Tuesday 6th November
Another excellent breakfast at the hotel.
Our aim for the day was to find Agave x nigra hybrids on the hillside where they are to be found a few km along the road east towards Monterrey. I’d been given the task of recording the various forms/sizes and general variety of intergrades between the two parent species of Agave asperrima and Agave nickelsiae (formerly A. fernandi-regis for those of you who left to room to make a cup of tea). I had three locations given to me, all of which pointed to the one population, so I was hopeful I would find them.
Well, we found the place! On the lower slopes were a large and healthy population of Agave asperrima with a nice, chunky habit. Wandering towards the hillside we passed by some nice Dasylirion cedrosanum, again green and glaucous forms growing together.
And once you got your eye in what first appeared as a parched and barren hillside was actually crammed with more plants than you could imagine. There must have been a dozen or more species of cactus within a few metres (here are a couple) plus hechtia, echeveria and huge colonies of Agave lechuguilla (some were larger toothed and rough to the touch – perhaps intergrades with A. asperrima?).
A bit further up the hill and we found the Agave x nigra hybrid plants. Or, at least, what remained of them. There were a handful of plants that looked like the one in this picture. But any of the wider leafed, scabrous plants with dark leaf tips and margins, familiar as the nursery stock ‘Sharkskin’, were absent. What we did see was a discarded steel pole with a flattened tip which I’d wager had been used to remove plants from the ground. However, scattered all over the hillside were plants of the other parent – Agave nickelsiae. An unfeasibly beautiful plant, each with the appearance of being hand painted.
After about 3 hrs we wandered back to the car and headed further east to Huasteca Canyon. I hadn’t been there before but heard it was pretty scenic. It was. By some measure the most dramatic scenery I have ever seen. Pictures cannot get anywhere near capturing the scale and majesty of the place.
There are some beautiful plants clinging to the vertical cliffs. We saw Agave bracteosa and Agave victoriae-reginae. Seeing Agave bracteosa in habitat like this – clinging to parched little crevices at low altitude – makes me marvel at how it is so adaptable to cultivation in the UK, being one of the very best for our cool damp climate conditions.
Somehow we missed the recently discovered Agave albopilosa – I guess you need to know which exact rock face to look at along a few kilometres of rock face.
We carried on driving along the road that crosses through the canyon for about an hour but the track ended up getting rougher so we turned back and drove back to the hotel – our final night at Rancho El Morillo.
Again, Norma arranged a taxi for us to go into town where we ate at Los Compadres – an excellent meal – mixed grill of beef, pork, chicken, onion, chile and nopales.