Agave turneri in the Sierra Cucapá – part 2

We pick up the tale of Agave turneri on the afternoon of the first day of my visit to the Sierra Cucapá with cactologist Peter Breslin. I had visited the east side of the Sierra Cucapá twice before, once in March of 2010 with fellow plant nerd Scott Calhoun, and then again in May 2011 with agave nut Brian Kemble. During the March trip, Scott and I did not see any plants even hinting at flowering, but the following year in May, Brian and I saw plants in fruit. Apparently Agave turneri plants will flower in response to good summer rains and was quite sure that this would be the year. The flowering process for Agave turneri is similar to that of A. montana and A. parrasana in that the stalk is initiated in the fall, it stops for the winter, and then resumes as the weather warms.

By all indications the summer and fall of 2013 looked promising for having produced sufficient rainfall for potential blooming in the Sierra Cucapá, so last minute plans were made with the hopes of catching plants in full flower. In reading the original description by Webb and Salazar-Ceseña, it appeared that all specimens were collected on the east side of both the Sierra Cucapá and the Sierra El Mayor, but I had heard that Brad Hollingsworth of the San Diego Natural History Museum had seen Agave turneri on the west side of the Sierra Cucapá, so I wanted to check that out. After determining our approach to the west side, Peter and I blasted down south and made the foray to the mountains. We found all the proper turns and seemed well on our way to hit the west side first, but we hit a long patch of deep sand that did not allow us passage. Curses, foiled again, at least until I get 4-wheel drive!

Enough talk, let’s look at some photos.

Such a striking color to the leaves!

Such a striking color to the leaves!

Sunrise on the Sierra Cucapa

Sunrise on the Sierra Cucapa

A walk around the campsite reveals an interesting insect.

A walk around the campsite reveals an interesting insect.

Beautiful flowers on Justicia californica

Beautiful flowers on Justicia californica

 

A baby Ferocactus

A baby Ferocactus

 

After climbing around on the north and east slopes of the sierra, we finally found some Agave turneri in bloom!

The first of what we hoped were several in bloom.

The first of what we hoped were several in bloom.

 

Some flowers at the top

Some flowers at the top

 

This is what we were looking for!

This is what we were looking for!

 

Look at those developing capsules.

Look at those developing capsules.

 

The wide open flowers indicative of the Deserticolae group.

The wide open flowers indicative of the Deserticolae group.

 

The vascular system is well preserved in this hyper-arid region.

The vascular system is well preserved in this hyper-arid region.

 

I am one happy hiker!

I am one happy hiker!

I would like to give a big thanks to Peter B. for going along on the trip, and am glad he did not step on that rattlesnake. Too bad I was off photographing Agave turneri in bloom and did not get to see it. On the other hand, I might have been too busy looking up the slopes that I would not have seen it until too late.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Ron April 17, 2014

    Great stuff! Nothing I appreciate more than bringing rarely seen Agaves into sharp focus.

    reply
    • Greg May 3, 2014

      Thanks Ron. I love to see these little known plants myself and like to share with others.

      reply
  2. Shane Turner April 17, 2014

    Those are a few amazing specimens. Beautiful. Thanks for all you do and share.

    reply
  3. Scott Calhoun April 22, 2014

    Greg, the photos are great and the plants look oh-so-much plumper and alive than the last time we visited. Nice photos and nice lighting!

    reply
    • Greg May 3, 2014

      Thanks Scott. The road back was obscured by the trash dump and was quite sandy in one long stretch, but the end result was worthwhile. Amazing what some rain will do!

      reply
  4. Dave Dundas May 7, 2014

    Nice going, glad you got what you went for! Great shots!

    reply
  5. Jan Emming August 14, 2014

    An awesome and fascinating account of a plant that I now feel I must try to grow. Who knew that such a wonderful species would be so little known yet also be found so close to the US border. How common would you say they are? I get the impression of fairly narrow endemism and low population levels. Is that correct? They are beautiful regardless of abundance.

    reply
    • Greg August 15, 2014

      The plants were not very common and the distribution in the Sierra Cucupa is very limited. There is a report of plants on the west side, but I have not been able to get there yet, and I have not been in the Sierra el Mayor to see them there yet either. Access to both is somewhat difficult. I’m hoping to have some available sometime next year.

      reply

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