Have You Ever Thought Of Going To Turkey?
you ever thought of going to Turkey?
may be asking WHY? The answer is quite
simple: to collect bulbs. Especially
reason I started thinking of going to Turkey was, I wanted a diploid form of
Iris danfordiae for hybridizing. The commercial form is a triploid and thus is
I realized I would have to go to Turkey if I wanted to collect danfordiae, I began to learn what other
bulbs grew there. This was fascinating. There are bearded Iris, Junos, Reticulatas (Iridodictyums) and Oncocyclus
Iris; several species of each, and in some cases, several colour
forms (especially in Reticulatas). As if
that wasn't enough, there are Crocus (as many as four species at a given site),
Tulips, Fritillarias, of course lots of Muscari, and a multitude of other bulbs. As well, there are Primulas,
and low and behold, on the latest trip I even found a peony.
didn't take any more convincing, I wanted to go to Turkey. And go I did, for three weeks in each of 1985
and 1986. In both cases I went in late
Spring. This allowed me to see some Iris in bloom, and was late enough that in
most cases the Crocus had finished blooming and had had a reasonable chance to
rebuild their corms.
doubt that there is any really ideal time to go, unless of course one is after
only one species. For example I found
Gladiolus just starting to bloom, but their corms were only just beginning to
regenerate. I doubted they would survive
the three to four weeks till they were replanted in Canada. However I collected a couple of corms just to
see. Then I'll know for another time.
me the trips have been a real adventure and a great learning experience. On the first trip I collected one Primula thinking, it's not a bulb, it probably won't even
survive the 2 1/2 weeks in the hot car until its time to go home. But a little common sense (a plastic bag)
made all the difference. The plant
survived the trip home and gave lovely bloom this past Spring.
about adventures, I'm glad to say I did find Iris danfordiae. Out of four
sites on the first trip I found it only at the last! And that was due to sheer persistence and
luck! Actually it was the Turks who
found it for me. Though without my
determination the whole thing wouldn't have happened, and I would have gone
home empty-handed so to speak; even though I had collected lots of bulbs.
special day began with me just over 300km from the site. Because of danfordiae's importance, I
decided to put the whole day towards finding it. This meant giving up going on side trips to
find Junos; which I felt fairly confident of finding. My feelings towards finding danfordiae were very pessimistic. And those feelings grew stronger as I drove
closer and closer to the area. I didn't
even know where the village was that I had to find. It wasn't marked on my maps.
had taught me not to get confident. Even
though I had done a lot of research before the trip, there had been many cases
where I had an exact kilometer-age to find something, but for the life of me, I
couldn't find it. On the opposite
spectrum, some vague references proved easy to find.
difficulties are due to a number of reasons.
One is that the site is possibly an old one. Man, in his infinite wisdom, has destroyed
the site since it was recorded to make way for a farm field, a vineyard, or a
house. Another is that the site is not
near the road, but actually several hundred feet or more from it. It may be that the bulbs are only on a small
segment of the site thus you find them only if you're lucky. In a similar sense, they may only be on one
side of a hill or mountain pass.
arriving in the area, I had a bite of lunch, then rested for half an hour. During this time I was wondering how I could
salvage the rest of the day. I didn't
have much hope of finding danfordiae
and was wondering what I could look for instead.
no, danfordiae was the main reason I
went to Turkey. I hadn't yet found it,
and this was my last chance. Regardless
of how unlikely I thought I'd find it, I was going to try.
went, stopping at a gas station to see if they could tell me where the town
was. It turned out to be ~25km along a
were two other villages along the road.
At the first I almost turned back.
I had hoped there'd be a road leading up into the mountains where I
could try to look for danfordiae, but
there wasn't. The road only headed
further up the valley to the next village.
Little did I know that within 2 hours, it would be back at the first
village that I'd be finding danfordiae. But that was still to come.
set in. Danfordiae was what I came for; danfordiae
was what I was going to look for. So on
on two occasions in the previous days Turks had helped me to find the iris I
had been looking for, I decided the first thing to do was find someone to help look for danfordiae. I should point
out that my understanding of Turkish is very limited, but I managed fairly
place to go than the local tea (çay) house.
almost immediately surrounded by curious men who came over to see the stranger
from far away. I showed them a bulb of
Iris pamphylica and asked where I
might find one like that with a yellow flower.
only wished I could have understood what they were saying. But I managed to persuade one of them to help
we went in the car, heading along a bad farm road into a field area. Not all of
the area had been plowed. It was in this
area that we found a Juno, which should be persica. But no danfordiae.
chap seemed to indicate something about back down the valley. So back in the
car we got, and off we went. At the
second village we went into a tea house, and again poor pamphylica got passed around.
From what I could make out we weren't getting too far.
in the car we got, and off we went to the first village. Again we headed straight for the
teahouse. By this time the bulb of pamphylica had gotten quite battered
from all of its examinations, but it served its purpose well. It didn't seem we were getting very far and I
indicated to the chap "maybe we should go". But he motioned me to wait a bit.
25 or 30 minutes later a youngish looking fellow whom I had noticed earlier, returned
with a handful of Retics! Wow. Success!
I couldn't be 100% certain that it was danfordiae, that would only come after one of them bloomed back
home, but at that point I was 95% confident they were danfordiae.
were ready to go back to the chap's village.
Well I should say he was ready to go back. I wanted to see the location where danfordiae was.
persuaded them to show me and off we went on a 2km hike. A couple of young fellows tagged along, and
they proved quite interesting. They
pointed out various plants as we went.
Some for eating, for making tea, and even one to take if you were sick.
site for danfordiae proved to be
quite different from what I expected. It was a 60' rock cliff with pockets of
soil. Growing with the danfordiae were Muscari
and grass. There were a lot of danfordiae bulbs; they seemed
smallish. I found quite a few with
seedpods - a very good sign. Interestingly the soil seemed to be quite loamy
(ph 6.5 to 7).
ended a very fateful day. I still had to
hurry and drive the chap back to his village, then go on to a large town where
I could find a hotel. It was getting
dark and driving in Turkey at night is no fun whatsoever. But that night it wasn't going to bother me
very much. I'm sure you'll understand I
was in a very happy mood.
addition to danfordiae I was able to
collect a lot of other Iris. Experience
teaches you a lot. I was quite
interested to find three sites for Spuria iris along
the same route I had gone on the first trip.
On that trip, I hadn't yet found any Spurias,
so I didn't know how to recognize a colony when I saw one. Now it's extremely easy.
found a lot of Juno Iris. They became
fairly easy to find, though sometimes I thought the conditions were right, but
not a one. I was amazed on the first
trip at the amount of pseudocaucasica
there was east of Van. There were many
roads along which it could be found. It
surprises me that it is not available commercially. Based on how much there was in the wild, I
would have thought it should be as available as aucheri. I haven't heard any
comments about it being difficult to grow; as persica is well known for being.
only wish Reticulatas were as easy to find.
I did find several sites for them, but they did seem fairly elusive. I felt really lucky to have stumbled upon some
sites that had not been previously recorded.
One grassy slope looked just like another (and it wasn't always a grassy
slope where the Retics were found).
Twice on the first trip I only found one bulb. Further hunting in those same areas on the
second trip proved fruitless.
what was most fascinating, was to see where the Iris were growing. In effect, to see how the Iris have been able
to survive in the wild as long as they have.
Many of the sites were on steep or rocky slopes, too rocky for
farming. On many occasions one could
find one side of a hill was being farmed, and the other had some Iris.
of the land in Turkey is grazed; especially in eastern Turkey. As a result of overgrazing, the land is
fairly barren. The effects of the
grazing shows up in the Iris: Junos and Oncocyclus
Iris are very short in height. Often
even their short leaves show signs of having their tips eaten. And this happens to the flowers as well.
you are lucky enough ever to go to Turkey I think you'll be most impressed with
the scenery. It keeps changing. There are remarkable changes even within
100km, from snow capped mountains, to narrow gorges, to flat plains, from
cultivated farm land, to grazed land with only sparse vegetation, to scrub oak,
to forests of pine trees. Quite
fascinating to say the least. I'd
certainly advise you to take along a lot of film.
other quite striking thing is seeing many homes with televisions; especially in
eastern Turkey. The tell-tale sign being
the TV aerials. You say, what's so
special about that. Most homes in
Britain, Canada, the U.S., etc. have a TV.
The difference is that the homes I'm thinking of in Turkey are built of
stone and cement. The furnishings are fairly
spartan, by our standard, relatively primitive. These are people earning $97 U.S. per month
average Turk is quite friendly. I've
found them to be very helpful on many occasions, an important factor in making
the trip enjoyable. But a word of
caution: avoid military installations, of which there are many, and above all,
avoid the gypsies.
there are gypsies near where you want to do some collecting, DON'T. Before you
know it they can have your car doors open and no end of trouble! But, as I said before, the average Turk is
anywhere, if you do go plant collecting, restrain yourself from taking many
plants. In general three should be
plenty. If many collectors go to the
same sites, in no time those sites will be wiped out. Its a real tragedy if that happens.
especially important point is to be able to grow what you collect. If you
haven't grown a particular plant before, then it's probably best to try only
one. And if that plant is known to be
difficult, and you don't plan to give it special growing conditions or
attention, don't collect it. It's
criminal to collect a plant with it having only a year or two at most to
certainly not against plant collection.
It's just as criminal to hear of populations being wiped out when man
creates new farm fields or puts up a building.
The key is collecting in moderation, and if at all possible, propagating
the plants and passing them on to other interested knowledgeable people.
I enticed you to consider going to Turkey?
There's more I'd love to tell you, but the only way to really appreciate
what I would say, is to go there yourself and experience it first hand.
might be interested that on the first trip I traveled alone. On the second trip my wife came along. It's a little nicer, as you might imagine,
traveling in a foreign country with a companion.
if only it was 20 years ago, when people like Paul Furse
were traveling to Iran and Afghanistan.
Without a doubt those are two countries in which I'd like to go plant
collecting. But with the conflicts that
are currently raging in each, that will have to remain a dream. Maybe one year...
Alan lives in Toronto, Canada. In 1978 he graduated in electrical
engineering at the University of Toronto.
Since that time he has been managing the development of computer
application software for Ontario Hydro, a provincial electrical utility. Partly as a result of working in an office
all day, Alan developed a keen interest in gardening. His main interest is Iris, although he is
quite interested in bulbs as well; from crocus to Erythroniums,
to Narcissus, etc. He says that,
"Iris are so fascinating because of all the different types, from Arils,
which want desert-like conditions, to Dwarfs and Tall Beardeds,
that are very easy to grow, to Japanese and Louisianas,
which want moist conditions, etc. And
then there is the fun of hybridizing, including intercrossing some of the
Many, but not all, of the bulbs Alan collected
in Turkey have now bloomed. It has been
quite fascinating to see the results in terms of what colours
the flowers actually are; particularly for some of the Reticulata and Juno
iris. Alan has done a lot of hybridizing
with Iris danfordiae and has gotten
seeds from it both as a pod parent, and as a pollen parent. The only unfortunate thing is that he
estimates it will be at least another 3 years before he starts to see the
results of that work. He expects some
interesting results because of the colours of the
parents which were used along with danfordiae
(i.e. not just the typical blue, and reddish-purples).
Alan and his wife Lynda are expecting their
first child in early October 1988.