Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Non-Ascent of Uludağ! - Uludağ'a Çıkmayışım!

One of the nearby "plant paradises" that I've wanted to visit for a long time is Uludağ. One of the highest mountains in western Turkey, Uludağ is an extension of the Pontos range that stretches through the Black Sea. It rises up behind the city of Bursa, just south of the Sea of Marmara. Higher than any of the other mountains anywhere near, it has large numbers of endemic species. I'd kept getting wrapped up in things and put off my visit way too long as it will start snowing up there any time now.

Touted as "Yeşil Bursa" (Green Bursa), modern-day Bursa is not nearly as green today as it once was. When I first visited in 1982, it was still a city with whole neighborhoods of old Ottoman houses, mostly within its old bounds, overlooking a green plain filled with fields and orchards, especially the peaches for which the city is famous. Peaches are still an important crop in the area but the plain is increasingly being filled with...Bursa. Like most Anatolian cities, it has lost most of its traditional architecture to a flood of cement apartment buildings, with only a few incongruous Ottoman-era mosques and hans hinting at its former state. Luckily consciousness is changing and some city governments are now standing up to the everything-for-profit destruction of traditional architecture.

The mountain was one of many known as Olympus to the Greeks (there was a tendency to call the largest mountain in any region Olympus), and is the Olympus referred to in many plant names. This causes some confusion as to the actual origins of some plants. One such plant that I really wanted to collect seed of was Verbascum olympicum, which is commonly referred to as "Greek mullein" even though it doesn't exist anywhere in Greece. Actually, the only place in the world that it occurs naturally is Uludağ. Verbascum olympicum is similar in leaf, but whereas common mullein offers a single vertical inflorescence, V. olympicum really goes to town (where does it get all that energy in a year?) and sends up a spectactular candelabra thickly covered with yellow flowers, often with over fifty branches. Although it's commonly offered in the horticultural trade, more often than not it's mixed in with V. thapsus, the common mullein also known as Aaron's rod. A Google search for images of Verbascum olympicum will bring up all the evidence of this you need; after you filter out the inevitable 50% or so mislabled photos, you will find some that are quite convincing, others that are not so spectacular. There are actually several mullein species in Turkey and Greece with densely multi-branched inflorescences; one of the largest ones is V. speciosum which gets a good 6 feet high or more. V. olympicum is shorter but with a much broader inflorescence in its true form.

So my fellow plant freak friend Hüseyin and I took an evening ferry from Istanbul to Mudanya, then hopped on the bus that took us to Bursa, and spent the night with relatives of his there. We were a bit worried that it may have started snowing already since there had been some rain and the mountain was shrouded in fog. The morning revealed a snow-free peak, and we excitedly boarded the dolmuş that would take us to the teleferique (cable car) that would take us up to (almost) the top. There is a transfer point at a slightly lower elevation that we were sure would be worth checking out too.

When we got to the end of the dolmuş line, we asked where the teleferique was. A man showed us but said "It's probably not working though, there's a lodos. The lodos is a powerful, warm south wind that can come up during the winter. It can last several days, shut down ferry lines for days, and is almost always followed by other kinds of nasty weather. We got to the teleferique station and the sign on the door confirmed our fears: "Teleferik, hava muhalefetinden dolayı çalışmamaktadır." "The cable car is not functioning due to inclement weather." Although the mountain sheltered us from most of the wind - at times it seemed even quite still - we could see the clouds racing over the peak.

We knew we wouldn't be seeing any giant mullein but decided not to give up completely, and did the next-best thing - we decided to walk up a road that led up the north side of the mountain from near the teleferique station and see what we could find. The road led up through mixed forest of chestnut, some oak and evergreens as well. Since the road had been cut into the side of the mountain, there was also a lot of disturbed ground and rock faces, both of which offer habitats for plants that might not grow among the trees themselves. The road we were following turned out to lead to a village, Zeyniler, which was the subject of a famous old Turkish novel, Çalıkuşu, about a teacher who goes up to teach in a mountain village. As we got up to the point where the road turned and we would get our first view of the village, a car coming out stopped, and the driver warned us, "don't go into the village, the dogs will attack you." O-kaaay.... When we got to the bend, we got our first view - there in a beautiful valley ringed by mountains, was perhaps the most unremarkable village I've ever seen, quite disappointing considering that the village of Cumalıkızık, also very near Bursa, is full of beautiful old Ottoman houses. (Part of the village is visible in the picture of the mountain above.) So we were not tempted to risk dog attacks. What was remarkable on the other hand, was the wind; it was so strong that when a particular strong gust blew down from the mountain, we struggled to stay upright. We later learned that Istanbul had been hit hard as well, and the floating Karaköy boat terminal had broken free of its moorings and sunk, luckily during the night when it was closed. Among the rocks were lots of small bulbs, probably Muscari species, and a little Sedum.

There are two other mulleins that are endemic to Uludağ, one of which is also common in the horticultural trade. The common one is V. bombyciferum, and as it's always been a favorite plant of mine, I was happy to see it all over the place with plenty of seed spikes loaded with seed. Some of the selections in the trade are more densely felted than the most common wild form, but it's still a great plant. We found it growing in disturbed ground but also plastered against the rock faces. The plants growing in the rubble were more robust but the large white leaves pressed against the rock were also a special sight. The other endemic mullein is V. prusianum. It's by no means ugly, similar to V. thapsus with a single flowering stalk but with darker, thinner and more arching leaves.

One of the common plants on the rock faces was Hieracium bithynicum, a hawkweed that is very well adapted to living on rock faces, drought tolerant and covered in a thick white indumentum to help it conserve water. It reminded me of a mini-Verbascum.

Of course if you are interested in collecting seed, you don't go when things are in flower, so it's good to recognize seedpods as well. One plant I hadn't noticed while we were going up was this Campanula (bellflower) with its typical seed head; once I saw one, I started noticing it everywhere. Early summer must be quite spectacular there. It was nice to have Hüseyin along; he doesn't know Latin names but he does recognize plants, and can recognize almost anything no matter what stage it's at. Other plants we saw a lot of were various thistles, a Cerinthe species, Primulas, a semi-succulent Ajuga, Euphorbias, Stachys (tmolea?), several different Salvias, the seed heads of something that looked typically Muscari-like but maybe two feet tall, a hairy-leafed violet species, and lots of ferns. Since these were all growing at fairly low altitude, they should probably do well in the Istanbul garden as well.

A few other goodies included a very nice pale green sedum, which for some reason I didn't collect any of:

And some nice thistles, which I could appreciate in the wild but didn't really want to grow in the garden...

Uzun zamandır ziyaret etmek istediğim İstanbul'un yakınındaki bitki cennetlerinden biri, Uludağ'dır. Bölgedeki diğer dağlardan çok daha yüksek olduğundan pek çok endemik tür barındıran dağa hep "gideceğim" deyip mühtelif sebeplerden yolculuğumu erteliyordum...

Türkçenin devamı geliyor...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wild Things!

This post is more "botanical" than horticultural in nature but in a place like Turkey, which is the source of so many of the plants we love to grow in our gardens (well, not here but in other places), the two do overlap! Last week I went on a mushroom hunting trip with my housemate to Iznik, where we were joined by other friends in the area. I'll only post one mushroom photo since mushrooms aren't plants, and this was definitely not something we would be eating, but these Amanita muscaria were so beautiful I couldn't not include them!

The first evening we went to the village of Çandarlı, at an elevation of over 1000 meters. On the way up, I came across a small stand of a very nice Verbascum (mullein) which I believe is V. undulatum. A beautiful thing with its white fur and wavy margins. Unfortunately there were no seeds to be had. I did see a likely looking stalk from the car farther on but it was getting dark and...well, I missed the boat!
The house where we stayed is in a huge meadow surrounded by beech and pine forest. The Amanita was growing here, as were these crocus, which covered whole fields.
On the way down, when we stopped to take pictures and along the road was a stand of this Verbascum. The best-known mullein in the west is V. thapsus, or Aaron's rod, a rosette of felty leaves that sends up a single spike of yellow flowers. But the genus is much more varied than that, and with 75+ species, Turkey is the center of distribution for this genus. They range from small alpine species through purple-flowerd V. wiedemannianum to the huge and spectacular V. olympicum, endemic to Uludağ, with its thick gray leaves and dense candelabra composed of hundreds of flower spikes. Actually there are several species that produce these candelabras; but V. olympicum is the grandaddy of them all. Also on Uludağ is V. bombyciferum, which is also quite popular in gardens in the west; and I hope to make a trip there before the snows start to fall. All the Verbascums fascinate me, even the ugly duckligs of the genus. l love the convoluted leaves of this particular one; I haven't seen it in bloom but its inflorescence is also much-branched. I did grab seed of this one, and it seems to thrive at a variety of elevations. Others are more picky; my favorite mullein to date is V. bellum, which I saw growing on disturbed ground in the high ceder zone on Babadağ near Fethiye. Huge rosettes of leaves clothed in a deep fur of pure white make up for the fact that the flower spikes aren't the most spectacular in the world. It was not at all happy in Seattle but if I go back to Fethiye I'll definitely try it again here. In Seattle it didn't like the wet; it may also resent the heat and humidity of Istanbul but it's worth a try!
Other plants I brought for the garden included several specimens of a wild geranium that was very common on the forest floor, a Phlomis (not sure which one; it seemed to prefer shady places. We'll see in the spring!) and lots of seed of Digitalis ferruginea, which was also very common in the mountains. This Daphne was quite widespread in the next place we went, above the village of Müşküle on the south side of Iznik lake.
On the slopes of the mountain was lots of wild thyme.
Of course most of the color was not from flowers. This upright rose had lots of brilliant round hips. The villagers use the hips of another common wild rose, Rosa canina, to make a marmelade.

Bu post, bahçivanlıktan çok botanikle ilgili, fakat bahçelerimizde yetiştirdiğimiz bitkilerin (e..burada değil de başka ülkelerde öyle) öyle büyük bir kısmının anavatanı olan Türkiye’de, ikisi iyice örtüşüyor! Geçen hafta ev arkadaşımla beraber yaban mantarları toplamak için İznik’e gidip, orada yaşayan iki arkadaşla buluştuk. Mantar, bitki olmadığı için sadece bir mantar fotoğrafı ekleyeceğim. Kesinlikle yiyeceğimiz bir şey değil de, bu Amanita muscaria öyle güzeldi ki paylaşmaktan vazgeçemedim!

İlk akşamı, 1000 metre rakımındaki Çandarlı köyünde geçirdik. Yaylaya çıkarken Verbascum undulatum olduğunu düşündüğüm çok güzel bir sığırkuyruğu türü buldum. Beyaz tüyü ile dalgalı kenarlarıyla çok güzel bir bitkidir. Maalesef toplanabilecek tohum yoktu. Biraz ilerde ona benzer bir şey gördüm fakat karanlık basıyordu ve…fırsatı kaçırdım işte!
Kaldığımız ev, kayın ve çam ormanıyla kuşatılmış kocaman bir yayladaydı. Yukarıdaki Amanita gibi büsbütün yaylayı kaplayan bu sonbahar çiğdemleri de burada yetişiyordu.

Ertesi sabah inerken yolun kenarında fotoğraf çekmek için durduğumuz bir yerde bu Verbascum (sığırkuyruğu) türü de yaygındı. Batıda en çok tanınan Verbascum, V. thapsus oluyor. Keçeye benzeyen yaprakların ortasından sarı çiçeklerle dolu tek bir çiçek sapı çıkıyor. Fakat cins ondan çok daha çeşit içeriyor, ve 75 küsur türüyle Türkiye, cinsin dağılım merkezi oluyor. Küçük alpin türlerden mor çiçekli V. wiedemannianum ve yüzlerce çiçek sapından oluşmuş, kocaman bir şamdana benzen bir çiçek duruşu ve kalın gri tüylü yapraklarıyla muhteşem olan Uludağ endemeği V. olympicum’a kadar çok geniş bir yelpaze kapsıyorlar. Aslında öyle şamdanlar oluşturan birçok türü var fakat V. olympicum, bütün sığırkuyruklarının anasıdır kuşkusuz. Uludağ’a endemik olan V. bombyciferum da batıdaki bahçeler epeyce popüler bir çiçektir, karlar yağmaya başlamadan önce oraya gideceğimi umuyorum. “Çirkin ördekleri” dahil bütün Verbascum'lara hayranım. Bu türün kıvırcık yapraklarını çok seviyorum, çiçeklemesini görmedim fakat geçen yıldan kalan saplar çok dallıydı. Çok değişik rakımda bulunan bu türün tohumunu toplayabildim. Başka türler daha müşkülpesent oluyor, şimdiye kadar en sevdiğim sığırkuyruğu, Fethiye – Babadağ’ın yüksek sedir bölgesinde gördüğüm V. bellum’dur. Çiçekleri çok etkileyici olmasa da, saf beyaz derin tüyle kaplı kocaman yaprakları, çiçeklerinin eksiklikleri için telafi ediyor. Seattle’da hiç mutlu değildi fakat Fethiye’ye dönersem kesinlikle burada da denerim. Seattle’ın soğuk ıslaklığı sevmiyordu her halde, İstanbul’un sıcaklığı ile nemini de sevmeyebilir ama denemeye değer!

Bahçe için çok yaygın yetişen bir yabanıl Geranium’un (Sardunya) birkaç tanesi getirdim. Bir Phlomis türü de vardı, hangisi olduğundan emin değilim, biraz gölgeli yerler tercih ediyordu. Hem de her tarafta yetişen Digitalis ferruginea’nın tohumunu da topladım (İngilizce adı, “tilki eldiveni”dir, Türkçesini bilmiyorum). Büyük ihtimalle Daphne pontica olan bu bitki, Müşküle köyünün arkasındaki dağın tepesinde çok yaygındı.

Dağın yamaçlarında bol bol yabani kekik vardı.

Tabi ki o mevsimde rengin çoğu, çiçeklerin değildi. Bu dik yetişen yaban gülünde çok parlak al kuşburnu vardı. Yuvarlak meyveleriyle bu bitkinin, yetiştirmeyi çok istediğim Rosa eglanteria olabildiğinin çok daha sonra farkına vardım. İlkbaharda açtığı mis kokulu pembe çiçekleri yanı sıra, bu gülün diğer ilginç özelliği, güzel kokan yapraklarıdır. Özellikle yağmurlardan sonra etraflarına mis gibi bir yeşil elma kokusu saçıyor.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Going...going.... Gitti gidiyor!

...well, not quite gone, but I finally got the landlord's permission to do away with the butt-ugly storage shed at the back of the upper garden.

...e tam gitmedi de, üst bahçesinin arkasındaki dünya çirkini depoyu yok etmek için ev sahibinin iznini nihayet alabildim.

It turned out to be a double job because it is actually a shed-built-onto-a-shed; inside was a second wall and door; evidently the first structure was insufficient to hold all the junk so they added on. It is a messy, dirty job. I'm really glad I've gotten over most of my arachnophobia because the place is crawling with European house spiders, which would give me a bigger case of the willies than any tarantula ever could. Something about the big, gray bodies and outsized legs...they just seem to be filth incarnate. The scorpions seem to have retired for the winter but I'm still being careful when I pick things up.

Of all the junk in there, there were only a very few things of any value - a couple of neat old-style porcelain sinks and some interesting old iron spikes. There are also some fascinating old rusty metal machinery parts of some sort that might have decorative value in the right kind of garden. My garden is probably not the right kind, but we'll see. All that needs to be done now is haul the junk out, deal with the roof, and the rest will come down easily. It's got a cement floor, so, we have a patio! I haven't determined if it goes all the way to the railing; the building doesn't, so there is probably some planting space there.

Sonunda çifte bir iş çıktı çünkü gerçeklikte depoya eklenen bir depoymuş, içinde ikinci kapılı bir duvar vardı. Herhalde orijinal yapı, bütün çöpleri içine almak için küçükmüş, eklemişler. Çok kirli, pis bir iş. Araknofobimi çoğunlukla yendiğim için sevindim çünkü etrafı koskocaman Avrupa ev örümcekleriyle kaynıyor. Bunlar, beni herhangi bir tarantuladan çok fazla ürkütebilihyor, bu büyük gri gövdelerle biraz fazla uzun bacakları...pislik ta kendisi gibi geliyor bana. Akrepler ise kış uykularına çekilmişler galiba fakat eşyaları kaldırırken yine biraz dikkat ediyorum.

Barındırdığı çöplerin arasında gerçekten değerli olan çok az sayıda eşya var - iki tane harika eski porselen lavabo ve ilginç demir çiviler. Hem de belki uygun bir tarza sahip olan bir bahçede süs değeri olabilen birkaç çok ilginç makine parçaları var. (Benim bahçem uygun bir tarza sahip değilmiş galiba...bakarız..) Şimdi yapılması gereken, çöpleri çıkarıp çatısını halletmek, gerisi kolay. Beton döşemesi var, güzel bir oturma alanı olacak. Ta korkuluğa kadar ulaşıp ulaşmadığını daha tespit edemedim, bina oraya kadar varmıyor o yüzden büyük ihtimalle biraz toprak da olacak.