Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Altai dreaming

What this picture doesn't show is one of the few disappointments of an otherwise stellar trip (so to speak...pun not intended as you will see): it was taken in the foothills of the Altai, near the farm Maymir where I stayed in June, 2009 and just this past August for several luminous days. From Maymir one day last June we wandered up the valley (glimpsed between the tiny, yellow aconites in the picture) maybe a mile or so: lots of roses and giant aconites in blue and purple, not to mention Dictamnus angustifolius and Paeonia anomala in glorious bloom alongside a hundred or so other gorgeous things (Lilium martagon)...but I digress....

Within a few paces of these Aconites the hill was bristling last June with hundreds of Stelleropsis altaica, an unspeakably lovely daphnoid far from its other known occurences further northward. Late August is probably at least a month late to find a single berry on the little daphnoid, but this picture (and lots of other things too) was compensation of a sort. Perhaps some day I might return in July? Probably not. But visiting this magical valley twice in a lifetime is pretty damn good: something I wouldn't have dreamed of a decade or two ago. Thank you Plant Select!

What exactly is this tiny yellow Aconite? I am not sure. I can assure you, however, that it is amazingly common everywhere in the Altai and that I did get a pretty good pinch of its seed...considering it grows on a very dry, hot slope it bodes well for Colorado rock gardens.

I have left little pieces of my heart here and there on the steppe of Kazakhstan, on the feathery vale of Maymir, on the Larch-clad slopes above Markakol lake (with its endemic salmon I never had the chance to try)...on the fabulous ridge on Berkhat pass where we could see so clearly Mt. Belukha (highest peak in Siberia and the Altai) with its resident cloud some forty miles away. The picture below of Aquilegia glandulosa is a memento from that pass (and that was all just in the first few days of my momentous visit to Central Asia): turn up the Borodin, please! And waft along with me on a trip of a lifetime...
P.S. Why did not post a single blog post in Kazakhstan? Get real, buddy: Maymir and Berkhat pass have many things, but internet access is not one of them. And when you are hiking and seeing things like this, who has time to post? Can't believe that luminous month slipped by so quickly...


  1. breath-gone-out-of-me

    Latin for WOWZER.

  2. Species encountered, we're waiting..........

  3. Youse guys are very kind: as for Anonymous...I dare not comment more until the germplasm arrives (in transit via various proper channels: uggggh).


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