Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Turkey wildflowers

I’m just back from a fantastic two week vacation in Turkey where we indulged in everything from culture and history, to beautiful landscape, amazing rock climbing and of course many beaches. The only obvious omission from that list is gardens. Alas, Turkey is not a destination known for its gardens, but fortunately it more than makes up for this deficiency with natural beauty. The native flora is incredibly rich and diverse, and features the wild ancestors of many common garden plants.

Our trip started in Istanbul, and even in the busy streets of this intense city there were things to catch the gardener’s eye. I particularly loved the many Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) which were flowering profusely both in bustling city squares and along the shores of the Bosphorus.

Wisterias were also in full, magnificent bloom, and were allowed to scramble freely over buildings (of sturdy stone construction of course) and high into trees, creating specimens of monstrous proportions.

Outside the city, ruins seemed to be a preferred wildflower habitat, and made for picturesque settings for wild figs, snapdragons and campanulas.

Olive orchards, unworked fields and even roadsides were brimming with layers and layers of flowering plants. The poppies were especially amazing – I’m not sure that it’s possible to accurately capture their incredibly intense scarlet colour in pictures.

The richest source of interesting flora was in the wild though. That’s one of the advantages of rock climbing as a hobby - you end up in some amazing natural habitats. Your climbing partner may not always be happy with you stopping every five steps to take another picture, but it’s almost impossible not to. The habitats varied dramatically from very lush, almost tropical forest to very dry mountain slopes.

Of the many beautiful and interesting plants, a few stood out: the many euphorbias covering the hillsides (and providing a feeding ground for some very large caterpillars), the surprising variety of thistles, and the grasses. Unfortunately, I’m not sure of the identification of the grasses, but they were stunning.

There were also a few surprises along the way, such as the amazing white flowered plant below (flowers almost 3 inches across!), and the monstrous jack-in-the-pulpit plants we encountered in Butterfly Valley.