Plant Hunting in Eastern Anatolia by Timothy Walker

The title of the talk given by Timothy Walker at our meeting on 19 March was Plant Hunting In Eastern Anatolia″. Timothy is a former Director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden, a lecturer at several Oxford colleges and is also semi-retired while having a busy life as a speaker on horticultural topics. 

The subject of his talk prompted the question of where is Eastern Anatolia ? The answer on the internet is that it borders the Black Sea and forms the eastern boundary of Turkey. It  has “the highest average altitude, the largest geographical area and the lowest density of all the regions of Turkey.”

Timothy’s talk was based on an expedition that he made with the Alpine Garden Society. The primary object of the expedition was to see alpine plants growing in the wild and this provided a strong contrast with most of the talks we have which are concerned with garden cultivation. Contrast was in fact a theme for the evening brought out by Timothy in all sorts of ways through his presentation. His illustrations varied from the minute scale of the alpine plants shown in close-up to the grandeur of the mountain scenery rising two thousand feet above the valleys and from very primitive farming and living conditions in the countryside to modern oil-rich towns. The contrasts of the area showed horticulturally in the meeting of three different plant groups from the Mediterranean, Armenia and Georgia and from the South and in the history of the area with invasion and  the change from Christianity to Islam, The architecture of the region was illustrated in pictures of  ancient churches, monasteries and mosques. The strongly contrasted growing conditions ranged from alpine meadows to arid scree.

From a horticultural viewpoint we were interested to see many plants growing in the wild that we are familiar with in our own gardens.  Some come from plant families that we recognise but grow in very different forms that are almost impossible to cultivate in our environment while others transfer very readily to our conditions. Examples of some of these that we saw illustrated are iris reticulata, gentiana pyrenacia, veronica gentianoides, cyclamen, primulas and, particularly, tulips in dwarf form.  Timothy made the point that, in contrast with animals which are the same wherever they live, plants have the ability to change their growth habit according to the conditions in which they grow. Thus some  plants which are small in alpine conditions grow in substantially larger form elsewhere.

Timothy’s presentation was  hugely entertaining and informative; so much more than  a purely gardening occasion and very much enjoyed by the audience. It was probably the funniest talk we have ever had with many asides and general comments and we learned that the jelly-like consistency of Turkish Delight comes from the roots of orchid dactylorhiza and  aristolchia pontica  acts as a kind of “uterine syrup of fig”  in bringing on a tardy birth.

Jeremy Arthern

A small selection of photos from Timothy’s presentation:

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 16th of April at 7.30pm. It will be  on the subject  “Strictly Day Lilies” by Paula Dyason the owner of  a specialist  Day Lilly  nursery at Histon north of Cambridge. New members and visitors are always welcome. 

For more information contact Linda Truscott on 01234 270747

 

 

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