Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year vignettes

A great way to celebrate this past year is to review some of the highlights: few days of my life can match that early July day in Kazakhstan. They may look like pansies, and they are in a way. These are the two color phases of Viola altaica, one of the principal ancestors of the garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) growing above treeline on the Tien Shan mountains above Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan. The alpine pansies grew in amazing abundance everywhere on the Altai mountains, and I was surprised to see the same color phases growing every bit as abundantly on the Tien Shan: coloring the tundra with violet and pale primrose yellow in every direction. This closeup includes one of a dozen or more buttercups we saw that day: name unknown.

This is the local manifestation of a buttercup relative known as Callianthemum alatavicum: there are superficially very similar calianthemums growing everywhere from Japan in the far East to the Pyrenees in the far West of Eurasia--the same pattern followed by Adonis and a handful of other alpines that are universal in the high latitude Eurasian alpine ranges and absent everywhere else on earth.....This genus takes relatively well to cultivation, although I'm not sure this Central Asian form is being grown yet. Two more of the hundreds of beautiful vignettes captured on just one day, on just this one mountains...what a great year it was for new plants!

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