We decided to go to the coast today. The last two days we collected many S. chilense samples and even though this species is probably the most interesting to me, this is an exploratory trip. So, exploring the coast for either S. chilense or S. peruvianum would make sense to do. One extra day would not have suddenly made our S chilense collection from the mountains complete and the coastal habitats are very interesting. I will just have to come back for exhaustive S. chilense sampling. So after breakfast we got in the car, set for a one hour ride to some probable sites. There is only one recorded sighting for S. peruvianum on the coast near Tacna and no S. chilense, so it was going to be a gamble.
The first part of the road was a weird mix of desert, olive trees and the odd irrigated field with corn. All of this dotted with rubbish and waste. We’ve seen a lot of roadside litter the past weeks, but mostly it was relatively confined to the urban area’s. Today it stretched the full 40 km to the coast. We didn’t expect to see many tomatoes here, but to our big surprise we found one nice plant next to a dry river full of rubbish. This was probably the worst smelling site we visited. I think I stepped on a full diaper when trying to reach the plant, but I’ll spare you the details and only show the picture of the nice side.
After this we continued our way to the coast and once there drove for another 25 kilometers north. This is where the mountains reached the coastline, so the habitat would be perfect. This was also the place of the single recorded sighting done in the 1980s. The coastline is very rugged and made for some beautiful views. S. peruvianum seems to like it too, because in total we found at least half a dozen plants not far from the road.
To finish our day we went down in the next coastal valley and there we found some pretty interesting sites as well. We found wild tomatoes growing in some very different environments, all close to farm land. Some were still on relatively dry soil, but others grew in grassy fields. Very different from what we had seen before. All around us there were plantations. Mainly chili pepper. Phytopthora infestans doesn’t infect chili, but there is a close relative, Phytophthora capsici that does. The chili fields looked pretty clean though. They were obviously sprayed, but I still found a few leaves with infection symptoms. It would be interesting to see if these samples match the spots we found on our wild tomato growing right next to the field.
We were back in Tacna in time for a late lunch and spent the afternoon processing our samples again in the hotel room. This was the last day of collecting. This trip we really tried to reach the maximum number of sites, so we could collect only a few samples per site, because the traveling between sites takes very long. However, in total we have still samples of over 160 different plants, covering 5 species from 45 different locations. Definitely not a bad score. So to celebrate we were headed for one of the better restaurants in Tacna, where they served us some excellent Alpaca meat. After that we went for one last drink. The name of the bar where we ended up, clearly signals that for me it is time to go back home.