ORNAMENTAL PLANTS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITATS
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
[=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.