Friday, May 18, 2018

Caucasian travels, part two (and last of four)...

Jurinea carthaliniae
Google it! I dare you. The plant barely exists in cyberspace and as far as I know it's restricted to the Meskheti region of Georgia. Finding this (on only one cliff--despite many stops) was a highlight of my visit. I know a thistly, Composite chasmophyte from the Lesser Caucasus isn't EVERYONE's cup of tea, but pity those who aren't charmed by this ludicrous clinger.

The same plant with a better context...

Can you tell I couldn't get quite get enough of this little gem?

As if finding the little Jurinea weren't enough, there alongside it was growing this fantabulous Salvia. Of course, neither one was in seed.

I personally found the Salvia to be BEYOND "compar", but taxonomy prevails. The Caucasus are the mythical site where Prometheus was pinned to the cliff and eagles ate his liver all day long, only for it to grow back in the night. I am quite sure this is where my distant ancestors condemned Tantalus to reach for the rich banquet that always receded. The banquet of three weeks of gorgeous plants is receding into my tantalizing past, and a few items, like these, are taunting me: fortunately we did get seed of 100 and more accessions that shall assuage our longing!

Veronica liwanensis
 Alongside the exotic new things that dazzled me, a workhorse of our Colorado gardens thrived as well: Veronica liwanensis grew at an astonishing number of steppe and montane habitats we visited in the Lesser Caucusus from rock crevices to pastures and margins of woodlands.
Glaucium grandiflorum
 We also found the tiny red horned poppy at many low altitude stops. The hairy leaves were distinctive for me (I've grown the Near Easern form which is more glaucous. Alas, the enormous seedpods were nowhere need ripe!

Astragalus sp.
Somewhere in my notes I have a name for this: there were dozens of exquisite peas and especially Astragalus in the steppe of Georgia (as there our in our correlative steppes). I want to grow each and every one personally--which will require a few more centuries I fear.

Hedysarum sericeum
One of the peas that I was most enchanted with was this compact sweet pea: I would dearly love to try this in the garden. Come to think of it, we have grown a closely related species from Kazakhstan and it's done well...

Malabaila dasyacantha
Almost as numerous and diverse as the peas, the umbels were everywhere. And several represented genera I'd never heard of before like this Caucasian endemic. Since I'm in my Apiaceous stage, these particularly called to me, but once again the seed was far from ready. Drats!

Asplenium septentrionale
The Mescheti area was the first place I found grass fern in Georgia--I was a tad shocked and delighted since this is common in the foothills near where I grew up! But then I remembered I'd seen this in Kazakhstan as well, and of course Europe. We found it again in the Lesser and Greater Caucasus--obviously not a rare plant in Georgia! Alas, not one most people would notice.

Saxifraga caespitosa
 I have had varying responses to this, a botanist saying it's Saxifraga moschata. Whichever mossy it is, it's circumboreal in either case and both species are found in the Rockies. For us they're strictly high alpine, but here this was growing in shady crevices in the Steppe.

 It would be wrong if I didn't mention that everywhere you look in Georgia you see ancient fortifications: It's a wonder the Georgian people have survived--they've been overrun by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Turks and of course the Russians (and who knows who else!): the vast valley between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus has been a corridor of human migration from long before higher Civilization even came about. The very origins of farming and the first cities are in the vicinity of these very mountains. Many peoples, not just "caucasians" have traversed the region. I am so grateful I've had a chance to do so myself!

In addition to being a plant lover, I have a strong interest in Byzantine art and architecture: Georgia's ecclesiastical art is a cousin to Greek Byzantine: I would have loved ot have time to visit more churches--especially those with frescoes such as this one...

The frescoes are often damaged: this is an area of great seismic activity, after all. And the Ottomans and Communists did the churches no favors. They are being restored in earnest now: it appears the work is conscientious--much restoration often destroys the value of the original. It's worrisome!

Paeonia caucasica

I could go on and on: I did take thousands of pictures after all! But all good things must end, and four blogs about this trip shall have to suffice. I couldn't resist including this closeup of a peony in a woodland in the lesser Caucasus.

Papaver commutatum

And this image from the steppe near Lagodechi should convey some of the grandeur of the setting. This is actually a corn field! The Caucasian corn poppy is much larger and showier than even the European P. rhoeas.
Panayoti with poppies
I hope you've noticed that in the thousands of images in my various blogs, I rarely show up. But I can't resist showing myself among these stunning poppies, with the greater Caucasus bearing witness behind!

Here an anomalous one without the usual black splotch...

Add caption
And here a closeup of a tiny specimen on the steppe: it grew in an astonishing range of habitats at lower elevations eveywhere in Georgia. I shall never grow this species in the future without feeling a gust of Caucasian breeze tickle my cheek and my heart!

1 comment:

  1. Caption, Opposites do attract.
    Thank you for our photo filled narrative of your Caucasus adventure.
    I hope that some day you will get some seeds from that tiny thistle.


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