Merhaba from Istanbul

Merhaba from Istanbul


I am writing this from Istanbul as I catch up on my notebook and pack for our return trip to Claremont, California. We leave early tomorrow morning (a bus is picking us up at 5:30).

We consider our trip a success. We saw most of the Iris targeted and some great mountainous regions of eastern Turkey. We were impressed with this eastern region and look forward to returning. Hopefully next time we can visit Van and the extreme southeastern part of the country. There are several Iris that are found only in these areas of current turmoil.



A narative of the past couple of days follows:


What a grueling trip from Tokat to Erzurum. We left at 6:00 AM traveling about 700 km either on two-lane asphalt roads with large potholes or on roads that were under construction. It was raining hard and rivers of muddy water were washing across and down the road. The two mountain passes we crossed were particularly treacherous. We saw our second fox along the stretch between Erzincan and Erzurum.

About 120 km northeast of Erzurum we saw I. taochia along the side of the road. The rain quit briefly and we were able to find both color variants (yellow and purple) on the hillside. With only a brief stop we traveled another 20 km to the site for I. elegantissima. Erdogan told us we would find it near where the road and river cross. We found the species on the rocky hillside where it was abundant but still vegetative. That was unfortunate because this is a most attractive oncocyclus Iris. We also found I. caucasica subsp. turcica at this site and it was in flower.

It was almost dark and beginning to rain again when we turned back toward Erzurum to find a motel for the night. We had dinner at 10:00 pleased that the day was over and that we had succeeded in locating three Iris species.



The following morning we left early for Kemaliye, a small town southeast of Erzurum where north of town was the site for our last goal, I. nectarifera. We intended to visit the site and then return to Malatya to find a motel. Clyde preferred to travel back to Erizican then south to Kemaliye while I preferred to travel south to Erizag, east to Matalya and then north to Kemaliye because the road south from Erzincan was labeled as an unimproved road. Given the supposedly improved roads that we had traveled I was reluctant to attempt a long distance on an unimproved road. We took the southern route.

The road was poor and we arrived in Kemaliye at about 4:30 nervous about finding the Iris before dark. As we drove across the bridge toward the reported site it was raining hard and the road was looking more like a track. There was a long tunnel that water was collecting in and we could barely see light at the end. We called Erdogan who told us he thought the village near the site for I. nectarifera was no more than 15 km. The “road” was narrow and treacherous up the mountainside and passed through two more tunnels. We were surprised by a deer on the hillside and while looking on one slope there were gunshots directed above us. We felt that we were not the targets so continued looking, also hoping that the deer survived. We stopped several times to look for I. nectarifera without success and at darkness turned around for the long trip to Malatya feeling defeated. Iris nectarifera var. mardinensis had eluded us south of Mardin and now we had not succeeded with I. n. var. nectiferae at Kemaliye.

As we drove out of the town of Kemaliye we were astonished to see a hotel we had not noticed on the way through hours earlier. We entered the hotel muddy and carrying our boots much to the surprise of the owner. He had an English-speaking guest that he called down to help with our lack of Turkish. She was the third American we had seen during our five-week visit to Syria and Turkey. The other two were teachers at an American language high school in Tarsus. The American (and her husband) had taken the route from Erzincan to Malatya that we considered and found it treacherous and at some point closed. As a result they had detoured through this small town and were staying the night. After hearing her story we were pleased that we had taken the southern route. We decided that the presence of lodging in this remote town indicated we were to give the species another chance in the early morning.



We left the motel at daybreak to travel back up the mountain to search for I. nectarifera. After several hours we decided to search one more site then turn back because we had a flight from Kayseri to Istanbul in the early evening. I was searching the hillside in the fog while Clyde was turning the car around in the narrow roadway. Clyde began calling me because the fog was so thick he could no longer see me. At this point the fog suddenly lifted and I saw both a small Iris plant and Clyde saw me. Iris nectarifera var. nectarifera was in front of me! I did not even care that it was not in flower. After documenting and photographing the plants we returned to the motel.


The owner was up by the time we returned and served us a nice Turkish breakfast. When we came down to leave for Kayseri he was very curious about his muddy American visitors and had marked some pages in a phrase book to inquire what had brought us to his town. We managed to convey that we were searching for plants (cicek) and then showed him photographs in our camera viewfinder. Others gathered and they all seemed mystified at our quest.

We drove to Kayseri without stopping, turned in the car and made our flight to Istanbul.


Gule gule,