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ORNAMENTAL PLANTS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITATS

B. Kyrgizstan


One of the ways to become familiar with the vegetation of the Tien Shan is to start from Bishkek (formerly Frunze), the capital of Kyrgyzstan, which is located in the Chuiskaya valley at 780 m (2,558 ft). The best season to have a field trip around Bishkek is spring. The white-flowered Crocus alatavicus, the yellow-flowered
Tien Shan
Colchicum luteum and the yellow-flowered Gagea are among the first plants to bloom in early spring, in late February or early March. Other harbingers of spring include the tiny blue bulb Iridodictyum kolpakowskianum [=Iris kolpakowskiana], the white-flowered tulip Tulipa bifloriformis and the lilac-flowered juno Juno kuschakewiczii [=Iris kuschakewiczii], as well as some rare tulips such as T. gregii, T. kolpakowskiana, T. ostrowskiana and T. zenaidae with these blooming in April or May. Red poppies (Papaver pavoninum and Roemeria refracta) come into flower later, usually in May. The slopes are spectacular when the red poppies and the lilac-blue lily-of-the-Altay, Ixiolirion tataricum appear in May-June. By late spring, the foothills are adorned with tall pink-flowered foxtail Eremurus robustus and E. tianschanicus and yellow patches of St. Johns wort, Hypericum scabrum. By June and later, the mountains near Bishkek appear bleak and lifeless.

An excursion to Ala-Archa, a nature park and reserve, takes one across the different vegetation zones of the Kyrgyzstan mountains. The road runs along the banks of the narrow river Ala-Archa. Dense shrubs of the sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides along with Rosa beggeriana with white flowers to 4 cm (1.5") diameters abundantly produced in dense, many-flowered clusters and R. platyacantha, with solitary yellow flowers to 5 cm (2") diameters are found in the lower reaches of the gorge
Kyrgizstan
along the river banks. A small, local sour cherry shrub, Cerasus tianschanica [=Prunus], that grows to 1.5 m (5 ft) is especially showy in spring and summer whether in flower or fruit. The forest meadows have a more diverse flora with spruce Picea schrenkiana one of the dominant forest species. Barberries Berberis sphaerocarpa and B. integerrima, the honeysuckle Lonicera hispida, as well as Rose family shrubs Cotoneaster pentagyna and Spiraea chamaedrifolia grow in sunny sites. The herbaceous cover of the spruce forests and meadows of the subalpine belt is dominated by the spring blooming orange globeflower, Trollius asiaticus, a white anemone Anemonastrum protractum, a light blue forget-me-not Myosotis suaveolens, gas plant Dictamnus angustifolius, as well as dramatically dark hued colombine Aquilegia atropurpurea. Summer-blooming species are bonnet bellflower, Codonopsis clematidea, a tall cornflower, Centaurea ruthenica and a petite violet cranesbill, Geranium regelii. This last species is of interest for the rock garden, because its stems do not exceed 10 cm (4"), and the plants are very beautiful with violet flowers.

Spring in the subalpine and alpine meadows may start as late as May, and some of the first plants to flower are yellow Adonis chrysocyathus and the pale lilac globeflower Hegemone lilacina. Many botanists treat the latter as a distinct genus, while others maintain it as
Tulipa tarda
Trollius lilacinus. In any case, it has unusual green-tinged lilac petaloid sepals, and certainly seems important for plant breeding in that. Trollius species that grow together often produce interesting hybrids. Other ornamentals that bloom in May and June include a primrose Primula turkestanica, that produces dense subglobose umbels of purple-violet flowers, the carmine pink-flowered Allium oreophilum, the mat-forming Chorispora bungeana with its rose-lilac flowers and the white-blushed green-flowered gentian Gentiana algida. At higher elevations, the beautiful Pyrethrum [=Tanacetum] leontopodium produces a dramatic silvery-white foliage densely covered with a soft downy felt, interspersed by a cushion-forming Sibbaldia tetrandra on gravelly slopes.

Located at 1,000 m (3,288 ft), also in Kyrgyzstan, Lake Issyk-Kulí is flanked by two Tien Shan ranges (the Terskey Alatau and Zailiyskiy Alatau). These mountain tops are covered by permanent ice caps. The road from Bishkek runs along the river Chu, the banks of which are overgrown by thickets of willow Salix wilhelmsiana, and Russian olive Eleagnus angustifolia. Tall shrubs of Abelia corymbosa, a sacred plant of aboriginal peoples and very rare today, grow on mountain slopes and in protected hollows some 20-30 km (10-20 mi) west of Bishkek. Ephedra eguisetina, a well-known medicinal shrub, grows on stony mountain sites. Lake Issyk-Kulí is saline and surrounded by alkaline soil, called by Russian word solonchak, which supports widespread species of the genera Artemisia, Kochia and Salsola. Lacy crowns of the showy shrubs Myricaria germanica and Tamarix ramosissima (both of which are salt-resistant) catch the eye at higher elevations. Vast stretches of mountain slopes are occupied by spruce forests (Picea schrenkiana) along with junipers Juniperus semiglobosa and J. sabina. A monument to Nicolai M. Przhewalskiy, the famous Russian scientist and explorer at the end of 19th century, is seen near Przhevalísk (now Bajungol), a town not far from Issyk-Kulí.
Paraquilegia anemonoides

The Tien Shan is dominated by spruce forests of Picea schrenkiana. Intriguing plants of the area include the white-flowered vine Atragene sibirica [=Clematis alpina subsp. sibirica], the shrub rose Rosa albertii, a herbaceous perennial Alfredia nivea, which produces beautiful rosettes of coriaceous cleft leaves, as well as a monkshood Aconitum leucostomum. Alpine meadows are dominated by a remarkable fleabane Erigeron aurantiacus producing red to orange flower heads, color not very often within fleabane, a yellow-orange poppy (Papaver tianschanicum), bright yellow globeflower Trollius dschungaricus and a pasque flower Pulsatilla campanella with nodding, violet flowers. At upper vegetation limits are found daisy-like Callianthemum alatavicum, Cerastium lithospermifolium and rockfoil Saxifraga oppositifolia, all of which are small plants particulary suitable for the rock garden. In rocky places the unusual Paraquilegia anemonoides [=P. grandiflora] forms close, dense tufts from a thick rootstock with stout bristles, and produces very attractive large, solitary, pale pink or pale lilac flowers.

ORNAMENTAL PLANTS FROM RUSSIA
 
 
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