Wednesday, 12 October 2011


We’ve been fortunate to see many wild hardy orchids around the world especially in Europe and Asia and standout examples would be fields of Orchis palustris in eastern Turkey, Ophrys-rich limestone in southern Greece and the amazing Cypripedium of China especially Cypripedium lichiangense with its big spotted leaves and bizarre flowers.  However, of equal merit yet perhaps much less well-known are the stunning orchids of Chile.  What we find remarkable about these is partly the size, as they almost all possess individually large flowers, but also the curious lip protrusion and grooves that feature on most species.  This is obviously an aid to pollination of some sort (usually carried out by bees or sometimes flies) and Chris's leading a trip there in December with a photographer armed with an ultra-violet camera and we expect some interesting patterns to be revealed.  Also they only come in three colours – yellow, white or green which suggests a limited pollinator choice, but the photographs may reveal more.  Chris expects to find at least twenty species on the trip and some species are very widespread with such tall spikes that they are easily seen along the roadsides, although others such as the decidedly odd Bipinnula apinnula require some searching.  Our personal favourite is the porcelain orchid Chloraea magellanica which occurs in the southern half of the country – we’ve seen it at Reserva Nacional Siete Tazas near Curico and thriving hundreds of kilometres south in Patagonia in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine where it grew in abundance with yellow Gavilea lutea.  Siete Tazas has some other great orchids too including the flamboyant Chloraea galeata

Another good location Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta is one of the world’s special places a magnificent surviving enclave of monkey puzzle Araucaria araucana forest, the tall architectural trees festooned lichens with their understorey harbouring some choice species of orchid too, not to mention superb meadows of Chloraea volkmannii and stands of tall golden Chloraea lamellata in the surrounding area.  There are many other superb plants here too with the pendant branches of Berberis linearifolia appearing as golden-orange waterfalls of flowers among the southern beech trees (our favourite shot from last years’ tour) and streamsides choked with Ourisia poepigii.  The atypical Chloraea nudilabia eluded me last year due to a camera malfunction so Chris hopes to bag it this time around.  What’s atypical is it lacks the protrusions found on the lips of all the other species.

Chile is a superb floral destination but it’s also a long, long country and at least a month is needed to get to grips with the flora.  As such we’ll be guiding alternate tours there from now on with Greentours with Northern Chile and Southern Chile variants.  The singular blue of Puya bertroniana is one of the northern highlights, but others include wonderful Alstroemeria, Malesherbia lirana and many cacti with big showy flowers, favourites with the Giant Hummingbirds.

Berberis linearifolia

Berberis linearifolia at Nahuelbuta

Chloraea alpina

Chloraea barbata

Bipinnula apinnula

Chloraea magellanica

Gavilea odoratissima

Puya bertroniana


It’s been too long between posts we know, but with good reason – we decided to undertake a complete revision of the book that involved ditching the botanical structure we had before and instead opting for a geographical journey.  At the beginning we were unsure about which route to take and sometimes you just have to try both before coming to a conclusion.  We are both much happier with this version it’s more interesting and includes more plants than before and there are some new spreads below, some with completed text.  We honestly hope to be sending off the synopsis and tracking down the elusive publisher we need very soon!

Since the last post Chris revisited the north-east of Turkey where the high meadows were superb and he got some valuable shots there of Delphinium formosum, Pelargonium endlicherianum and the enigmatic ghost orchid amongst others.  Here in Antalya we had an almighty rainstorm recently and the autumn bulbs are popping up everywhere with cyclamen, colchicum and crocus on the move.  Basak will be leading a tour in the area at the end of the month and the flowering this year should be perfect.

Chris's trips earlier in the year to NW Turkey and Tajikistan/Uzbekistan have both borne fruit with tours going to these two locations next year for the wonderful spring flowers, see

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Sorry for a lack of posts of late, I’ve just returned from five weeks in China and blogs such as this are blocked there!  The first half of my trip was a tour I led to Yunnan which was superb for flowers this year with many new species added.  The latter half took me up into northern Sichuan and then the amazing mountains of southern Qinghai – Stone Mountain and Anyemaqen Shan.  In between the thousands of sweet-scented Lilium regale and the stunning blue pools of Huanglong with copious deep pink Cypripedium tibeticum were vast grasslands with huge herds of yaks but these didn’t touch the wonderful spidery flowered Cremanthodium brunneopilosum or the abundant meconopsis.  It was a great trip for meconopsis with often yellow, red and blue/purple present together on various passes and on the high alpine turf of Stone Mountain the Meconopsis lancifolium were simply enormous with wide open ‘bowls’ of mauve-blue bristling with creamy anthers.  This mountain and the rest of its jagged toothed range seemed to erupt abruptly out of the surrounding green carpet.  In between here and Anyemaqen Shan were fine shows of Iris sichuanensis and tumbling masses of Clematis tangutica.

Despite the long, rough journey to reach it nothing matched Anyemaqen Shan with its long glacier snaking down from over 6000 metres and thriving among the moraines from this were so many gorgeous little alpines with the little known Desideria baoigoinensis along with the floral jewel of Saussurea wellbyi its woolly stars seemingly set with precious purple stones.  Its taller even woollier cousin Saussurea medusa was also common here the sinister columns sprouting from the coarse scree together with the sapphire blue of Corydalis melanochlora.  All around was the strangest high alpine turf speckled with androsaces and slopes with thousands of Incarvillea compacta.

Perhaps the finest spectacle though was the last when we’d crossed the rugged ‘badlands’ to visit Qinghai Lake and came across a three hectare (five acre) meadow quite literally carpeted with Primula nutans.  There were millions of them creating a sea of pink beside the lake.  Needless to say I managed to get some invaluable 'silk road' shots, here are a few;

Anyemaqen Shan


Clematis tangutica

Cremanthodium brunneopilosum

Desideria baiogoinensis

Blue pools at Huanglong

Lilium regale

Meconopsis lancifolium

Meconopsis punicea (red) & henrici
Primula nutans 'sea'

Saussurea wellbyi

Stone Mountain

Saturday, 7 May 2011


For some years I’ve led tours around Turkey - the world’s premier temperate bulb paradise - visiting the south-west, central, north-east and east, but one area had always missed out the north-west.  Admittedly it lacks some of the scenic splendour of other areas, but forest clothed mountains of Uludag, Bolu and Boz Dag as well as the silvery placid waters of Lake Abant are all worthy of a look.  This corner of Turkey is also home to some its finest massed bulb displays especially around Bolu where there exist spectacular carpets of flowers in spring.  Uludag had some wonderful drifts of golden Crocus gargaricus (mixed with chrysanthus) and the varied lilac shades of lovely Crocus biflorus pulchricolor, the latter of which is on the surface at least identical to Crocus abantensis (there are obvious bulb tunic differences below ground…but…) that was abundant above Lake Abant.  The areas around Bolu were smothered in flowers with countless Cyclamen coum, thousands of Corydalis integra, primroses, streamsides studded with broad-leaved Galanthus plicatus byzantinus, swampy areas with the striking bottle-brushes of Petasites hybridus and big stands of lentern rose Helleborus orientalis.  I had previously visited the Bolu area in May and at this time there are sensational carpets of Muscari aucheri and orchids a plenty such as Orchis pallens on show, so at least two visits are needed.

I also tracked down four other specials; the pretty bicolored Iris attica growing on areas of limestone scrub, the pretty pink sibthorpii form of Primula vulgaris tucked among the dense beech forests of Uludag and the endemic and delicate Fritillaria fleischeriana on the sticky red soils that give so much colour to the central hills.  Not far from these was Muscari adilii, named after my father-in-law Professor Adil Guner.  I wanted to make the pilgrimage to see the flower in the wild marly hills near Beypazari and the flower itself was really rather fine, especially set among its’ austere surroundings.  All in all this 'forgotten' region of the country is a very rewarding and distinctive place to spend some time and not only for the flowers, Bursa is the original home of the delicious Iskender Kebap, there are some gorgeous old Ottoman houses on show in some of the towns and villages and some excellent birding to be had with Black Vultures, Bullfinches and Pygmy Cormorants all on show.

Crocus biflorus pulchricolor

Cyclamen coum

Crocus gargaricus

Muscari adilii

Fritillaria fleischeriana

Iris attica

Beech forest

Wooden house at Yazica

Sunday, 1 May 2011


Chris is just back from a great Greentours trip in Turkey that took an original route from Hatay (Antakya) to Cappadocia, calling in at Osmaniye and Karamannmaras on the way and visiting everything from cave churches and Hittite castles to Selcuk castles and a massive Caravanseri.  Of course the flora was the mainstay and there was a superb array of plants some of which will sneak into the book replacing existing pics and even forcing their way in because they were such stunners.  Top of these was Iris sprengeri, whose exquisite reddish-purple veined flowers were scattered across an area of bare steppe, closely followed by the magnificent stands of Fritillaria persica whose near black flowers actually glowed wine-red with the backlit sun and a deserved third place should go to the lovely displays of Cyclamen pseudoibericum in the woods near Osmaniye.  Other highlights from the trip (all close-but-no-cigar) were the hundreds of gorgeous Iris sari, purple-red Corydalis rutifolia, roadside stands of huge Glaucium grandiflorum, white and rose tubed Onosma albo-roseum, delicately veined Crocus biflorus tauri, the soft yellow Iris caucasica tucked among Cappadocia’s fine landscape and the hundreds of thousands of Colchicum szovitsii on Erciyes Dag.  For me the two most interesting non-floral encounters were the superb and massive Caravanseri at Sultanhan (45kms north-east of Kayseri) and the Hittite stonework at Aslantas (Karatepe, near Osmaniye).

Below are five goodies;

Cyclamen pseudoibericum

Fritillaria persica

Iris sprengeri

Iris sprengeri

Iris sari

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


What a superb trip this turned out to be!  Despite the financial worries of laying out for the trip it delivered with a stunning array of early season flowers.  I began in Dushanbe capital of Tajikistan arriving at the hideously early hour of 3am followed by very slow immigration, but once through I got a couple of hours sleep and then I was on the road with my team from Pamir Travel Company (who looked after me very well while I was there) driving into the snowy Zerashan Mountains where over the course of five days I managed to ace all of the flowers I'd hoped for, beginning with Iris vicaria and Bellevallia atroviolacea, then the gorgeous Iris rosenbachiana, big Fritillaria eduardii and the unbelievably refined Corydalis popovii.  Then there was the valley of five million (I kid you not) Iris bucharica that stretched for ten kilometres across both slopes of a valley.  The landscape was stunning too with plunging knife-edged ridges and row upon row of peaks and everything culminated in a simply dazzling display of Crocus korolkovii with maybe fifty thousand golden flowers spread across the bare ground, too dense to tread among and a fabulous mountain backdrop. 

Numerous passport checks but ultimately no problems saw me cross the border into Uzbekistan and meeting up with the people from Advantour (excellent service again) and drove onto Shakrisabz seeing Tulipa micheliana on the way.  The next day I explored the Amankutan Pass and what a place this was, beginning with the big Iris magnifica and followed by the iris I most wanted to see Iris warleyensis – wow, what a flower.  There were masses of snowmelt species too with some great corydalis, Primula fedtschenkoi and Colchicum kesselringianum.  Naturally I spent some time looking around the beautiful blue tiled mosques in Samarkand but then it was back to the flora and a journey north to Chimgan near Tashkent.  I had a reliable (and patient) mountain guide there called Vasily and during our two days walking in the hills we found big populations of Fritillaria severzovii, Fritillaria stenanthera, Tulipa kaufmanniana, the varied hot colours of Tulipa tschimganica, oceans of Tulipa turkestanica and the golden Colchicum luteum  in abundance.  Everywhere were masses of Corydalis ledebouriana and Gymnospermium albertii, whilst in the limestone scree we found Corydalis darvasica and by snow melt the black-speckled ivory-white Crocus alatavicus.  The last flower of the trip was a colony of Iris orchidoides on a steep scree slope and by then I was out of memory but I had more than enough material.

Choosing what pics to post was tricky but here are ten of my favourites most of which should make the book;

Iris bucharica

Apricot blossom and poplars 

Corydalis popovii

Crocus korolkovii

Fritillaria eduardii

Blue Mosque, Shakrisabz

Primula fedtschenkoi

Crocus alatavicus
Iris warleyensis 

Tulipa tschimganica

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Just as I thought my hopes of reaching Central Asia were just a dream everything has come together at the last minute and I’ll be flying to Dushanbe in Tajikistan in early April.  The plan is to visit the mountains around and east of the capital on the edge of the Pamir and then some areas to the north in the Fan Mountains.  I’ve only got five days but hopefully my team from Pamir Travel Co will get into the best spots.  Janis Ruksans has also given me some pointers on where to visit to find the main target species – Iris rosenbachiana, Iris bucharica and Fritillaria eduardii.  The latter is a real rival to Fritillaria imperialis that colours the steppe in parts of Iran in April (see pic).  On day six I plan to cross over into Uzbekistan and meet up with a different team from Advantour, driving up from the south-east to Samarkand via the Amankutan Valley and then onto Tashkent and the Ugam-Chatkal Nature Reserve.  Amankutan is home to the amazing Iris warleyensis and towering Iris magnifica and these are my main targets here, but no doubt there will be plenty of tulips and other great spring stuff too. 

My previous spring visit to Central Asia was to the Tien Shan of Kazakhstan, mainly around the superb Aksu-Dzabagly reserve.  I found a couple of good irises there the best being Iris willmottiana (caerulea) and the foxtail llilies and tulips were magnificent.  Summer is special there too with amazing flower meadows that haven’t been grazed for nearly a century and chock-a-block full of wonderful herbs and butterflies.  The Karatau Mountains are close to but separate from the Tien Shan and here I saw one of the finest allium species in the world – Allium karataviense.  I hope to be able to spend more time in Central Asia in the future it has loads to offer the plant crazy photographer.

I’ll post the new iris images as soon as I have them, for now though here is Fritillaria imperialis at Dasht-e-laleh in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, Iris caerulea at Aksu-Dzabagly, Kazakhstan and Allium karataviense in the Karatau Mountains also in Kazakhstan;

Fritillaria imperialis
Iris willmottiana

Allium karataviense