Courtyard of the Hotel el Pabellon, San Sebastian del Oeste, where the trek officially started. La Bufa is to the left of the hills seen in the background.

By far the most enthralling horticultural excitement of my recent trip to Mexico took place on a hike up La Bufa. La Bufa is a 6,644-foot peak in the Sierra Madre Occidentale, a mountain range spanning a good length of the continent, from the Arizona border down to Guanajuato in Central Mexico.

This peak, just a few miles’ hike up behind the old mining town of San Sebastian del Oeste, provides the casual hiker with an incredible crash-course in the flora of the region. Starting at the village of San Sebastian (about 4,600 ft above sea level), a hike leads you up to 6,644 feet above sea level at the summit. As you walk, the landscape change from scrubby, open, sometimes damp forest to mixed woodland with lots of Salvia, Cuphea, Solanum, Senecio and other plants that are closely related to common Portland garden plants. Soon, the ground becomes dryer, more open and windy, and carpeted with foot-long pine needles: here, the pine begins to appear. Ascend a little further and a diverse mixture of oaks appear, forming the open, dry pine-oak forest that is common to the higher elevations in that area. The pine-oak forest presents lots of evergreen plants, including evergreen oaks, madrones, pine, and agaves. The pine trees are dripping with bromeliads, lichen and orchids (seen in this previous post. Click on the slide show above to see a small selection of images from that extraordinary hike.