POSTCARD from Mexico N24

 

(By Fernando Rivadavia, November 30, 2008

              

 

LA FLORIDA

              

        

After finding P.martinezii on Saturday the 29th of November, 2008 (much faster than I expected!), I needed to make new plans for Sunday. What would I do next? Should I go back up the Sierra Gorda and take some more time to search for P.calderoniae and study P.martinezii a bit better? Or should I explore another trail on the opposite side of the Sierra Gorda in hopes of finding a new area with either of these two species? Maybe I should just move on and search for different Pinguicula species. I could try once again to find P.moctezumae.

            I had already attempted to find P.moctezumae on a few previous opportunities (my postcards 1, 17, 18 and 19), always unsuccessfully, but getting closer and closer to finding its hiding place. The more I searched for P.moctezumae, the more I realized that it was endemic to a very small section of the Moctezuma River canyon. On my last try I was sure wed gotten very close, but we were kept from going any further along the canyon because of the high water level in the river since it was the wet season.

            So I decided to give P.moctezumae another go and I set out from Xilitla on Sunday the 30th, once again before dawn. I drove past a familiar P.agnata and P.moranensis site near La Lagunita (see my postcards 1 and 19) but decided not to stop for pictures since Id already seen and documented this site at this same time of year in 2003 and also because a new idea was forming in my mind

            What if I went to see P.lilacina first, before P.moctezumae? Id only ever seen this annual once, five years before, along a nearby road to a village called La Florida (see my postcard 1). It was now a little later in the season, so maybe Id be able to find more mature P.lilacina? Or would they all be dead already?

            Id still be working in Mexico for one more week and thus had one last weekend to explore for Pings before returning home. So I decided to hunt down P.lilacina first, since there was a higher risk that there would be none left by the following weekend whereas P.moctezumae could wait one more week since its a perennial which supposedly flowers all year long.

            New decision, new goal for the day : P.lilacina. I veered north at the city of Jalpan and drove for a few dozen kilometers on asphalt and then another 15km west along a winding dirt road that climbs the mountains to La Florida. It wasnt nearly as muddy as when I last visited this place in 2003, so progress was quick and I was soon parking alongside the grassy area surrounded by trees where Id found young P.lilacina as well as some P.moranensis on banks along the roadside at around 1350m altitude.

The habitat of Pinguicula lilacina above the road at La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The habitat of Pinguicula lilacina above the road at La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

            Fortunately, I wasnt too late to see P.lilacina after all. In fact they were all over the place! There were hundreds of mature P.lilacina in flower and many more immature ones growing on the open grassy patches above the road as well as along the roadside. They were larger and more numerous than on my previous visit five years and one month before and there were also many more plants in flower.

            Rosettes reached 4, maybe 5cm in diameter on the largest specimens of P.lilacina. The leaves are a very pale light-green color, sometimes with very faint purplish veins (one specimen I saw had very prominent purple veins on a single leaf). The fragile leaves of P.lilacina are typical of annual species, which cant afford to put too much energy into structures which arent going to last long anyways. I loved how the leaves were so thin and translucent that I could see droplets of condensation covering the undersurface. Although delicate, the leaves were obviously good at catching prey some of which looked surprisingly big for those small fragile leaves!

            The flowers of P.lilacina are tiny, but absolutely beautiful, with their mixture of yellow, red, white and lilac. Many plants were producing multiple flower spikes and several mature seed pods were seen. It didnt seem like this P.lilacina population was anywhere close to shutting down for the season, they still had a lot of gas left maybe two months or more?

The habitat of Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina in late growing season in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina growing in organic media in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida. Note the very pale light-green leaves and glandular flower scape.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The fragile leaves of P.lilacina are typical of annual species

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Dense cluster of  Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

Rosettes reached 4, maybe 5cm in diameter on the largest specimens of P.lilacina.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

             The fragile leaves of P.lilacina.

        

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Note the so thin and translucent leaves of Pinguicula lilacina. You can see droplets of condensation covering the undersurface.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

The flowers of P.lilacina are tiny, but absolutely beautiful, with their mixture of yellow, red, white and lilac.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina flowering in habitat in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Another rosette with thin and translucent leaves showing droplets of condensation covering the undersurface.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

A flower just ermerging from the rosette.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula lilacina in La Florida

Photo : F.Rivadavia

            The so thin and translucent leaves of this annual sepcies

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

A specimen with very prominent purple veins on a single leaf.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

            Taxonomically, P.lilacina seems to be very close to other annuals like P.takakii, P.crenatiloba, P.sharpii, and molecular phylogenies suggest these may be close to the P.agnata group.

            I almost forgot to mention that the small population of P.moranensis was surrounded by P.lilacina. Unfortunately no P.moranensis were in flower nor did I see any hybrids with P.lilacina.

A small population of P.moranensis surrounded by P.lilacina

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

P.moranensis and P.lilacina growing in the same area

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

            After about an hour of admiring and photographing P.lilacina at this site near La Florida, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was still before noon. Could I maybe still drive all the way to the Moctezuma River, hike up the canyon, and maybe add one more Pinguicula species to what had already been a fantastic weekend? Would I finally be able to find P.moctezumae after so many failed attempts????

            Wait for postcard 25 to find out!

Fernando RIVADAVIA