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|Vol. 10(11), pp. 2-7||The McAllen International Orchid Society Journal||November 2009|
Fig. 1. Biologist Salvador Contreras A., Wilma Ferry, Trudy Hager. Downtown area of Monterrey, Nuevo León, México. Digital photo DSC_3166; Sat-26Sept09.
Backtracking a few weeks, your editor, well guarded by his wife and neighbor lady Trudy, took a brief trip to Monterrey, Mexico via Noreast Autobus. We boarded the bus in McAllen, crossed the Río, did some minor paperwork, and transferred to another bus parked next to us, and were off to down town Monterrey by late afternoon. Saturday morning saw us (guided by Biol. Salvador Contreras Artiaga) first at a downtown location in Monterrey (Fig. 1) where we dropped off several journal issues to be hard-back bound, following which we drove southward toward the Horsetail Falls area.
Fig. 2. South of Monterrey, Mexico; ascending the road to Laguna Sanchez; Wilma, Biologist Salvador, & Trudy at one of several lookout sites; looking back toward the way traveled. Digital photo DSC_3173; Sat-26Sept09.
Passing the Horsetail Falls, we continued up the mountain road, over the crest, and down into the valley toward Laguna Sanchez. Considering the mountain range the road's carved into and over, the highway is good and along the way one is obliged to stop for some truly magnificent scenery (Fig. 2)!
To look out over the way one has just driven, is more than just "impressive" when one sees a waterfall nearly a thousand feet below, and realizes the water is falling another thousand feet. This is the area your editor has traversed many a time with young Salvador's father, the late Dr. Salvador Contreras Balderas, while doing field research on your editor's doctoral thesis some eleven to fifteen years ago! To traverse the same beautiful route once again, with that mentor absent, brought ever-present feelings of great sadness to this individual. More will be written about him at another time, but for now we will try to concentrate on the scenery and the orchid plants seen.
Fig. 3. Plant of Schiedeella sp. (center) among wild begonias. South side of road, past the crest, and descending to Laguna Sanchez. Digital photo DSC_3177; Sat-26Sept09.
Fig. 4. Malaxis unifolia. Sepals, petals, & labellum green, rachis erect; roadside; descending to Laguna Sanchez. Digital photo DSC_3222; Sat-26Sept09.
Along the way, at various points, Biologist Salvador pointed out [at a over 1,300 m (4,000 feet+)] plants of Dieregyne, Govenia (both G. utriculata and G. superba, although they were not in flower at this time), Malaxis, Ponthevia, and Schiedeella (Fig. 3); all terrestrial orchid species native to the state of Nuevo León, Mexico. A short distance past the crest and continuing down the western side of the range two more species were encountered. One was a short form of M. unifolia, (Fig. 4) with its green-flowered inflorescence arranged in the easily-seen spiral pattern of the fibonacci sequence. This plant measured all of 10.6 cm high.
Fig. 5. Malaxis species. Sepals, petals, & labellum green-white, rachis erect. Roadside, descending Sierra road to Laguna Sanchez. Digital photo DSC_3217; Sat-26Sept09.
The other plant was also a Malaxis species (Fig. 5), of 11-12 cm height with its inflorescence held erect.
Fig. 6. Malaxis species, possibly albescens form of M. wendtii. Sepals, petals, & labellum white, rachis erect. Roadside, descending Sierra road to Laguna Sanchez. Digital photo DSC_3224; Sat-26Sept09.
A little later, another Malaxis species was encountered, not greatly distant from the others. This one may be an albescens form of Malaxis wendtii (Fig. 6).
The eastern slope of the Sierra Madre Orientál is generally devoid of orchid plants; most (the terrestrials in particular) are past the crest, on the western side. The reason is obvious. With the air circulation pattern generally from west to east, as the air is forced upward on the western side, it loses its moisture (adiabatically), with the result that the terrestrial species are afforded both the terrestrial moisture and the atmospheric humidity as well as a higher level of ultraviolet light due to the altitude.
The daytime temperatures during this excursion were quit comfortable, although your editor was soon reminded of the altitude! Any degree of exertion brought on panting and puffing as one sought to pack oxygen into aged lungs!
Fig. 7. Antigone leptopus (Corona San Diego; Queen's tears), on roadside rocky slope. Digital photo DSC_3197.jpg; Sat-26Sept09.
Fig. 8. Youths Trudy and Wilma cross the aqueduct and start up. Digital photo DSC_3200; Sat-26Sept09.
Not all of the group spent all of their time searching for orchid plants. For some obscure reason the ladies decided to do a little mountain climbing. The slope they chose may more easily be visualized by comparing a typical area of the roadside (Fig. 7) with the slope of loose rocks the ladies finally elected to climb (Fig. 8), or rather clamber up while attempting to retain both their balance and footing. Your editor watched apprehensively as they made their way up the slope with frequent admonitions to watch their step, go no higher, and other such advice common to the elderly observing the foolishness of youth.
Fig. 9. Biol. Salvador Contreras A. assists Wilma Ferry, with Trudy Hager offering words of advice. Mountain area south of Monterrey, Nuevo León, México. Digital photo DSC_3208; Sat-26Sept09.
They finally called a halt to their climb, rested, and then came back down; sometimes picking and choosing steps cautiously; at other times electing to sit down and slide part of the way. While it may be tempting to include another figure or two that more graphically illustrates their excursion up and down that mountain slope, discretion dictates it is probably better to include the one of young Biologist Salvador assisting during the descent (Fig. 9).
As one writer put it, all's well that ends well, and the excursion was made with no injuries other than (for a short time) a slightly elevated heart rate for your editor.
Fig. 10. The panoramic scene at the Laguna Sanchez. Digital photo DSC_3209.jpg; Sat-26Sept09.
The group continued (driving) on down the western slope from the crest and into the valley where there was a stop for lunch at Fito's roadside restaurant. Continuing on through the valley's farming and ranching area, with mountain peaks on both sides, the group at last came to the Laguna Sanchez area. and was treated to a truly spectacular view (Fig. 10)! The view was seemed almost too picturesque to be real. It was as though one was looking at massive picture-postcard scene rather than out on an actual scene!
Fig. 11. Dichromanthus cinnabarinus. Cliff overlooking road at Laguna Sanchez. Digital photo DSC_3212; Sat-26Sept09.
Perhaps it would be just as well to end this article with the scene above, but as the group drove a short distance back from the above scene, another orchid was spotted growing at the edge of a cliff just above the highway after one had made the hairpin turn down hill. It was past flowering but was holding a well-formed seed capsule. In the distance one can see the road below. It's a vertical drop from the plant to the road. The plant figured (Fig. 11) is Dichromanthus cinnabarinus. Others have been spotted in the general area, but this was the only one readily available provided one was not averse to lying down and leaning over the edge of the cliff to photograph it. For any died-in-the-wool orchid hunter, however, this was just another hurdle to be surmounted!
Fig. 12. Malaxis brachystachys. Digital photo DSC_3227; Sat-26Sept09.
Along the way back was a larger Malaxis; M. brachystachys (Fig. 12), this one was a full 17 cm height. In the same area, although not in flower at this season, were plants of both Govenia utriculata and G. superba, both well-remembered by your editor from research excursions several years ago.
Fig. 13. Returning, but stopping for a look back at the Laguna Sanchez Valley. Digital photo DSC_3210.jpg; Sat-26Sept09.
Reaching the western side of the crest of the Sierra, the group stopped for one more look at the valley from which we had just ascended. The country is rugged, and there are still vast unexplored areas remain in the mountain range visible in the distance. There was once talk of securing horses and equipment and packing back, but for now we merely paused to reflect once again at the scenery (Fig. 13).