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AGS Tour to Central Turkey 14 -28 April 2008

Excerpt from a Report by Helen Seal
The bible for Turkish bulbous flora is “The Flora of Turkey, Volume 8” Profesor Peter Davis et al, 1984.  This describes all species known at the time in botanical detail with a field key on which to base identification.  It also lists specific sites and distribution for each species.  These sites reflect the methods of plant exploration used over the years and are not the result of a systematic scientific survey.  It seems to me that botanists (professional and amateur and those who straddle the categories) would travel along rural roads and tracks and stop if a plant in a verge caught their eye, and next to areas of a certain hanitat that in the past had revealed interesting plats.  These could be oak (Quercus coccinea) scrub, pine woods, serpentine scree, limestone outcrops, snow melt, pasture etc. …………………………..

Our tour fitted this pattern of exploration, drawing mostly on our leader’s prvious trips.  We also attempted to visit sites found by others eg. A site for Cyclamen pseudibericum found by an exploratory expedition of the Cyclamen group of the AGS a site for Muscari mcbeathianum discovered by Jim Archibald in 1985 and a site for an iris, probably an undescribed new taxon, currently known as I. aff  nusairiensis.

A typical day would see us packed and ready in our mini coach at 8.30am., leaving a city or small town hotel, and traveling for an hour or two until we had climbed high in the Central Anatolian Plateau.  Eighteen pairs of eyes would be watching the roadside vegetation.  There would be cries of “Storks nests, left.” “Daphne sericea, right”, Tulipa armena on the rocks”, or “STOP, orchid!”. An unscheduled site would be given 10 minutes for people to find bulbs, in any stage of growth- flowering, post flowering, in seed and other flowering plants.  Any finds would be photographed and identification attempted. This would involve reference t the Flora, and occasionally picking a plant of a hard to identify species, like Gagea, Scilla or Ornithogalum for identification later in the next hotel. ......................................
 

Reflections - A Year Later
Here are some of the things I have learnt about looking for alpines in the wild.
•    They are surprisingly hard to find even when you know where to look and you have  experienced field alpenists leading you. Fritillaries are particularly well camouflaged.
•    Target species may well have a scattered distribution and populations may be scant
•    Many bulbs don’t produce flowers. (This made me feel much better about all the non-flowering bulbs in the collection I tend.)

I also developed views on the use of technology.
•    Taking photos can really get in the way of looking at the plants
•    The photos I took were not always the ones I needed. I realised the importance of herbivory but did not take any photos of plants with the flowers chewed off.
•    A GPS monitor is really useful to record sites of plants
•    A laptop, especially with relevant flora downloaded, might help with identification and certainly does help with recording.

I am sure that seeing plants growing in their native habitat does really help when it comes to growing them at home.
•    Seeing bulbs flowering when the soil was sodden with snowmelt affected my watering regime much more than listening to a speaker at a conference telling us to be liberal with water in spring.
•    I remember plants in association with other plants and habitat so now I am more confident where to plant them.

I came away from the tour with the strong feeling that plant tourism should be more closely connected to conservation and that we visitors should make the effort to link up with interested people in the host country.
•    A few of the plants we sought and found seemed to be limited to one known location. There was no evidence that they were protected and we had no contact with any local botanists or agencies.
•    Much as I love plants, I also have strong memories of the people I met. If I am fortunate enough to go on another field trip, I would aim to communicate with and meet more local plants people.


 

Helen Seal
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