Saturday, December 9, 2017

Mongolia Redux...camels in the snow!

Rhodiola quadrifida
 [Part four in the ongoing saga recounting the trip Mike Bone and I took to Mongolia in July of 2009: there shall be quite a few more posts about this amazing trip!].

Then there were the camels--ten altogether when our train of three combined with a larger group. As a lifelong devotee of Silk Route lore, I reveled in the romance.As an student of Byzantine history, I also appreciated the irony that our silk route trip was organized under the twin auspices of Greentours and Blue Wolf travel. The Greens and the Blues were the two great factions at the Hippodrome in Constantinople after they collaborated peacefully to transport us over the highest pass in Mongolia! Just below the summit, masses of a bright yellow succulent dotted the scree: Rhodiola quadrifida.

Rhodiola quadrifida
I have a hunch that this will prove a challenge when we ever obtain seed: similar to the russet Himalayan Rhodiola fastigiata (which I've grown for years, but not yet successfully bloomed)

Rhodiola quadrifida
We found this on several high spots: you will indulge me if I share a number of different shots of it...a plant I would love to grow--particularly as a reminder of one of the high points in my life.

Rhodiola quadrifida
Two youngsters growing next to one another...

I think this solitary horseman on a bluff was the only traffic we passed on our trek of many dozens of miles....

He was probably half a mile away--I zoomed in to get a better look.

Tephroseris pricei

One of the many mysteries of the trip--I have yet to determine the genus for certain: the next picture shows the plant in full bloom--but I loved the silken, wooly leaves emerging from dormancy. [Mike Kintgen tipped me off (see below) that it may be a Tephroseris, and does seem to look like the one picture of Tephroseris resedifolia on the Web. The jury is still out!]...New correction: Mark McDonouh did some of his inimitable sleuthing and came up with Tephroseris pricei as the likely name: Wikipedia lists over 40 names in the genus, but not this one, interestingly enough.

Tephroseris pricei

I'ce not been able to match this with any likely plant yet--I've looked through all the Mongolian taxa of Arnica, Doronicum, Inula, Senecio--nothing seems to jibe: any suggestions? [See caption for the previous picture for discussion]. Thanks Mike and Mark!

Biebersteinia odora
Years ago a Botanist friend was anxious to obtain tissue of this elusive genus--it has at times been lumped with Geraniaceae, and sometimes in a family of its own (Biebersteiniaceae). I have germinated seed and produced small plants, but never grown it to maturity in cultivation yet.

Biebersteinia odora

Biebersteinia odora

A locely thing: I must try again. It has a peculiar rare cousin in Greece that is much less showy.

Cerastium lithospermifolium Fisch.
The queen of its genus--a truly enormous flowered mouse-ear.
Cerastium lithospermifolium Fisch.
This would be well worth taming for the rock garden

Dracocephalum bungeanum
I have successfully grown this, but don't have it currently. We also found it growing sparingly down on the semi-arid steppe. One of a very special cluster of species in the genus (D.aucheri, D. botryoides, D. origanifolia and D. paulseni are the others) which combine compact rosettes and beautiful clusters of flowers in perfect balance. And several have settled into robust and likely permanent cultivation thus far (the middle two in the parentheses).

Dracocephalum bungeanum

Dracocephalum nutans
I grew this species for many years from seed Vera Komarkova collected above treeline in the Arun Valley of Nepal not far from Mt. Everest. This choice alpine must have an enormous range across Tibet and Westernmost China! There could be billions (if not trillions) of these on the millions of acres of the World's rooftop. This one was the most compact I've ever seen (they can be biennial and a meter tall in cultivation--they appeared to be perennial here at their harsh, lofty altitudinal home).

Eritrichium pauciflorum
There were masses of this everywhere--winsome but not as striking as E. nanum.

Gentiana uniflora
This appears to be identical to Gentiana verna as far as I could tell. But they used this name in Central Asia.
Leontopodium ochroleucum
It didn't appear very ochroleucous to me--but I would love to try growing this. The edelweiss are generally pretty easily grown in gardens.

Smelowskia calycina and Salix aff rotundifolia
Both of these taxa look pretty much the same as they do in the Rockies.

Ranunculus sp.
I am kicking myself that I didn't take a closeup of this buttercup:

Pulsatilla patens
This was identified with this name by our guide. Others have insisted it was P. turczaininovii--which we also saw on this trip and was quite distinct.

Petasites rubellus

Saxifraga hirculus
Very similar to our rather local native form in Colorado...

The highest altitude rhubarb of the trip--Rheum compactum. We later saw fine specimens in bloom.

Pedicularis cf amoena
One of several louseworts I couldn't easily kew out. The name is almost certainly incorrect.

What is the procession in the distance? Do I hear Borodin's Steppes of Central Asia suite beginning to sound?
I ventured far ahead of the caravan as we approached what looked like a very steep ascent: I wanted to be above, and not below them!

The caravan is rising up the steep trail

Getting closer!

And closer!

Here they come! (and there are a LOT more pictures to share in future blogs!) So ends my brief account of one of the most amazing days of this trip and in my life!


  1. Mind boggling all of this is so other worldly. The gentleman on the horse appeared to have a suit on. I wonder where he was going?? The flowers are amazing. So tough yet delicate looking. Keep on writing...

  2. Hi Panayoti the mystery plant might be a Tephroseris.

    1. Bingo! Mike--it does seem to be close to the only picture of Tephroseris resedifolia on the web, which was photographed in the Altai: a synonym of Packera heterophylla which also grows in the Western himisphere: but when I looked at those they were very different. It's a gem whatever it may be!

    2. I spent about 2 hours researching that mystery Compositae. I agree with the possibility of Tephroseris (not necessarily with resedifolia), there are LOTS of these, some real beauties too, and they float between Senecio, Tephroseris, and Packera. The Virtual Flora of Mongolia lists Senecio resedifolia but just one not so great photo. Depending on how long the pubescence lingers on the spring foliage, can lead to different ID opinions depending on what state the foliage is in, T. resedifolia pics I did find show foliage that looks nearly glabrous. My vote is for T. pricei, which is in Flora of Mongolia.

    3. Thank you Mark! I have corrected the entry and acknowledged your hard won name. Really appreciate it: it was a stunner. Glad to find out about the genus, one of the many fragments being chipped off of Senecio, it appears.


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