The Cactus Patch
March 2015

My, Oh, Maya
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 5th of February we went to Fresno.  The roadside was full of blooming mustard and radish and even some lupines.  This should be an early year for wildflowers. Woody Minnich spoke on the Karoo at the Fresno meeting and as usual had lots of interesting pictures.  He even managed to keep the time reasonable.

On the 10th we heard Paul Klaasen speak on Fog Deserts.  He apologized for his accent, but I found him pleasing and easy to follow.  I just wish his picture captions were a little larger. He had great fog pictures.

On the 15th I helped weed at Cal State.  The wild flowers are blooming there too.  I was especially interested to see some desert candle, a mustard relative with inflated stems.

And back again to the cruise:  On the 17th of November we reached the island of Cozumel which belongs to Mexico and is just east of the Yucatan Peninsula. The long dock from ship to shore was a tunnel of duty free shops. After running the gauntlet, we met our guide, a diminutive Mayan woman who told us her name in Spanish and Mayan and then said to call her Mimi!

We took a bus out to the middle of the island, passing some Hilocereus undatus, one of only two cactus species seen on the island.  At the restrooms there was a potted plant of Euphorbia millii.

We reached the San Gervasio ruins which are smaller than the mainland Mayan ruins, but still quite impressive.  (I can now check that item off on my bucket list.) There were a number of iguanas on the ruins.  They are called “green” iguanas, but most of the ones we saw were grey like the ruins.  (Polly did photograph a green one on the grass.)  The only other time I had seen wild iguanas was in 1969 when we visited my uncle George in Panama. My cousins had some green ones which they fed on hibiscus flowers. 

There were plants of Tradescantia spathacea which can cause skin irritation.  It was blooming and attracted black and red butterflies.  There were also small blue-flowered Commelinas which looked like ones in Africa. Nearby there were Sansevierias, which are, of course, African!  There was also an orchid which had pseudobulbs and is probably a Bulbophyllum. There were large trees such as the buttressed kapok, the prop-rooted mangroves and the green trunked Burseras with orange peeling bark.  This latter is called gumbo-limbo and is said to have medicinal uses.  Among the trees was a huge blue butterfly.

After the ruins we went east to the other coast and noted the shortened vegetation.  This is due to the hurricanes which come in from the Caribbean. There was a succulent shrub growing next to the beach which I have not yet identified.  One treasure to be brought ashore by the hurricanes is black coral which is cut and polished for jewelry. There were freshwater ponds on the inland side of the road with water lilies and crinums.  There were also a few prickly pears.

Returning to the boat we had a late “Caribbean” lunch which was rather ordinary.  That evening all four couples were at our dinner table as we did not have to dress up.  We were at sea while we slept.

Mystery Plant on Cozumel



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