Monday, September 05, 2011

Bonkers for Navajoa

A locally abundant but geographically restricted endemic, Echinocereus bonkerae is a great form. A trip in April 2010 up to the hills just outside of Globe AZ, on the way up to the Salt River Canyon, provided some great visits with bonkerae, which also has a great name. It was not perfect timing on bonkerae flowers, which I wanted to see, but the Lewisia were flowering as well as a variety of other wildflowers.

Echinocereus bonkerae has been confusing to taxonomists since day one.

A short walk back into some rocky hills away from the highway revealed some interesting forms of Echinocereus coccineus-like plants. I wonder where Baker would place these. I think they are in the geographical ballpark for arizonicus, but I would have to ask him directly.

Some of the larger, more mounded Echinocereus at this same locale are probably just plain coccineus:

Love the Agave parryi and other flora up this way. It is also a very dark night sky area here, just south of the Salt River Canyon, as I found out once when I stopped at night and looked up.

I went on my way over through Snowflake Arizona, hoping to catch some very interesting claret-cup type Echinocereus in flower there. These seem to be an oddball population. I sent photos to Marc Baker and he was curious about them as well. Someday I would like to see where they fit in with other Arizona claret cups better. They partly remind me of Echinocereus toroweapensis and they also remind me of Echinocereus arizonicus nigrihorridispinus, but they are very far away from either of those and rather isolated.

The highlight of this trip was finally finding a plant of one of the most obscure cacti in the world, Navajoa peeblesianus. This is an incredibly cryptic plant that pulls down into the red sandy Navajoan Desert soil for most of the year and grows surrounded by rocks and pebbles. It combines this fierce camouflage with real rarity. It's close cousin, Navajoa peeblesianus ssp. fickeisenii, is more widely distributed throughout certain habitats below the Kaibab Plateau and near the Grand Canyon. Navajoa peeblesianus is only know from a few very small populations. I had GPS data from a German cactus friend of mine, but even with that data I had searched perhaps 5 times around Holbrook and had never found even one plant. I got very lucky this particular visit.

Here with almost completely covering pebbles removed:

The strange gravelly landscape with the cactus in the center. Can you see it?

Also found a very large, old and impressive Sclerocactus whipplei.

Love the spines on this plant.

This was really just a typical Arizona field trip. I didn't see a single flower I wanted to see, too early all around. But the compensation was spectacular.

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