A NEW SPECIES - BELLEVALIA CHRISII

Despite centuries of plant hunting and botanical science many new are plants are still being described and I’m sure many of us would love to discover a beautiful new flower or to have one named for ourselves.  Well I’m delighted to say I now have the honour of both.

 In 2010 I visited the little explored Anti-Taurus Mountains near Malatya.   The tour I was leading with Basak had been delayed by the infamous Icelandic volcano so we arrived in May rather than April.  Searching for flowers on a pass I came across a smallbellevalia with distinctive broad leaves which was quite unlike any I’d seen before.  Searching further afield we came across more and better specimens.  A couple were collected and dispatched to the botanical garden in Istanbul, but nothing happened with these. In 2012 I returned to the same location, this time with the experienced and respected Turkish botanist Mehmet Koyucu and I showed him the bellevalia, which were in fine flower at the time and he quickly came to the same conclusion as me that they represented something new.  Again a few more were collected and this time they were looked at thoroughly.  Initially it was thought to be a form of Bellevalia glauca (known from northern Iraq – a long way away) but closer examination by a team of four Turkish botanists – Hasan Yildirim, Yusuf Altioğlu, Bilal Şahin and Serdar Aslan - suggested it was not this species and it has now been formerly described as the new and rare Bellevalia chrisii.  It is closely related to Bellevalia crassa and rixii and is known only from the type locality.  Worrying for me is the small population of only a couple of hundred plants – I could easily go extinct!  In fact I have genuine concern – upon the discovery of Sternbergia candida in the 1970s within no time many were offered for sale and hundreds stripped from accessible locations.  Anyone offered this species in the next few years can be sure they were stolen from the wild, so please don’t buy them I’d like to last a while longer!

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