Botanical and Cultural Adventures

Botanical and Cultural Adventures

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mountains in the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Desert

It is a lot harder than it looks to hike on mountain sides like this and there are certainly way more interesting plants than you can imagine...


Fresh puffs from the Colima volcano drifting in the morning sky.
The excitement of traveling and exploring isn't always dependent on finding a specific plant. Sometimes it is just a visceral feeling of awe from some facet of the natural world. Something that captures your mind and imagination even when it is what you planned and expected to see. This happened to me when some friends and I wanted to explore the area around the Colima volcano in western Mexico.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Miniature Weeping Bamboo

Although it wasn't the most striking bamboo I've seen in Mexico, this miniature weeping bamboo sure has potential. I imagine in the rainy seasons it looks much better than this stressed, dry season condition pictured. It also makes me wonder if it is in cultivation as it could be quite a handsome accent plant growing in a pot on a patio.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nolina longifolia

Beaucarnea longifolia
Nolina longifolia and Tillandsia prodigiosa growing in a cloud oak forest.
Whether it is Nolina longifolia or Beaucarnea longifolia, it is an interesting plant to see in the wild. These grow in the pine-oak cloud forest in the mountains of Oaxaca. When you see them in the fog with Tillandsia prodigiosa hanging off the oaks it is a peculiar experience. Generally cool, it is almost always peaceful wandering among these plants.
Below is a very massive specimen. If you notice my straw hat and imagine the size of this grand old plant!

Nolina longifolia
Beaucarnea longifolia

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Anacheilium trulla

Anacheilium trulla Puerto Vallarta
Anacheilium trulla growing near the Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Anacheilium trulla is a nicely scented orchid that is widespread and has variability throughout its range.  Here is a nice, blooming specimen growing on an oak tree in the hills near the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.  It is amazing how many different species of orchids and bromeliads grow in this fantastic region just south of Puerto Vallarta.  Once you start climbing up into the mountains of Cabo Corrientes many botanical treasures start appearing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tree in a Wall

 Sometimes it is just a small and simple thing that reminds you that you are in a different culture. When I saw this tree I did a double take. It was so different from what I would have expected and from what I have seen that it took a moment for it to register. Clearly this tree has been growing here for a very long time and a wall was needed.  Rather than just cutting the tree down, it was simply incorporated into the wall.  While not ideal and certainly not a perfect solution for the long term, it is a way to allow the tree to keep growing and providing shade for the yard.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weavers of Oaxaca

The traditional crafts of the Oaxaca valley are well known around the world, especially the weavers.  It is really quite an experience to see the traditional process from prepping the wool, spinning it, dyeing it, and then seeing how the patterns are woven.

Hechtia podantha in Queretaro, Mexico

Hechtia podantha habitat
Hechtia podantha growing in habitat
Hechtia podantha is a fairly widespread species that is variable both within a given population and between populations.  Here are a few plants that were growing along Hechtia lepidophylla and near Hechtia zamudioi.  Within the genus there are two types of plants, those with the inflorescence emerging laterally from the leaf axils (lateral bloomers) and those from the apical growth point (terminal bloomers).

Desert Wildlife

Most of my traveling through Mexico is done in the dry season when a lot of the wildlife seems to be hunkered down and not very active.  But every once in a while I'll come across something that just can't resist posing and letting me grab a picture.  Here is a nice sized Ctenosaura in the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Bioreserve surrounded by the brown and curled up dormant Selaginella.

Monday, February 4, 2013

New discoveries

Aechmea nudicaulis in Mexico
Aechmea nudicaulis documented for the first time in the state of Hidalgo
While not all discoveries are as fantastic as discovering a new species, smaller discoveries can still add to the body of scientific knowledge. When traveling anywhere, I always recommend keeping your eyes open. In a trip in 2012, the timing was just right to have two such events happen in the same day.

In the warm and humid lowlands of the state of Hidalgo, Mexico, we were exploring some promising roads that were 'vaguely' shown on our map.  When doing these exploration focused trips it is to be expected to take a wrong turn or two.  Or three or four.  But the great part about that is going places where you might not have planned and seeing what is hiding there.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hechtia zamudioi - Life on the Rocks

Hechtia zamudioi growing on the rocks
Hechtia zamudioi growing on the rocks
Hechtia zamudioi has a unique way of growing in a tough, dry climate. It like to grow on or between the limestone rocks in the Rio Estorax drainage. When a seed is lucky enough to find a crevice that is just in the right spot and get established, it will slowly grow into a large group of rosettes.

Climbing around and observing these plants was pretty cool. It was quite interesting to see how different the plants looked when viewing them from above than from below. 

Hechtia zamudioi

Hechtia zamudioi canyon
Hechtia zamudioi growing with other xerophytic plants
Hechtia zamudioi (Bromeliaceae) is one of the more unique species in the genus. Found only in a single river system and only growing on or between the calcareous rocks in a very curious manner. They seem to just cling off the edge of the rocks like silvery powder puffs.

The leaves are also unique looking as they are very 'straight'. A lot of species will have some curve to some leaves, but the leaves of Hechtia zamudioi are straight and make a nice star burst shape.
(More after the jump)