- What’s On
When spring arrives in the high passes of the Taurus Mountains, a dazzling display of flowers comes out to greet it. Story and photographs by Martyn Rix
The dry and barren Taurus Mountains form a barrier along the south of Turkey, dividing the steppes of western Anatolia from the lush Mediterranean coast. Between Antalya and Adana there are only six passes across this mountain barrier, the five in the west leading to Konya, the sixth the ancient route through the Cilician Gates, from which the road goes past the great salt lake, Tuz Gölü, to Ankara and Kayseri. Most of the coastal plain is densely cultivated, while the high mountains are barren and largely waterless, with scattered villages and few fertile areas. My wife Alison and I explored many of these valleys with our two teenage daughters during a two-week visit in April.
Bleakest of all the passes we climbed, and crossing a typical Taurus landscape, is the Sertavul Pass between Mut and Karaman, at 1,650 metres. Rolling hills of bare limestone stretch over the horizon of the plateau, and what little vegetation there is looks brown and dead, having only just emerged from its winter covering of snow. Even in mid-April the sun was blazing hot, the air cold. Most of the plants here form spiny cushions, the so-called “hedgehog cushion steppe” characteristic of the higher and drier parts of Anatolia.
Many of these plants, protected by their spines, are milk-vetches (Astragalus) or species of thrift-like Acantholimon; others, like the spectacular rosettes of the mullein (Verbascum), have felt-like leaves covered in dense silver hair, both to discourage animals and to reduce water loss in the drought of summer…
Martyn Rix is the editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, founded in 1787 and published on behalf of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is also a regular Cornucopia contributor on botany in Turkey. For the bulbs of the lower Taurus Mountains see Cornucopia 29
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