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Archive for February, 2010

Mission Mulegé

MissionMulege1

Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé

Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé was our favorite of the missions. The mission was founded in 1706; the building was completed in 1766. It’s set on a hill outside the main town of Mulegé, and it has more of a desert-outpost feel than the others we visited. Various photos are below. (more…)

Mission San Ignacio

Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán

Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán

Mission San Ignacio de Kadakaaman was founded by the Jesuits, but the actual church was built by the Dominicans (completed in 1786), and it’s quite different from the other missions as a result. The door is more moorish in style than the other mission doors, and none of the other missions have big crests flanking the doors. Close ups of the crests and a few other photos are below. (more…)

Baja Missions — La Paz and San Jose del Cabo

The Bell

The Bell

Along with the plants of Baja, we checked out the missions down there. Pretty interesting, with more varied stonework than I expected.

My knowledge of California missions is mostly based on some half-remembered grade school field trips, but the basic outline is this: the Jesuits established most of the Baja missions, starting in 1697 at Loreto. They were expelled by the king of Spain in 1768, and the Franciscans briefly took over, but then the Franciscans were sent up into Alta California to found the missions up here, and the Dominicans took over the Baja missions. The indigenous people of Baja took a massive hit during the missionary age, with 90% of the population or more dying from European diseases, so there weren’t enough people to keep many of them going, and most were abandoned in the early to mid 1800’s, with the rest taken over by the main Catholic church. A lot of them are in ruins; a few are in use.

The La Paz mission is one of the ones still in use, though it’s not the original building. It was established in 1720 and closed in 1749, and the current building was built much more recently. Surfing the Spanish google, I found a video with photos of the towers (with Edelweiss as the soundtrack) under construction in the 1920’s, so that might be an approximate construction date. There was an outdoor mass underway when I visited and I got a chance to climb up to the top of one of the towers. Nice views of the town. I resisted the temptation to ring the bell, which was good, because one of the church officials eventually noticed the gringo up in the bell tower and was somewhat horrified I had been let up there.

Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz Airapí

Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz Airapi

We also checked out the missions at Mulege, Loreto, and San Ignacio. I started to upload photos from them, but decided to put them in separate posts which I should have up shortly. Photos of another historic building in La Paz and the mission in San Jose del Cabo (built in 1940) are below.

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The Succulents of Cerro Colorado

Cerro Colorado with Elephant Tree

Cerro Colorado in the distance with Volcan las Tres Virgenes beyond it

I mentioned that we started bicycling from San Ignacio, an oasis town about half way down the Baja peninsula. Before we started riding, we spent a few days exploring the desert and checking out the plants there, and especially checking out the succulents on Cerro Colorado, a volcanic hill a few kilometers from town.

Various Succulent Plants

Closer to the hill

If you’re interested in succulents, Cerro Colorado is the place. The Center for Sonoran Desert Studies/Desert Museum did a survey and found 44 unique species, which they claim is the highest number of succulent species of any spot in the southwestern U.S. Would that then make it the highest number of any spot in the world? I don’t know, but there’s a ton of succulents there, regardless. Anita and I did our own personal survey and identified 19, which we’ll obviously have to improve before we can start leading botanical bicycle tours of Baja (now accepting reservations for winter 2031). Looking at the species list for the hill, I see that it broadly defines a succulent as just about any plant that has tissue designed for storing water. The list includes a couple of Asclepias species and a bunch of caudiciform shrubs and vines: cucumber relatives, shrubby euphorbias, a wild fig, and two species of elephant trees (Bursera). Some of those are plants I wouldn’t have considered succulents, but then I’m not a botanist, and with 24 species of cactus, it’s not exactly lacking in conventional succo’s.

Organ Pipe and Cardon

Organ Pipe and Cardon

Cardon Cactuses

Cardones

Cardon Forest

More Cardones

Barrel Cactus

Barrel Cactus

I think these are two different species of barrel cactus. I lost track of all the chollas. We could tell there were several different types, but the desert museum lists eight, including hybrids. A couple were jumpers.

Cholla and Barrel Cactus

Cholla and Barrel Cactus

Slipper Plant, Pedilanthus macrocarpus

Slipper Plant, Pedilanthus macrocarpus

Fouquieria trunk with Cardon Trunk

Fouquieria Trunk with Cardon Trunk

Adams Tree, Fouquieria diguetii and Cardon Cactus, Pachycereus pringlei

Fouquieria Trunk with Organ Pipe

Agave cerulata subcerulata

Agave cerulata subcerulata

It’s probably the spiniest place I’ve ever been, but plants are spaced far enough apart that we could make our way through it as long as we occasionally pulled spiny branches out of our way. I found that walking with all those spines everywhere kept my attention always focused on my immediate area and each plant immediately in front of me, so that I was constantly looking up to discover yet another awesome specimen in front of me, over and over and over.

Elephant Tree, Bursera microphylla

Elephant Tree, Bursera microphylla

Elephant trees get the nod as my favorite plant down there. Has anyone seen or grown one in the Bay Area?

Bursera hindsiana, Red Elephant Tree Trunk

Red Elephant Tree, Bursera hindsiana

This is probably the best trunk I saw on a Red Elephant Tree while I was down there.

Limberbush, Jatropha cuneata

Limberbush, Jatropha cuneata, in the Euphorbia family

There were two kinds of Jatropha. The other one, J. cinerea, looks a lot like the mexican redbud, but with somewhat swollen-looking branches and twigs.

Palo Verde, Cercidium floridum

Palo Verde

The hill had great palo verdes. They aren’t a succulent, but they have chlorophyl and photosynthesize on their wood, which seems like justification for getting in with the succulent photos.

Palo Verde, Cercidium floridum

Palo Verde

Cerro Colorado

Cerro Colorado from the bridge near San Ignacio

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