Mountain Flowers

Summer moves in now with the snows on Ak Dagi receding fast. The nearer mountains lost their last snow a couple of weeks back. It’s a good time to visit the heights. Three days ago I went up there with Chris Gardner and the first person I met was the sheep shepherd who spends the winter with his herd in the lands around our house – don’t know who was more surprised me or him! 

These shepherds go up there for three months or so living in make-shift shelters, plastic covered with wooden frames, but their daily lives are surrounded by great beauty. The melting snows feed rushing torrents and the valleys are green and gold from buttercups. The slopes covered in all sorts of flowers. I hadn’t really appreciated what a good place for flowers Ak Dagi is until this spring! First the snowmelt species. Lovely displays of Merendera attica and Muscari bourgaei, Ranunculus brevifolius and Scilla bifolia. Gagea chrysantha, Corydalis wendelboi, Fritillaria pinardi and a really little form of Fritillaria carica too.

One particularly rich little rocky outcrop was a mass of beautiful blooms from pink to massed pink displays of Geranium subcaulescens, from the tubby tessellated bells of Fritillaria whitallii to the sinuous lines of Arenaria tmolea and from large clumps of hat we think is Aethionema polygaloides. None of these are quite as good as the gorgeous Omphalodes luciliae with its large ‘blue-eyed mary’ blooms hiding in rocky crevices.

Huge domes of Aubrietia deltoidea and less spectacular clumps of Aubrietia canescens are an arresting sight and on screes the impressively large flowers of Lamium cymbalarifolium bloom amongst the white pebbles, almost no leaves in sight, Vavilovia formosa, a pea of true distinction in the same habitats. Ebenus boissieri was a pleasing find and there were many other peas, Astragalus pelliger a real beauty with yellow blooms turning butterscotch. Genista albida didn’t even rise above rock level instead creeping around smothering the ground in yellow blooms and two other choice peas were Astragalus oxytropifolius and little Ononis adenotricha.

We thought we might have found something new when an Asyneuma looking like a ragged blue-tipped hedgehog was found on dry ridges where the cold morning winds reminded us of the altitude – 2700m. It wasn’t in the Turkish Flora for sure but someone had in fact found it way back in 1882 and a recent paper confirmed it as Asyneuma junceum. These same ridges were splattered with Prunus prostrata, Androsace villosa, Polygala pruinosa and some gorgeous Asperulas – pink nitida for sure – and others. Perfect little alpine gardens.

The birdlife is good up here too. Ruddy Shelduck breed in the several little lakes, often flying right up to the peaks and calling. Chough and Alpine Chough too. There’s Finsch’s Wheatears. Shorelarks, lots of Snowfinches and Red-fronted Serins and a few Alpine Accentors too. Butterflies included Peak White and Glanville Fritillary. More of those next – the summer around the house is really bringing them out!

Article by Ian Green

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