First of all sorry for nothing appearing here for a long while, but we’re now delighted to announce that we have finally signed a contract with IB Tauris for the publication of the book with an estimated publication date of May 2014. It’s been a long wait, but that’s not without its benefits as we have been able to improve on some photos and also visit some new areas and add to overall coverage. A couple of star plants have still eluded me though, but in truth you could go on forever and at some point the decision needs to be made to stop and go with what we have...which is a lot. However, one weird and wonderful I finally caught up when I visited Himachal Pradesh in July was Saussurea gossypiphora a woolly alpine from the Himalayas and China, which I found growing with cushions of white-flowered Androsace delvayi and masses of tiny pink Primula minutissima on the floriferous Rohtang La. This north-west Indian state is adjacent to the legendary flower valleys of Kashmir and the saussurea grew there with many other superb alpines including the very choice and deliciously fragrant Primula reidii.. In the semi-arid Spiti Valley were incredible stands of Codonopsis clematidea and way up on the Baralacha La the bulky hard cushions of Thylacospermum caespitosum and the big daisy Waldheimia tomentosa. Why include the flowers from here? Simple, both Kashmir and Pakistan are decidedly out of bounds right now but all of the flowers we chose to include do occur there so although the landscapes are not quite the same it gives a good floral flavour of what is found in these areas. A pic of the Hunza Valley would have been nice though! I also visited southern Kyrgyzstan in June including the verdant walnut forest at Arslanbob. But what knocked me out here were the towering Eremurus robustus growing on the forest edge and in clearings. In fact there were some staggering eremurus displays with hundreds of thousands of Eremurus tianshanicus in places. The alpine flora was even better than I remembered this year with fabulous Trollius lilacinus bursting through the late snow - magical.
On top of this we have now formed our own travel agency Vira Natura (let’s go to nature), based in Turkey. However, we intend to do tours not only here but in other areas of the Silk Road so please check the website for details at www.viranaturatours.com. Next year we will be offering a trip along the Anatolian Diagonal and beyond to eastern Turkey and will soon have a full Silk Road program as well as many Turkish flower and walking trips and other tours to more unusual areas including some which combine walking and botany to the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda, Chile and the table lands and Andes of Venezuela to name but a few.
Below is a selection of my favourite images from Himachal Pradesh and two from Kyrgyzstan too:
Codonopsis clematidea, Pin Valley
Geranium pratense, Spiti Valley
Meconopsis aculeata, Miyar Valley
Morina longifolia, Kinnaur Valley
Pedicularia bicornuta, Miyat Valley
Primula reidii, Rohtang La
Saussurea gossypiphora & Androsace delavayi (white form), Rohtang La
Waldheimia tomentosa, Baralacha La
Eremurus robustus, Arslanbob
Trollius lilacinus, Chon Ashu Pass