large purple flowers at one site. I even found some plants growing on the base of a tree! I even bothered to take a picture of a nice orchid growing on top of this tree I only looked up there in hopes of finding more Pings, I swear ! 

        

Pinguicula moranensis growing on tree base in Sierra Gorda.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula moranensis on rock outcrop in Sierra Gorda

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

 

P. moranensis along trail to Sierra Gorda.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

The flower of P. moranensis along trail to Sierra Gorda.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The flower of P. moranensis along trail to Sierra Gorda.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

             Once I reached around 2200m in altitude, the first north-facing rocky outcrop I hiked past turned out to be covered with P.martinezii!! They were growing on mossy vertical surfaces which probably dripped with water during the summer. Although shaded by pine forests, only the more exposed (although always north-facing) parts of the rocky outcrop seemed to support P.martinezii. The shadier corners were inhabited by P.moranensis, in some cases growing alongside P.martinezii.   

            I worked my way around the base of the rocky outcrop, photographing the winter rosettes of P.martinezii this recently described species is the only member of the P.agnata complex that forms winter rosettes. As I explored, I began finding a few plants with young flower buds tucked away between the leaves. I was a bit surprised because this species was only reported to have flowers in the Spring. But then again, P.martinezii was only known from a few collections. Thus I wasnt entirely surprised when I found actual open flowers on P.martinezii. The few flowers I found were very similar to those of P.ibarrae, with similar color variations even (see my postcard 6). I didnt find any fruit however.

Llano del Cornejo, top of the sierra Gorda

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

impressive Orchid on tree in Llano del Cornejo

Photo : F.Rivadavia

P. martinezii site on rocky outcrop.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii site on rocky outcrop.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii site on rocky outcrop.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii site on rocky outcrop.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. moranensis (left) and P. martinezii (Right).

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

An impressive group of winter rosettes of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii growing on vertical cliff.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

An impressive group of winter rosettes of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 Winter red rosettes of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

An impressive group of winter rosettes of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii flowering from winter rosette.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii flowering from winter rosette.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii flowering.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The flower of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

The flower of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The flower of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The flower of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The flower of P. martinezii.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

P. martinezii with remains of summer leaves.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii with young flower bud.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P. martinezii with young flower bud.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

            I had only a few hours to explore the top of the Sierra Gorda before it got dark. But it was enough to find both known locations of P.martinezii, as well as a few other sites. All were relatively well exposed north-facing cliffs, often with P.moranensis growing around the shadier corners. I couldnt find any hybrids between the two species however. I hiked up to around 2400m altitude along a path that led to the other side of the mountains, where both P.martinezii and P.calderoniae had also been collected.

            However, at the several sites where I found P.martinezii, I couldnt spot a single P.calderoniae. So I guess luck wasnt completely on my side that day. But Im sure P.calderoniae was there, its tiny winter rosettes were probably just very well hidden. I do confess though that I didnt really search too hard for P.calderoniae. After all, what would be the fun in finding minute winter rosettes? The summer rosettes of P.calderoniae are way cooler, with their linear leaves up to 26cm in length and dark magenta flowers. What was truly important was that Id finally found a way up to the top of the Sierra Gorda and can thus some day return to see P.calderoniae and P.martinezii in their full summer glory. And who knows, in the meanwhile, maybe somebody reading this will be able to spot a P.calderoniae winter rosette somewhere in my pics

           

 

Fernando RIVADAVIA