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;