Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fifty fine flowers of the Eastern Mediterranean: a summer celebration!

Orobanche elatior on Ulu Dag
Don't bother to count: there are not exactly 50 plants...but a smattering of some of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures I took over the last few weeks on my Chanticleer sponsored scholarship. 42 days encompassed not only Ulu Dag and Olimbos (the "Two Olympuses") which were the focus of the trip, but we managed to visit a number of neighboring ranges as well, which gave a greater context to the trip, and added enormous numbers of species. We were lucky to have had an extremely wet and very late spring--so lots was still blooming in July: it would have been much sparser on a "normal year"...I was extremely fortunate to have three very knowledgeable and dynamic associates along who enhanced the trip enormously: Eleutherios Dariotis is a keen plantsman and horticulturist from Athens with a truly astonishing knowledge of the Mediterranean flora. You can thank him for all the accurate names (I take blame for any mistakes). Eric Hsu, Record Keeper at Chanticleer, was also a taxonomic whiz, as well as possessing an eagle eye for design and special things. Bob Beer's fluent Turkish was invaluable, along with his keen plantsmanship. All three have cameos below.

Oh yes: the Broomrape! Quite abundant in the montane and subalpine macchie of Ulu Dag. I will eventually write a far more comprehensive and thoughtful overview of this trip in perhaps several publications: you shall just have to wait for that to get a better context: sorry!

*P.S. if you click on a picture, you can scroll through with larger images and escape my droning commentary.
Asperula nitida ssp. nitida on Ulu Dag
We were to find spectacular alpine cushion Asperula on every mountain we visited--some had two or three species. Ulu dag only one.
Daphne oleioides on Ulu Dag
I believe we saw this on almost every mountain we visited: it was profuse on Ulu Dag--far more compact than what is usually encountered in cultivation. Both subalpine and alpine there.

Leopoldia bourgaei on Ulu Dag
Similar to the much earlier blooming L. comosa (both sometimes listed as Muscari). This would make a graceful rock garden plant.

Orchis mascula ssp. pinetorum on Ulu Dag
This was the commonest orchid on Ulu Dag: the mountain is still heavily grazed, which may affect orchid abundance.

Genista lydia on Ulu Dag
Much tinier than the plant of the same name in cultivation (gallon pots of which were selling at Home Depot this spring for $15.00). This grew in dense mats, often meters across, in the subalpine fir forest and above treeline.
Saxifraga sibirica on Ulu Dag
I saw this in the tundra of the Altai mountains looking much the same.

Gentiana verna ssp. balcanica on Ulu Dag
This looks essentially identical to typical G. verna of the alps (or G. uniflora of the Altai for that matter)
Myosotis alpestris on Ulu Dag
One of the most dramatic forget-me-nots I've ever seen! Alpine on this mountain.
Eric Hsu (left) and Eleftherios Dariotis (right) with summit of Ulu Dag behind
We actually got within a few hundred meters of the summit on the slope behind the two musketeers but turned back--mostly due to running out of water. Shoulda done it--an easy climb!
Viola altaica on Ulu Dag
The typical form on the right. The pale form on the left was anomalous: there were even a few yellows, just as on the Altai thousands of miles away!

Centaurea triumphettii on Ulu Dag
A wonderful bachelor's button: we may be growing this under a different name (C. cana) in which case I can say it's summer deciduous in gardens.
Salvia forsskaolii on Ulu Dag
So fun to see great garden plants in the wild! This unpronounceable salvia is probably the best in the genus for growing in dry shade. Tough as nails! Common in  montane woods here.
Bob Beer (left) and Eleftherios Dariotis (right) with Verbascum olympicum
The mullein was universal on the mountain. The other famous endemic (V. bombyciferum) was not. I only found it near the base of the Teleferik in Bursa, and neglected to take a pic (surely I'll see more?).
Scilla bifolia on Ulu Dag
Fu to see classic garden plants in the wild; this was only blooming near snow banks--in seed further away.
Acantholimon trojanum on Kaz Dag
Possibly my favorite plant of the trip. I've grown this for years, but never had it bloom like this. I shall try harder! On tundra on the ancient Mt. Ida near Troy.

Alpine steppe aflame on Kaz Dag
The alpine steppe was breathtaking.
Salvia ringens on Mt. Olimbos
I was not expecting to see so much of this on Mt. Olympus--from the lowest elevation almost to treeline. One of the hardest plants I know to photograph--this just gives you a hint of its charm.
Pinus heldreichii on Mt. Olimbos
If you click on the picture you will see two people at the base of this fabulous tree: worth climbing Olympus just for that!
Viola delphinantha on Mt. Olimbos
I don't think this needs a commentary.
Campanula oreadum on Mt. Olimbos
Endemic gem of the higher parts of the mountain.
The throne of Zeus
We made it as far as the "plateau of the Muses"--not to the top, alas. This was tough enough!

Centranthus longiflorus on Mt. Olimbos
Doesn't this look almost EXACTLY like Agastache rupestris? Which grows on very similar habitat in the Chihuahuan highlands.
Campanula jacquinii (better known as Trachelium rumelianum ssp. jacquinii) on Mt. Olimbos
I expected to see more of this--the little we saw was in crevices in the montane zone.
Genista radiata on Mt. Olimbos
I've grown this broom for years, and love it. I was so pleased to see it was abundant on Olympus.
:Lilium chalcedonicum on Mt. Olimbos
I never dreamed this lily would be so abundant--we saw it on many mountains, on many spots. Some with thick colonies. I wish it were in cultivation in the U.S.

Phlomis samia on Mt. Olimbos
Not to everyone's taste, I love the dusky grey-pinky flowers on this Jerusalem sage.

Linum elegans on Mt. Olimbos
One of many linums on the mountains--several are yellow--but also lavender, pinkish and white.

Gentiana verna (presumably ssp. balcanica) on Mt. Olimbos

Drypis spinosa on Mt. Tymfristos in the Pindus Mts.
I love this prickly plant. Once wrote a blog about it.
Euphorbia cf. anacampseros on Mt. Tymfristos in the Pindus Mts.
Not sure of the species--could just be a miniature form of E. myrsinites. Boy, would I love to grow this--even if it were a tad weedy!
Lefteri and Eric takingt closeup of cushion Scabiosa on Mt.Tymfristos in the Pindus Mts.

Acantholimon ulicinum on Mt. Tymfristos in the Pindus Mts.
Not sure I need to say much about this monstrous mound of prickliness..

Acantholimon ulicinum on Mt. Tymfristos in the Pindus Mts.
Here's one in full bloom...

Scutellaria orientalis on Mt. Tymfristos in the Pindus Mts.

Typical garden in Karpenisi at the base of Tymfristos in the Pindus Mts.
Greek mountain villages are brimming with flowers.
Digitalis lanata on the Vardousi Mts.

Utterly unlike the forms of this species in cultvation: would love to have this in my garden!

Morina persica on the Vardousi Mts.
Some people don't like prickly plants: this gorgeous thing could change that! I must have taken fifty pictures of it.
Digitalis ferruginea
We saw many foxgloves.
Mt. Giona (fifth highest mountain in Greece)
No time, alas, to explore this mountain which has several endemic taxa! Maybe another time...

Dianthus haematocalyx ssp. ventricosus on Mt. Parnassos
Not as much blooming when we visited Parnassus, but I could see there was a fantastic show there a few months ago...
Goat sculpted Kermes Oaks (Quercus coccifera)
Can't imagine how many goats have munched on these...they were perfect Moore sculptures!
Acer sempervirens and Macchie on White Mountains of Crete
Another glorious tree--this one an evergreen maple. Which has proved hardy in Colorado!
Verbascum spinosum on White Mountains of Crete
One of the most anomalous of mulleins, forming twiggy shrubs. I grew this for many years.

Verbascum spinosum on White Mountains of Crete
This is the same species forming a much wider tuft.

Astragalus angustifolius on the White Mountains of Crete
The largest specimen of this wonderful milk fetch. That's the highest mountains in Western Crete behind.
Erica manipuliflora on White Mountains of Crete
Thrilled to see this late blooming heather endemic to the region here. A windpower generator behind (hate those things).

Thymbra capitata on Crete
A spectacular cousin to thyme that we saw blooming all over Greece and Turkey. I MUST grow this!

Cacti for sale at a bazaar in Istanbul
The Turks like their cacti: it's not all wild things there you know!
Buffet at Pontic restaurant in Istanbul
Greek and Turkish food is invariably delicious and fresh. You can't go wrong here even in the most remote village or food stand.
Salvia candidissima at Istanbul Botanic Garden
I have many hundreds of pictures taken at Reykjavik's botanic garden, Copenhagen's gardens as well as the small, but wonderful botanic garden in Istanbul. If you ask nicely, perhaps I shall show you some of these...Meanwhile, thank you for sampling my nearly fifty plants!

**special thanks to Eleutherios Dariotis for help in more accurately determining the names above. Also to Eric Hsu for catching my misidentification of Centranthus longiflorus (which I presumed was C. angustifolius).


  1. No wonder the Greeks had so many Gods. They had a lot to worthy of praise.

  2. Only Mexico, South Africa and bits of the HImalaya come close to Greece and Turkey for floral diversity for temperate climates (ok--ok: California too). Oh yes, and Turkey too! I've not yet been to Iran, but I suspect that Hyrcania and neighboring desert ranges must be just as packed. But Greece, and her islands are amazing: where else can you see masses of alpines, and take a dip in the ocean all in a day (and take in a museum and have a gourmet meal for peanuts as well). After a week or two in Greece, YOU feel like a God!

  3. I still wonder what was so bad my mother's side left Sicily...for western NY. Thanks for the excellent tour...the Kermes Oak, wow! Great sculptures. I forgot about the evergreen maple...

  4. I think the maple will only be evergreen in Zone 7 or warmer, however, David: I've had similar thoughts about those who left: but they're leaving still with 60% unemployment for youth. Greece and Sicily are gorgeous and rich in history and culture, but they are also mountainous with limited natural resources: tourism only goes so far...

  5. Oh man, the color of the flowers of Phlomis samia is divine! I would also love to get that shade of D. lanata. Thank you for sharing these---inspiring, as always.

  6. Nice photos as usual, looks like an amazing place to see. So there is an evergreen maple (didnt know that) and it survives in Colorado? Surely it must go deciduous at least in CO? Ernie

    1. It is tardily deciduous here: should be evergreen in NYC! Or nearly so. Greece and Turkey are every bit as wonderful as South Africa, Ernie--ya gotta go!


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