In May 2015, Don & Sue travelled to Greece & Turkey.
Beginning in Athens we walked all over the Acropolis area exploring the historic sites but also noting the flora. Many red poppies were flowering; the street trees in the suburbs were citrus and their flowers perfumed the air. The hills of the Acropolis were covered in many shrubs and wildflowers, Pistacia lentiscus, Pinus halapensis, etc. The Botanic gardens had many fine Quercus ilex and some other significant trees but more a park than a collection.
Next day we drove to Delphi, where many wildflowers were blooming. Euphorbias, broom, poppies, Cupressus and many more. The first of many Platanus orientalis were seen here used for shade in the town square. From here we headed north over the ranges via Abies forests. Finally to Meteora where a number of monasteries perch on top of impossibly steep rock outcrops. Many Cercis siliquatrum and Fraxinus ornus were blooming here. North towards the Bulgarian border we saw many Quercus frainetto and other oak species, Abies, Cornus mas – which is used for drinks and jams. East to Thessaloniki we passed Junipers oxycedrus/communis(?) in drier areas.
Here we joined the IDS (International Dendrological Society) tour first to the mountains towards Bulgaria. This had a rich flora of Carpinus, Fagus, Quercus, Pinus, Picea, Castanea, etc plus many alpine plants in the higher areas such as Crocus, Pulsatilla, Corydalis, and Viola etc. Then east again to the Black Sea. Oak forests with understory of Rhododendron pontica and Ruscus aculeatus were common as well as Fritalaria species.
We then spent ten days in southern Turkey mostly west of Antalya. We visited several different areas to view the ancient historic sites and natural history features plus sample the food of the area. We were lucky to see hundreds of Bee eaters migrating from Africa while we were sitting having breakfast in Antalya. Other birds included rollers, numerous bunting species, woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Mistle thrush, Hoopoes, Pygmy owl and many more
The lower slopes are covered in Mediterranean flora. The mountains are pure white limestone and it was surprising to see such a rich flora growing out of such seemingly harsh terrain. From the sea you can usually see snow on the high mountains including Mt. Olympos nearby. Many of the ancient sites had interesting plants growing around or amongst the ruins (Phaselis, Termessos, Aspendos, Chimaera, Simena). These sites are protected and therefore hold many good plants which have become scarce elsewhere. Apparently orchids corms are commonly collected to use in soups so can be difficult to find.
Commonly seen plants here were Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria -some with bright yellow flower buds), Carob (Ceratonia), Bay Laurel (Laurus), Cistus, Styrax officinalis, Pinus halapensis (called Turkish pine here), Arbutus andrachne , Cyclamen, Orchids of many kinds, Euphorbias, Pistacias (three species), Cupressus sempervirens horizontalis, Daphne gnidium, Phlomis spp., Paeonia with red flowers, Quercus coccifera, Q. infectoria, Q. aucheri, Paliuris crista- galli, Clematis cirrhosa, Myrtus communis.
Styrax (the resin of which supplies storax for incense burning since ancient times) is common, a pretty shrub with white flowers and silver backs to the leaves, but may be difficult to grow here as it grows in pure limestone. Worth trying as it does not worry about hot dry situations unlike other Styrax.
Quercus coccifera, the Kermes oak, is widespread and the usual scrub on rocky hillsides. It is eaten continuously by goats and is usually present as a compact low, reddish cushion though it can grow to a tree of 5-10 metres. Its red young leaves are a feature of the whole area. It readily shoots back after fire very like some Eucalypts here. A scale which grows on it is the source of a red dye.
Arbutus andrachne is common and some specimens are spectacular. The rich, deep red colour of the bark extends from the smooth, fluted trunks into the roots. The red against the white rocky limestone terrain is striking. It has proven very difficult to grow; maybe it needs some mychorhizal association.
In river areas, Platanus orientalis, Nerium and Salix spp., Fraxinus ornus, Acer spp, were abundant. Platanus orientalis is a marvellous large spreading tree and often grows in stream beds. It is frequently planted in village squares for shade.
In the hills around Mt Olympos we climbed up to the Cedrus libani area where fine stands of large trees and many young ones are growing. As you get higher the trees become festooned with mosses and lichens. Many trees appear to have blue tinted foliage from a distance but are green on closer inspection.
Near Kas we drove into the Taurus Mountains and found groups of Quecus ithaburensis var macrolepis, the Vallonia oak whose acorn caps are 7.5-10cm across and were used in tanning hides. Also more Cedrus libani plus Q. cerris.
Along the coast east of Kas large plants of Euphorbia arborea dotted the dry scrubby hillsides. They were in post flowering stage and the bushes were a rich orange colour.
Lycian tombs in the water and on the coast plus tombs in cliffs were scattered all through this area amongst the dry vegetation.
Because the mountains are so close to the sea a very varied range of plants can be seen in a short distance from Mediterranean seashore to alpine vegetation types.