Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ending with a bang (Caucasian Idyll #4)

Draba bryoides
How to sum up the last day in the Caucasus? We almost didn't go to Kasbegi (Mt. Kasbek area): rain was predicted. It was far and so much to do still in Tbilisi. But the saner Gods prevailed and we experienced a day none of us is apt to forget--the perfect capstone to an enchanting trip! One of the first treasures we found when we got higher up was this treasure I have grown for decades under various names including Draba imbricata, Draba rigida as well as this--the name our Caucasian botanist preferred! Under any name it's one of the ultimate rock garden plants--and what a joy to finally see it in the wild!

Draba rigida
Here's a look from further back: you might think a Czech rock gardener had designed the spot!
Draba rigida
 You will have to forgive me as I crank out multiple images of one of my faves! I had a clump that looked just like this once..,,

Draba rigida

Primula algida
Nearby in the turf there were dozens of farinose primulas: I had seen this same species nine years ago in the Tian Shan mountains!

Primula auriculata
Another species in the same section made masses of color on wetter spots.

Primula auriculata
Closeup of the same.

Erysimun so,
On a rocky outcrop I was charmed by this little wallflower. Not sure of the species, alas!

Caltha polypetala
Wet swales all over the area were full of this giant cousin of the marsh marigold.

Saxifraga juniperifolia
The steep cliffs had masses of this Porophyllum saxifrage that was already mostly finished blooming.

Fritillaria collina

We found two enormous flowered fritillaries on the mountain: this one seemed to favor woodland,
Fritillaria latifolia
In moister swales this dark brown gem was found near the shining snowdrop below...

Galanthus platyphyllus
We had found most of the native snowdrops in Georgia on this trip--but at lower altitudes, and none of them in bloom. I was delighted to see one flowering...and in tremendous profusion.

Galanthus platyphyllus
Rather rare in cultivation, this was growing thickly in the spots we found it: one I hope one day will be more widely grown in gardens.

Pulsatilla sp.
A bit further along the road we found a few plants of pasqueflowers till in bloom on steep slopes.

Anemone caucasica
On a sunny hillside there were many plants of this anemone we'd only seen in woodlands hitherto.

Chrysosplenium dubium
I was just a tad annoyed to find the golden saxifrage thriving on one slope: I've seen it's cousin in the Altai mountains, but have never found Chrysosplenium alternifolium which grows not far from where I live in Colorado!
Primula meyeri (purple) Primula ruprechtii (yellow)
The woods nearby werew filled with masses of creeping oxalis, and many yellow and purple primroses.
Primula x amoena (hybrid between the previous two)
I found a half dozen hybrids between the yellow and purple, mostly in this muddy shade of lavender.

Primula and Oxalis in the woods
The woods were pretty much a carpet of color--what a treat for winter sore eyes!

Adoxa moschatellina and mystery Corydalis sp.
Two surprises startled us--the tiny greenish Adoxa is quite common in Europe and in Colorado, but it''s considered rare in Georgia. Our guide, Manana Khutsishvili who directs the Georgian Botanical Institute's herbarium had rarely found it. The Corydalis is even more of a mystery: don't even ask (yet)...

Daphne glomerata
On our way home we had to stop and enjoy the spectacle of this grandest of daphnes, endemic to the Kaucasus and a few other nearby ranges.
Daphne glomerata
As a proper plant nerd, I should end with this shot of this queen of its genus...but it's my last night in Tbilisi (flying out in ten hours) I must add a short thank you to my fantastic fellow travelers and a tribute once again to Georgian cuisine...

Lunch as usual was lavish and delicious, consisting in part of these huge plates of Khinkali, or Georgian dumplings. Manana on the right, and our driver Temuri knew all the best places to eat, for which we'll be forever grateful (not to mention where the greatest displays of plants were as well!)

Bill is the perfect pairing with Khinkali--in this case a beer named for the nearby mountain--third highest in the Caucasus range.

And a glimpse of the mountain itself from Stepantsminda, the last Georgian town before decending the Dariali gorge to Russia.

What a day! What a three weeks! Perhaps one day I shall have a chance to return again and see these heights in their summer bloom? If not, I feel blessed that I can have seen them in their early spring glory.


  1. I always so enjoy your posts and the beautiful photos in amazing places. Thank you for taking the time to write about plants, Panayoti!

  2. I like hearing everything about your travels to exotic places I will never venture. The plants make it the most amazing trip. So fun to see where these originate.


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