POSTCARD from Mexico N26

 

(By Fernando Rivadavia, January 2010 !

              

Northeastern Pings

 

And finally, long overdue, here's the last part of my travels in Mexico in November/ December 2008...

            During the 1st week of December, 2008, I debated with myself where to go during my last weekend in Mexico before returning home. I was extremely tempted to return to the Moctezuma Canyon and spend a whole day exploring for more populations of P.moctezumae. I dreamed of what it would be like to climb up to and be face-to-face with those amazing Ping-covered walls I'd seen higher up on the canyon the week before (Postcard #25).

            I finished work at Irapuato early on Thursday and realized I had almost 3 full days to go Ping-hunting before my flight on Sunday night. So I made the decision to explore a little further away than I was initially planning. So late on Thursday afternoon I picked up my rental car and drove ~700km N to Saltillo, where I spent the remainder of the night. I left before sunrise on Friday morning and headed NE to Monterrey. As the sun came out, I had some amazing views of the surrounding jagged mountains.

            I'd been to Monterrey in 2003 for work, but hadn't had a chance to explore the high peaks surrounding this city. The type location of P.gracilis is within Monterrey and I imagined it was probably abundant on all surrounding peaks. This was one of several Mexican Pings still missing on my list of species to see in the wild. All I had to do was find the quickest route to the top any of those peaks and then proceed to search for a N-facing cliff or so I hoped!

            I remembered there was a park called Chipinque high up on mountains on the southern side of Monterrey (and therefore with N-facing cliffs). So once in Monterrey, I drove towards this park. A steep road quickly took me from the southern outskirts of Monterrey at ~700m alt. up through Chipinque to the highest parking lot at ~1300m. From there, several trails led out in different directions, some of them climbing to the top of the peaks in this section of the Sierra Madre, between 1700 to 2100m alt.

            I found a trail that led me straight up the steep mountains towards some cliffs I could see through the trees higher above. It was a very cold morning, with temperatures around the freezing point, but I was soon sweating from the exertion. A lot of loose gravel on the steeper parts of the trail didn't make things any easier for me. I hiked for maybe 30-45min. before I reached the first cliffs, where I began searching for P.gracilis initially without any luck.

            I kept climbing further up the mountains, searching every cliff along the way, confused that I couldn't find any Pings on what seemed to be suitable habitats. After maybe another 30min. or more of hiking I found a wall that was apparently no different from others I'd seen further down, maybe only a little more shaded by the surrounding oak forests. Among the dry mosses I found a few small patches of P.gracilis winter rosettes. I was hoping to catch this species in flower, but alas there were only young flower scapes beginning to poke through the winter leaves. I was too early for flowers.

 

Winter rosettes of Pinguicula gracilis in habitat in Chipinque Monterrey.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Dense patche of Pinguicula gracilis.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Winter rosettes of Pinguicula gracilis with the first flower scape emerging.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Note the succulents hairy leaves of the winter rosettes of Pinguicula gracilis.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula gracilis growing in patches in crevices.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Winter rosettes of Pinguicula gracilis with the first flower scape emerging.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

            After taking pics, I headed back down the trail. It was almost noon and there was somewhere else I needed to be before the day was over. Once in my car, I drove down to Monterrey, then SE towards Montemorelos, where I turned SW towards Rayones. The road cut through some beautiful mountain scenery, especially in the Rayones valley. I stopped to explore a N-facing cliff along the way, hoping to find P.cyclosecta. But no such luck.

            From Rayones I took a small & winding dirt road full of potholes and rocks S towards Galeana. I was heading to P.rotundiflora & P.immaculata sites I'd found in March 2004 together with Bob McMorris & Mike Manna (see Postcard #12). On that trip, we were a little late in the season and caught only one open flower of P.rotundiflora and a few of P.immaculata. I was worried that this time I would be too early to see their flowers, especially after P.gracilis earlier that day.

            P.rotundiflora was easier to find, growing on mossy banks of dry stream beds. Many of the winter rosettes still had summer leaves hanging around the edges. Fortunately, there were plenty of flowers to be photographed, making up nicely for the lack of flowers in 2004.

 

The habitat of Pinguicula rotundiflora in Rayones.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

The habitat of Pinguicula rotundiflora in Rayones : a mossy banks of dry stream beds.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Winter rosette of Pinguicula rotundiflora with remaining summer leaves.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pale flower Pinguicula rotundiflora.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Another flower of Pinguicula rotundiflora.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula rotundiflora flowering in habitat.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula rotundiflora flowering in habitat.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula rotundiflora flowering in habitat from winter rosettes.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Flowers of Pinguicula rotundiflorain habitat.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

            I kept walking deeper into the mountains, following the stream beds and eventually came to a narrow little gorge with vertical gypsum walls. Dangling from this wall were numerous white P.immaculata flowers! The flowers of this species and very tiny & and hard to spot. The rosettes were completely buried in the gypsum soil I don't know how we found them in 2004 !

            Both P.rotundiflora & P.immaculata had young fruit present, so my guess is that these species usually begin flowering sometime around November, which is 2 months earlier than what the literature and known herbarium specimens claimed.

 

The gypsum habitat of Pinguicula immaculata in Rayones.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Some flowers of Pinguicula immaculata emerging from the hill.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula immaculata flowering in habitat. Not easy to spot !

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Winter rosette of Pinguicula immaculata with a unique flower.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula immaculata flowering from winter rosette.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

Pinguicula immaculata flowering from winter rosette.

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula immaculata flowering in habitat with scapes emerging from the gypsum.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Winter rosette of Pinguicula immaculata with flower scape emerging.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

 

The amazing shaped flower of Pinguicula immaculata.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

The amazing shaped flower of Pinguicula immaculata.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

The tiny flower of Pinguicula immaculata.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

A larger but still tiny flower of Pinguicula immaculata.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

            Back in the car, I kept driving S to Galeana, then E to Linares. Unfortunately it was getting dark already, so I couldn't explore the beautiful canyon that the road took me through between Galeana & Linares. From Linares I headed S to Ciudad Victoria, where I spent the night. I wasn't sure where to go on Saturday. One option was to search for P.pilosa in the Sierra de Tamaulipas to the SE. But I confess I was a bit worn out after a month of Ping-hunting in Mexico and I wasn't feeling up to the challenge of driving countless dirt roads in search of a species that was last seen maybe 30-40 years before by Alfred Lau.

            So instead I headed S from Cd.Victoria on Saturday morning to make a 2nd try at finding P.laxifolia at the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve (see my Postcard #11 and the Barefoot Boys' Postcard #14). I headed 15km up the mountains from the town of Gomez Farias, along a pretty bumpy dirt road. I thought I remembered having had to stop on the previous trip because of muddy conditions, but it was actually because of the loose gravel & stones on the steep mountain road. But I only remembered this when it was too late, as I smelled the burning rubber from my car tyres and had to turn back.

            Once again, I just felt too worn out after so many weeks in Mexico, not willing to hike all the way up those mountains like Forbes & Noah had done before finding P.laxifolia. So I headed back down the mountains, drove W to Tula and then back N towards Cd.Victoria to revisit a P.jaumavensis site I'd found in 2004 (Postcard #11) with an amazing diversity of flower colors. It was probably too early in the season to see any flowers, but then again I didn't know any other easy roadside Ping sites to visit in that area, hahaha!

 

Pinguicula jaumavensis growing (and following) the crevices lines in habitat in Cuidad Victoria.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula jaumavensis : winter rosettes with late remaining summer leaves.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula jaumavensis growing (and following) the crevices lines in habitat in Cuidad Victoria and all holes available !

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula jaumavensis with young flower scape emerging from winter rosette.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Cluster of Pinguicula jaumavensis with young flower scape emerging from winter rosette.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula jaumavensis : winter rosettes with late remaining summer leaves. Some small rosettes can be seen at the base of the mother plants.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Pinguicula jaumavensis nearly to flower.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

 

 

Cluster of Pinguicula jaumavensis with young flower scape emerging from winter rosette.

 

Photo : F.Rivadavia

            Sure enough, it was too early in the season and all I found were winter rosettes with a few remaining summer leaves and young flower buds beginning to show, much like what I saw for P.rotundiflora the day before. From there I headed back S to San Luis Potosi, where I spent the night, and then back to Mexico City the following day to catch my flight home.

 Fernando RIVADAVIA