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ORNAMENTAL PLANTS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITATS

D. Tajikistan

Anemone bucharica
The Pamiro Alay mountain system extends from east to west and includes some high peaks, high montane plateaus and glaciers, and can be easily reached from Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Kukhistan corresponds to the part of Pamiro Alay closest to Dushanbe. According to Kamelin (1979) the flora of Kukhistan consists of 2,000-2,100 species. The area is divided by three parallel Ranges the Gissarskiy, the Zeravshanskiy and the Turkestanskiy and some would include the Fan Mountains (Fanskie Gori). With its very complicated orography, the area includes 12 peaks more than 5,000 m (16,400 ft) high and spectacularly as many as 40 glaciers. The snow line lies at 3,700-4,100 m (12,100-13,500 ft).

The road from Dushanbe to the Anzob Pass runs along the river Varzob, the basin of which occupies the southern slope of the central Gissarskiy Range, and the flora and vegetation are typical of the
Tulipa praestans
Yagnob river
subhumid areas of the western Pamiro Alay. The Varzob Gorge runs from a north to south orientation. Tall grass semi-savannas and "shibliak" (mountain hemi-xerophytic deciduos forests) are seen immediately in the Dushanbe environs. These communities are also characterized by small trees as well as ephemeral and ephemeroid plants. Among the attractive perennials are Arnebia coerulea, Eremurus comosus and Euphorbia franchetii. Dense stands of giant reed Arundo donax, sugar reed Saccharum spontaneum, and phragmitoid reed Phragmites australis distinguish the upper terrace along the Varzob gorge. Christ's thorn Paliurus spina-christi is a shrub here, and was once widely distributed but is now rarely found. Communities of maple Acer pubescens, Bukhara almond Amygdalus bucharica (=Prunus bucharica), Caucasian hackberry Celtis caucasica and common jujube Zizyphus jujuba occur along the narrower rocky part of the gorge above the Upper Varzob Lake. The yellow-flowered anemone Anemone baissunensis, a small herb of the barberry family Bongardia chrysogonum, the milky white-flowered Rhinopetalum bucharicum (a close relative of the fritillary), Gagea gageoides, Geranium charlesii, Juno vicaria [=Iris vicaria] and Tulipa praestans all flower in spring in gorgeous display. Chesneya hissarica, an attractive cliff plant of the pea family, produces spectacular yellow flowers that interestly turn purple by the end of their flowering. The oriental plane tree Platanus orientalis is established in some places on the banks of the Varzob river, but rarely does it produce seedlings.

The submontane part of the Varzob gorge is characterized by broad-leaved forests and shrub formations, rich in roses. The sparse herbaceous cover includes small, dense cushions of the endemic Dionysia involucrata (primrose family) on cliffs, isolated patches of an inconspicuous bellflower Campanula incanescens as well as the skullcap Scutellaria hissarica and the showy sege Carex koshewnikowii.

The field station and museum of the Botanical Institute of the Tajikistan Academy of Sciences is situated in the Kondara Gorge, which is ca. 10 km long (6 miles). The station is devoted to the study of the the forest vegetation of the Pamiro Alay. Mixed forests of common walnut Juglans regia, apple Malus sieversii and maple Acer turkestanicum grow in the bottom of the gorge. The herbaceous layer consists mainly of tall plants such as Ligularia thomsonii, Eremurus robustus, Delphinium ovczinnikovii and Cousinia pulchella, to mention a few. Scattered populations of a giant bellflower,
Ostrowskia magnifica
Ostrowskia magnifica, over 1 m high with many white or blue flowers 10-13 cm (4-5") in diameter, appear sporadically but dramatically in the shade. The northern slopes of Kondara gorge are covered with maple forests Acer turkestanicum that are sometimes replaced by Cotoneaster hissaricus scrub and roses of Rosa kokanica (=R. divina). Herbaceous communities are dominated by a giantic robust perennial of the carrot family Prangos pabularia. Small almond trees Amygdalis bucharica (=Prunus bucharica) as well as pistachio Pistacia vera are scattered along the southern slopes of the gorge. The herbaceous cover near the Kvak Pass includes tall mesophilous plants such as Aegopodium tadshikorum, Heracleum lehmannianum, Ligularia thomsonii, and Pyrethrum parthenifolium [=Tanacetum parthenifolium]. The brightly scarlet-flowered Tulipa lanata and the brick red T. praestans present a colorful display in spring. A giantic fritillary Petilium eduardii [=Fritillaria eduardii], which is closely related to the crown imperial Petilium imperiale [=Fritillaria imperialis] occurs occasionally; the plants sometimes are as tall as 1 m (3 ft) in height with as many as 20 large flowers.

Cushions of Dionysia involucrata, the endemic Oxytropis siomensis, and a number of other rock-loving species grow in the valley of the Sioma river. The yellow Gymnospermium alberti [=Leontice alberti] comes into flower in early spring, and a dark blue-flowered Asyneuma
Lathyrus mulkak
Eremurus robustus
Iris
Juno
argutum
appears in summer. The valley slopes are covered with dense thickets of Rosa kokanica and the endemic wild pea Lathyrus mulkak, which is a perennial vine to 1.5 m (5 ft) high with bright pink of good size to 4 cm (1.5") across. Other attractive species include the bright yellow-flowered Adonis turkestanica, yellow Onobrychis saravshanica, and the pink-headed Cousinia pulchella. The road toward the Anzob Pass runs through a cup-shaped depression, the slopes of which nicely disply the tall semisavanna herbs Prangos pabularia and Ferula kuhistanica both of the carrot family (Apiaceae). On the bowl floor of Anzob depression one finds a pink primrose Primula olgae, a plant only to 5-10 (2-4") cm high and closely related to P. tournefortii of the sothern Transcaucasus, Iran, and Turkey. The orchid Dactylorhiza umbrosa, which has long spikes with violet-purple flowers and Swertia lactea, which has milky blooms on stems up to 70 cm (2,2 ft), also occur here.

Tall-herb semisavanna is present up to an altitude of 3,150 m (10,330 ft). The vegetational cover at the pass presents a conspicuous mosaic. The cushion-like red-flowered dwarf shrub Onobrychis echidna and the perennial thistles Cousinia franchetii and C. verticillaris are common in the area. Typical components of the steppes are bluegrasses (Poa relaxa and P. litvinoviana), cranesbills Geranium regelii and G. himalayense, anemones Anemonastrum protractum, edelweiss Leontopodium ochroleucum as well as a larkspur Delphinium oreophilum. Other species common to these areas include snow-in-summer or Dichodon cerastioides [=Cerastium cerastioides] and an elecampane Inula rhizocephala, which has a leafy rosette, practically no stem, but numerous white heads 3-4 cm (1.2-1.5") in diameter. Some of the more attractive species that grow on rocks at the upper limits of vegetation are Paraquilegia caespitosa, with flowers resembling those of the pasque flower; the mat-forming Draba cana [=D. lanceolata] and Allardia glabra [=Waldheimia glabra].

In early spring, southern Tajikistan is an ideal place to see many bulbous plants of the genera Crocus, Gagea, Iris, Juno, Rhinopetalum, Scilla, Tulipa, among others. In the eastern part of the Gissarskaya Valley occur showy species belonging to Papaver, Anemone and Scabiosa. Pistachio (Pistacia vera), which blooms in April, is evident near the Vakhsh River. Amygdalus bucharica [=Prunus] dominates the vegetational cover near the pass, where it grows along with such attractive herbs as Eremurus olgae, Delphinium semibarbatum, Onosma barsczewskii, Salvia sclarea and Scabiosa songarica. It should be noted that Kukhistan is of great interest to both botanists and gardeners. Here, botanists can find many endemic species, while horticultural enthusiasts can find many prospective plants for cultivation and breeding. Many potentially ornamental endemics are restricted to the Samarkand Mountains and the basin of the Mogian River. They include the attractive Acantholimon komarovii, Acanthophyllum saravschanicum, Eremostachys mogianica, Eremurus chloranthus, Juno magnifica [=Iris magnifica], J. maracandica [=Iris maracandica], J. parvula [=Iris parvula], Jurinea maxima, Scutellaria picta and Tulipa affinis. Many of them have been tested in botanical gardens in Central Asia, and they do well in cultivation; however, they are practically unknown in horticulture.

ORNAMENTAL PLANTS FROM RUSSIA
 
 
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