Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mongolian heights (Part 6) More...will it ever end?

Fifth in a series of blog posts catching up on a magical, July 2009 trip to Mongolia: there are perhaps another few posts to follow. It was an action packed and very rewarding trip! The scenery was equal to the flowers...but being a plant nerd, I concentrated on flowers...

Claytonia joanneana
One of the highlights of the trip was finding the Central Asian cousin to our Rocky Mountain big root Spring Beauty (Claytonia megarhiza). The resemblance was striking!

Crepis sp.
If not a Crepis, closely allied in the Cichorieae tribe. Surprisingly like a white Catanache caespitosa!

Another stunning little Cichoreae...OK, I know it looks like a dandelion: but a very COOL one that I'd love to grow.

Crepis nana
Now segregated into Askiella, I'm not sure I buy these splinter genera...this grows in Colorado as well!

A tiny form of Rhodiola quadrifida growing on a steppish montane environment instead of the usual alpine heights.

Corydalis gortschakovii

Closeup of Corydalis gortschakovii

Lagotis integrifolia

Leontopodium fedtschenkoi

Potentilla sp.

Potentilla sp.

Pedicularis verticillata

Mystery crucifer

For those of you who smoke, I thought you might appreciate a break for a 'camel'...

One of MANY Oxytropis

I believe this is very close to the widespread Aster sibiricus--which has likely been put into some splinter genus nowadays.

A side shot of the same...

Persicaria bistorta (Polygonum or Bistorta are other genera it has been referred to)
Forgive me while I rant a bit: some botanist has now put this taxon in Persicaria. It has resided in Polygonum forever, and American botanists have put virtually the same thing that grows in Colorado into the genus "Bistorta" and to compound the insult, the species is called bistortoides.I realize science marches on, and new distinctions are invented that jibe with this or that prejudice, but in addition to the pretension that Taxonomy is science, it is (or ought to be) the art of communication. This subjective, artistic facet of Taxonomy is constantly undercut by the "science" or should I say pseudo-science of whatever the current taxonomic panacea prevails: I remember when it was paper chromatography. And there's Cladistics (NOT portmanteau forf Clowning and Statistics), the D.N.A. perplex and whatever else one wishes to use to make one's mark. End of rant!

Rheum compactum
An obscenely robust specimen of the tiny Altaic rhubarb--it was growing in runnels coming from a livestock retention area deep in manure.

Closeup. I want this plant. I saw it at the R.H.S. Rhubarb trials about the time of this trip. So it must be in cultivation in Europe.

One of many wonderful willows--can't guess which without a lot of spadework.

Patterned ground from frost heaving...We did note permafrost.

Tephroseris pricei
Not quite as wooly as on the other pass....

Tephroseris pricei
 I won't swear this is the same that we sigh on another high pass--it's lost the wooly indumentum that covered the leaves when they first emerge, perhaps.

You may get sick of pictures of Rhodiola quadrifida--but I never will. I'll subject you to more--so watch out!

Smelowskia calycina

Saxifraga oppositifolia v. asiatica

Saxifraga oppositifolia v. asiatica

Yet another Oxytropis!

Here Rhodiola quadrifida is accompanied by the fantastic alpine Veronica densiflora.

Veronica densiflora

Primula xanthobasis (nivalis section) along a freshet
I am not sure I can distinguish P. xanthobasis from P. nivalis: both are recorded from this area.

Primula xanthobasis

Primula xanthobasis
I lucked out on this shot....

Primula xanthobasis
If I had not seen this myself, I'd swear this was Primula parryi growing in Colorado. They are visually almost identical, although not that closely related!

More Primula xanthobasis with a buttercup
Another "camel break" from all these flowers...

Salix sp.
I did manage to collect quite a bit of seed of this I shared with all the leading willow experts I knew (sent fresh). Nothing resulted. I think this is the finest alpine willow--the catkins are enormous (3" or more long) and brilliant pink, as you can see. Sigh.

Viola altaica in both yellow and purple
Not nearly as abundant as we saw it in Kazakhstan, this parent of our garden pansies was here nevertheless!
Masses of Trollius altaicus
Trollius altaicus closeup with Rhodiola rosea

Pedicularis, possibly Pedicularis achilleifolia

Dryas oxydonta
Five species occur in Mongolia--but this is the commonest in these mountains.

Myosotis imitata
Very similar to M. alpestris or M. asiatica in my eyes...

Sibbaldianthe adpressa
One of the least striking plants, perhaps, but a very interesting one, related to the circumboreal Sibbaldia procumbens, only even more matted and less showy in bloom if possible!

Lloydia serotina
We were thrilled to find an extensive patch of Alplily--however just in one area. In the Rockies this is much more widespread and conspicuous...

Oxygraphis glacialis

Oxygraphis glacialis

Oxygraphis glacialis

Hedysarum cf. alpinum
There are nearly two dozen species of these found on the Flora of Mongolia website: and they seem to have a strong generic resemblance.

Angelica decurrens
I would love to grow this species--couldn't tell if it was biennial as most are.

Papaver cf. nudicaule
Seven species of poppy are recorded for this area: they seem rather similar from herbarium specimens, and all are allied to nudicaule, so I think it's as good a guess as any.

They have called the Himalaya the "roof of the world" and the highest mountains may indeed be in that range. But the Altai are situated precisely in the center of the largest continent: equidistant from Arctic and Indian Oceans, from Pacific and Atlantic. It don't get roofier than that! And here's a glimpse of some of the highest gables--beyond is Kazakhstan...where Mike Bone and I spent much more time than in Mongolia on not one but TWO trips. To share all the pictures from those would take 20 blogs--and I'm not sure I'm up to that.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Good stuff! Love all of those Crepis-like plants, the white and pale yellow ones in particular, many choice morsels compellingly photographed and profiled here. I like the term you've coined, "splinter genus", I'm with you on your taxonomic rant... as you know I tend to rant on taxonomic mischief myself. Don't worry about publishing too many blog parts, I look forward to a multi-part blog on Kazakhstan.

    Note: can't edit my comment, so I copy-paste to this replacement comment with edits made :-)


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