BULBOUS PLANTS WILD IN SOUTH-WEST ASIA

P. Furse
Since I retired from the Royal Navy in 1959 my wife and I have made four botanical journeys through Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan in our Land Rovers 'The Persian Rose' and later 'The Afghan Rose'. We travelled about 150,000 km and slept on top of our flower-presses and spare parts for a total of two years.

These expeditions have been sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society, by the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and by the Linnean Society of London, and we are deeply grateful for their generous support. Our work is to obtain information and specimens needed by botanists working on The Flora of Turkey and on Flora Iranica. In this talk I will try and show the conditions under which some of the bulbous species grow in the wild.

The botanical importance of the Elburz and Hindu Kush ranges is that they form a narrow link eastward to the wet mountain chain of the Himalaya and the drier Russian chain of the Pamir, Ala Tau, Tien Shan and Altai ranges, and westward to the temperate areas of the Near East, North Africa, the Caucasus and Europe. Deserts and the Caspian and Black Seas isolate these mountains from the surrounding continent, and the chain of evolution of plants stretches along these ranges.

The best bulb-country is the mountain steppe from 500 to 2,000 m, and up to 3,000 m in hot dry areas; the wet northern slopes of the Pontus and Elburz ranges which collect the clouds from the Caspian and Black Seas are not very rich in bulbs, though the south sides facing the desert and dry Anatolia are excellent.

Very high ranges bring more clouds and rain, so that dry-summer bulbs prefer their lower slopes, below about 2,000 m. On mountain looking out to the desert, and having a hot dry summer, conditions for bulbs are excellent up to 3,000 m.

The ideal conditions for most bulbs are a cold dry winter, often covered with snow which stores water in readiness for the spring, when snow is melting and there is plenty of rain; this is followed by a dry summer to ripen the bulbs. Autumn is usually cool or cold and is mostly dry, but with some rain or snow.

An important feature is that the hot sun and the wind over bare slopes dry the plants immediately when the rain stops. These dry-country bulbs are exposed much more to rotting in our long wet spring and summer.

The growing season is from 2 ½ to 4 months, but is generally about 3.

Now we will visit typical areas from west to east, and find some of the bulbs. Many of them are out of bloom when we find them, so that some of the photographs have to be taken when the bulbs flower at home.

Kurdistan in early spring is bitterly cold and mostly covered by deep melting snow, but on slopes that face the sun and wind I r i s

Furse, P. (1971). BULBOUS PLANTS WILD IN SOUTH-WEST ASIA. Acta Hortic. 23, 28-34
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1971.23.3
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1971.23.3

Acta Horticulturae