Down Mexico Way

(page 2)

On the continuation of the more touristic travel I went to Chiapas and the ruins of Palenque. On the way I saw lots of Thrinax radiata, Sabal mexicana and just outside Coatzalcoacos in a more or less swampy area I think there were some clusters of Acoelorrhaphe wrightii. It is not so easy to say what palms you see from a bus window and it is even more difficult to make the bus stop just for you to see the palms at a closer distance. It was quite strange that the other passengers didn't seem to be so interested in Palms and Cycads.

Around the ruins of Palanque they have kept the rainforest intact which means that it is very much to see there, also if you are interested in plants. Just uphill from the ruins there were plenty of Chamaedorea that looked like ernesti-augusti, tepejilote and oblongata, there were some very spiny palms that I think were Astrocaryum mexicanum and finally after less than an hour walking uphill I saw a very nice Cycad in the wild, Zamia splendens. Now when I found one specimen of Zamia splendens I thought that it had to be more just around, and if I am more lucky some female plant with some seeds, but I couldn't find anymore specimens around. Maybe are Zamia splendens not growing in big clusters. There were also many ferns out there but unfortunately my knowledge of ferns is too poor to really identify what I see.

After staying some time in touristic San Christobal I went to Tuxtla Guiterrez where they have a Botanical Garden which contains the species that exist in Chiapas. They had two Dioon merolae, some Ceratozamia mexicana, some Zamia splendens without labels and among the palms they got some Scheelea preussiana. If I remember right then Scheelea, Attalea and Orbignya is considered synonymous. Sometimes it is written Attalea sometimes the other names. Of course they had also plenty of Chamaedoras. At the garden they also had some very big feather spiny palms without labels and with light brown fruits round and big like a golf ball, the fruit contained two dark, hard and flat seeds, could it be Acrocomia? Later during my touristic trip I went to the newly opened Botanical Garden in Oaxaca but that Garden was not so interesting if the main interest is Palms and Cycads, although they had some unlabelled Dioons, one they called oaxacaensis which to me looked like a merolae. At the University, UNAM, Botanical Garden in Mexico City they had very many Cactus and Succulents but only some few Cycads among them a big Dioon rzedowski and some Ceratozamia mexicana. They had even fewer Palms mostly Chamaedoras.

A big disadvantage with my trip was that I didn't have the Henderson book 'Field Guide to Palms of the Americas' with me. I just ordered the book when I came home. That means that I am not so sure of the real names of many Palms that I saw. For example there was a quite big and common Palm in the state of Veracruz that looked like an Attalea to me or could it be some kind of Syagrus. The locals called it Palma de Coyolito, but that doesn't say anything to me. I have later checked this in the Henderson book and it was Attalea butyracea. My chances of finding the right name of Cycads was bigger since I brought with me the booklet Cycads of Veracruz. But that didn't help me so much since it is much more difficult to find Cycads in the wild. I think you have to have much more help to find Cycads than just a mark on a not very detailed map in a book. You maybe wonder if I didn't see any Brahea. Oh yes, in the countryside there were plenty. They seemed to grow in a little arid climate, nearly where the Yuccas grew.

Before I went to this holiday trip I listed the genus of Palms from David Jones' book that I might have a chance to see in the wild. During my trip I think I saw about half of those I listed. It is not so easy to find the small palms Reinhardtia and Geonoma, and I didn't. To summarize my trip I would say that there are many kind of Palms and Cycads to find out there, also around the touristic spots in Mexico. I think it is quite possible to combine a normal touristic travel, for example following the Lonely Planet guidebook, with some small side excursions to see a good number of Palms and with luck, maybe some Cycads too.

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