Thursday, May 3, 2018

Caucasian glimmerings: a few days in the hills (Part 3)

Gentiana angulosa

I've accumulated over 1000 images so far with a week to go! Where to begin: we've seen hundreds of taxa--many showy species I'd never heard of and many genera new to me. So seeing Gentiana angulosa the largest of the G. verna complex, in the wild was reassuring: I've grown this in the past, only without the view! Here taken on the mountains behind Bakuriani,

Scilla rosenii
The revelation of the trip had to be Scilla rosenii: the enormous flowers (over 2" across on some individuals) and the glowing azure color were a shocker...

They grew thickly and covered acres near the top of the Bakuriani mountains. Where has this been all my life?

Here you can see masses of the Scilla above treeline...well not exactly, there is one errant Betula litwinowii...

As we drove to our highest elevation, on a high ridge above Bakuriani, the "Aspen" of Georgia our leader pointed out a village in the distance "Tsikhisjvari" is the name: she said "that's a village of Greeks, very nice people. I prefer it to Bakuriani": unfortunately, we didn't schedule a visit there on this trip. . You can get a sense of the beauty of the scene here:  When we reached as far as we could to (big snowdrifts blocked our way to the top),

Pontic Greeks from the coast moved inland when the Ottomans invaded coastal Georgia and there were once many such villages apparently.

This picture of Tsikhisjvari taunts my memory. I would sorely love to come back--the area is incredibly beautiful. Apparently, many of the young people have left. How many Greeks are still here? Would I understand their Pontic. So strange that something so close to me (my ethnicity) could be nestled in such a lovely spot, and so far away! Nearby Bakuriani is exploding with hotels and development: Tsikhisjvari has the potential to do so--I'd like to experience it before it does.

Primula ruprechtii
There in the forefront of the view was another surprise: a Vernales section primrose I never recall hearing about! Reminiscent of P. elatior, this nevertheless has its own distinctive charm!

Primula ruprechtii             

Trollius patulus
I have grown what I presumed was Trollius patulus in the past. Also synonymized as T. ranunculinus: whatever I grew, it wasn't this sumptuous gem with flowers 3" across! I hope I can find seed of it!

And we had a nearly full moon during our stay here...

All good things must end, and we left the woods and peaks of Bakuriani to head down to the sea. En route we went through barren steppe that looked like so many badlands in the American west. One such was studded with dozens of bright mounds of pink color,..

Astragalus cf agrillosus
Our leader, curator of the Herbarium at Tbilisi, didn't know the name off hand: we will check it when we go back to Tbilisi--but I had to share the picture of one of the loveliest peas found on the trip...

Here for scale you can see Boyce Tankersley, my congenial fellow traveler and Curator of Chicago Botanical Garden.

As we rose onto another high pass, the last before descending towards Batumi, we met yet another stunning Scilla, this time S. woronowii. Growing alongside one of the ubiquitous Gagea spp.

Here a lovely mass of the Scilla, with my fellow traveller behind, Dr. Deng Tao (Tao Deng in English) Assistant Professor at the Kunming Botanical Institute and Botanical Garden.

The top of the pass was still rather snowy! What you don't see is rain that drenched me pretty well as I did my he-man show.

Down we went towards the "Thallata, Thallata" (Xenophon descended not too far to the West of us on his famous Anabasis...and found en route one of the loveliest Azaleas...Rhododendron luteum.

Rhododendron luteum
As fragrant as it is colorful, we saw this very high still in tight bud. My life will not be complete until I have this in my garden!

And a short time later we found it with its distant cousin Rhododendron ponticum--a famous plant that I'd not seen in nature before!

And what better way to end the series than with this concolorous image of Dr. Deng with a sincere smile--a smile we've all been sharing for the better part of two weeks! Georgia rocks!


  1. Unique but surprisingly familiar.

  2. You nailed it, James! Traveling with the Curator of Chicago Botanic Garden who's been here five times. It's a very compelling place!


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