On a Mission to Find a Rare Cactus in Mexico - (Belated) Observation of the Week, 11/6/20

[It took a few weeks for Mané to get back to me, so I’m posting this a bit late. - Tony]

Our (belated) Observation of the Week is this Aztekium valdezii (Biznaga Piedra de la Sierra Madre Oriental en Español) cactus, seen in Mexico by @manesalinas!

A biologist specializing in plants of the mountains of northeastern Mexico, Mané Salinas Rodríguez also teaches and works at the Jerzy Rzedowski Herbarium at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro. Growing up in the city of Monterrey, she credits both of her parents for her interest in nature. Her mother bought her nature books (including quite a few about dinosaurs), and her father often took her to the surrounding mountains. “And from there,” she says, “my interest in studying biology was born.”

Mané encourages her students to use iNaturalist, and she herself logs her interesting and rare plant finds, including the tiny Aztekium valdezii cactus you see here. A tiny (6 cm) slow-growing endemic plant, it’s restricted to canyons and ravines in a small mountainous area of the mountains in the state of Nuevo Léon. She found it back in 2015 when studying for her PhD on the endemic vascular plants from the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains. “One of the objectives,” she says, 

was to document the geographical coordinates of the largest number of vascular plant species in that mountainous area, in order to make niche modeling maps on MaxEnt and thus predict what were the diversity hotspots and subsequently detect possible areas of conservation.

However, because Aztekium valdezii was rare and accessible data on it is difficult to come by, she was on her own. Determined, she and her colleagues explored, with the help of her Jeep "El Humboldt", multiple potential sites with no luck. It was only on the third attempt, while nursing a rough hangover, that she found her quarry.

“The sun was very strong and my head was pounding, but my desire to find the Aztekium was greater than the pain,” Mané (above) recalls, 

[But] I had a feeling that I was going to be lucky so I walked along a canyon wall that seemed ideal as an habitat and finally after a while, I found it and my surprise was greater when I saw it with a flower!

I will never forget the feeling of happiness of having found it on my own, only following the clues of its habitat and without help or data.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, November 06, 2020 21:52



Amazing story - felicidades @manesalinas! I agree there's nothing like the thrill of finding a rare plant!

Posted by danbeckman 17 days ago (Flag)

It sure is beautiful as well as rare and very interesting! Well done to find it!

Posted by susanhewitt 17 days ago (Flag)

Big congratulations. An amazing find of an amazing plant, and with a flower! Bravo!

Posted by seaheart88 17 days ago (Flag)

Excellent. Really cool cactus!

Posted by naturephotosuze 17 days ago (Flag)

How exciting! Congratulations on this amazing find.

Posted by carolynstewart 17 days ago (Flag)

An amazing find

Posted by honey-billy 17 days ago (Flag)

@manesalinas super cool

Posted by myles678 17 days ago (Flag)

Wow, what an amazing cactus. Great find!

Posted by jnstuart 17 days ago (Flag)

Awesome find, and great story!

Posted by annikaml 17 days ago (Flag)

It seems that the cactus called for her - nature/human connection!

Posted by valentino_traversa 17 days ago (Flag)


Posted by swdesertnaturalist 16 days ago (Flag)

Lovely little cactus!
Buen trabajo!!

Posted by claudia_ma 16 days ago (Flag)

Such a great story! Congratulations!

Posted by lisa_bennett 16 days ago (Flag)

tebrikler, çok güzel bir hikaye

Posted by omererdemir 16 days ago (Flag)

ACLARACIÓN: Esto es injusto por la siguiente razón. Esta misma observación la publicó Juan Cruzado Cortéz por primera vez hace 5 años (www.naturalista.mx/observations/2101837), porque él fue quien encontró esta cactácea en una salida de campo que él organizó, y en la que Mané iba de acompañante. La historia que cuenta Mané no es verídica. Sería mejor corroborar los hechos antes de elogiar a los “naturalistas” que no merecen el crédito.

CLARIFICATION: This is unfair for the following reason. This same observation was published first by Juan Cruzado Cortéz 5 years ago (www.naturalista.mx/observations/2101837), because he’s the one who found it during a field trip he organized and Mané went along. The story that Mané tells is not true. It might be better to corroborate the facts before praising the "naturalists" who don't deserve the credit.

Posted by alexiz 5 days ago (Flag)

The piece makes it clear that there was a group involved and doesn't go into who led the planning and organizing, but does imply that Mané spearheaded it and it says that she found the cactus. Happy to correct anything that's not right. I think it's likely that details were lost in translation, and I'm sorry for any errors.

Posted by tiwane 4 days ago (Flag)

It seems to me you somehow misinterpreted @alexiz's comment... I'm familiar with the story because I’m very close friends with @juancruzado, and except for the hangover, I can assure you the rest of her story is false... It was Juan's field trip (actually looking for dragonflies, by the way), and he is the one who found this cactus, not Mané... She was very far from "spearheading" anything at all, as you put it. So kindly forgive my bluntness, but I do hope you are willing to correct this, as you say, because Juan Cruzado deserves all the credit, not @manesalinas!

Posted by magazhu 4 days ago (Flag)

I'm going to close comments on this post for now and reach out to Mane and Juan Cruzado privately. If you have any questions or concerns, please message me.

Posted by tiwane 4 days ago (Flag)
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