Adventures in Mexico part VII
9th November 2014
Another early start (no headache, mercifully), off at 7am and heading for nearby Parque Nacional el Chico. I’ve visited here a few times before - the mountains are high and handsome, containing some exceptionally interesting plants. We stopped at roughly the high point – some 2900m or so – to admire some of them. It was cold and misty, the temperature was around freezing.
One of my aims for this trip was to visit Furcraea parmenieri in different locations to see how, if at all, they varied. Here is as good a start as any!
Xeric ferns abound.
I’d guess this to be a Pellaea sp – big blue-green fronds 40cm long. Also a very fine clone of Agave salmiana ssp crassispina lives at the top of the mountain here – very compact and chunky.
This Mammillaria sp – or at least ones like it – seems very widespread and is often to be seen in damp, shady places on to of rocks. But we were starting to get too cold so headed into the town of Mineral Del Chico for brunch.
Then a small diversion off to find Beschorneria yuccoides ssp yuccoides – we stumbled across these plants growing along a boundary line.
There may or may have not been more up some steep cliffs a few km further up the road but we decided to turn back as we had a lot of business to attend to that day.
Again, near the high point but further along we made another stop and again saw some lovely things. Just on the roadside there was this huge clump of Echeveria (I think elegans) growing on a tree. Across the road it was also on the rocks.
We headed away from the road, struggling through some fairly dense undergrowth to reach a rock outcrop. Once we were there I recognised it as the very one I had struggled to 9 years ago!
That lovely chunky Agave salmiana ssp crassispina again
Some big spreading colonies of a beautifully marked and compact form of Agave filifera.
That big Pellaea again plus a Manfreda sp that was starting to go dormant.
Easy to spend several hours at this spot but we had to move on – next stop was Zimapan, which we reached with a couple of hours daylight to spare. We found a new-looking place to stay – Hotel Anyelo - and managed to negotiate a good deal down from their regular rate of 1200 pesos per room down to 700. I guess with no-one else there every little helps. A really smart modern place.
We checked in then headed out again to find the road leading out from town to a mine that I had visited before. Another aim for this trip was to have a closer look at a population of Yucca queretaroensis I had seen before as seed raised plants from here were showing a lot of variation and it was suspected they were hybrids of some sort. American plantsman and nurseryman Greg Starr had found what looked like a hybrid plant in habitat at a couple of locations, adding weight to the mounting stack of evidence. But I couldn’t remember which road we needed to take to get us to the mine. I notoriously get lost practically everywhere I go but this really wasn’t helpful.
Anyway, we headed out of town on a road I knew was the wrong road but in an encouraging direction and, eventually found ourselves heading towards a valley. Suddenly ahead I couldn’t believe my eyes – in the distance were some of the ‘hybrids’!
Interesting to note one or two marginal threads on the leaves. Also the young plant showed strong reddish brown leaf margins, a feature of the seedling plants back home in the UK.
In total there were 6 adult plants with several small ones here and there. We noted below where a large plant’s main trunk had died there was regrowth from suckers at the base.
Within view there were a few Yucca queretaroensis plants – taller here in this sheltered valley than I had seen before. But where was the other parent species to make this ‘hybrid’
We dragged ourselves back to the car and drove around the corner – to be greeted with this fellow – a handsome Yucca filifera. Just about 500m as the crow – or perhaps moth? – flies from the plants we had just looked at. Then around the next corner we saw both Yucca queretaroensis and Yucca filifera side by side. The smoking gun?
Both were to be seen further down the road towards the mine (a different road and different mine to the one I had visited before).
All of which presents very strong evidence that this ‘odd’ Yucca we saw first of all, and has appeared in the seed batch, is a Yucca queretaroensis x filifera hybrid. We stayed until the light started to fail then headed back to the hotel, extremely excited!
We had decided to stay at the hotel restaurant for dinner and were treated to a wonderful soup to start – sopa Azteca – followed by a local speciality, molcajete. The word ‘molcajete’ is used for a rough textured lava stone bowl used for grinding, kind of like a mortar and pestle, except it can also be used as a serving dish. In this case strips of assorted meats, sausage, chorizo, onion, nopales (cactus) and cheese that had all been seared over a grill were then served in a piping hot molcajete, filled with a sizzling rich dark mole (sauce made from nuts, chile and chocolate). A bottomless basket of warm, hand made tortillas plus a bowl of frijoles were supplied on the side. Neil had the foresight to take a pic of it – what a shame you can’t smell or taste it as it is one of the very nicest meals I have had in Mexico (and there have been plenty of those, I can assure you!) The whole meal, including drinks, for the four of us cost 600 pesos, under £30.
What a day!