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Author Topic: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour  (Read 13301 times)

Alan_b

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2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« on: March 15, 2017, 11:42:22 AM »
I have a significant birthday this year and decided to treat myself to a plant-observing tour before I get too old to venture-off on such things.  These tours are fiendishly expensive compared to, say, two weeks on the Costa Brava but you get all meals plus transport plus the services of some expert tour guides.  And, as it turned-out, I was the youngest person on the trip - apart from the tour guides.  The tour I went on was organised by a company called Greentours http://www.greentours.co.uk/ who specialise in 'Natural History Holidays' including some for, or 'branded' by, the Alpine Garden Society.  This one was focused towards looking at snowdrops, which are a particular interest of mine.  So, on Tuesday 7th March, I found myself at Heathrow Airport, waiting to board a plane for Istanbul.

           
« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 01:14:58 PM by Alan_b »
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Maggi Young

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Re: 2017 AGS Galanthus of the Black Sea Tour
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2017, 12:41:06 PM »
If you can't treat yourself for a birthday, then what can you do?  ;D :) ;)
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS Galanthus of the Black Sea Tour
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2017, 01:00:36 PM »
Absolutely, Maggi; but I'll continue:

Originally there were to be seven of us on the tour but one couple had dropped-out at a late stage.  I met two of the party waiting at Heathrow.  Once we got to Istanbul, the plan was to take a connecting flight to Trabzon ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabzon ) which is on the Black Sea coast of Turkey towards the eastern end.  There was supposed to be a two and a half hour wait for this flight but when we got to Istanbul it turned-out that our flight had been consolidated out of existence and we instead had to face-up to a six hour wait for a flight that left Istanbul at five minutes to midnight and got to Trabzon around 1:30 a.m.  Fortunately Istanbul and Trabzon are three hours ahead of UK time so our bodies did not feel this was quite as late as it sounds.  Moral: always check your boarding passes for connecting flights to verify that they indicate the flight departure time that you were expecting.

Had we been prepared for this eventuality we could possibly have taken ourselves off for a meal in Istanbul.  As it was we had to sit it out in the down-market Domestic Departures lounge, where we came across the remainder of our party of five.  To calm myself I listened to some Steve Reich albums that I had downloaded to my Kindle.  Surely he is the greatest living composer?   
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2017, 04:07:57 AM »
At Trabzon Airport we were met by our tour guide, Andy Byfield.  Andy is an expert botanist who seemed to be able to identify any plant at a glance.  He has also originated a number of really great snowdrops.  There is a short profile of him here: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/andy-byfield

Andy has a very charming and easy-going manner.  In the movie of his life I am convinced he would be played by Hugh Grant - wearing some sort of elevator shoes to make him taller.

Our hotel was in the centre of Trabzon.  This looked to be an interesting and vibrant city - which unfortunately we never got a chance to see.  Here is a picture of my room at the hotel - taken the following morning when it was light.



Apparently tourism from the West has dried-up and the hotel would have gone bust had it not been for visitors from the Middle East.   
« Last Edit: March 16, 2017, 12:38:46 PM by Alan_b »
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Maggi Young

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2017, 11:16:00 AM »
Andy Byfield  is (of course!) an SRGC member - he is also well known as a founder of the charitable  organisation Plantlife.

Very well-known galanthophile, for sure - you were in good hands there, Alan - pity about the travel probs!
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2017, 03:50:48 PM »
Andy Byfield worked in Turkey for some years on a program to encourage locals to farm snowdrops as a renewable resource for export rather than just digging up the wild populations (I think this was before he founded Plantlife).  This meant that he knew the locales in the Turkish part of the tour and he could also speak the language.   Amusingly, however, our minibus driver still seemed to have difficulty understanding him.  Fortunately, he was ably assisted by his friend and erstwhile colleague, Sema, who could act as an interpreter.  It was a great pleasure for me to actually meet Sema because she always features in the talks Andy gives on his experience in Turkey.     
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2017, 10:41:11 PM »
Day 2 (8/3/17): the first day of botany.  First on the agenda was a trip to Sumela Monastery ( http://www.sumela.com/ ) to see Galanthus rizehensis.  At this time of year if you are looking for early spring flowers in the mountains and arrive too early then they will still be under snow, too late and they will be over.  But the 'right' time will vary from year to year.  So on the way up to the monastery we stopped at the 'Colin Mason Low Level Site' as this was clear and we did not know if we would have success later.  Sure enough, we found some Galanthus rizehensis.

 


Rize is both a coastal town and a province so logically the name should be "rizensis" but for some reason there is an extra "he" in the middle.

Cyclamen coum grew there in abundance, as did the local form of hellebore.



I'm told the primula in these parts is primula vulgaris var sibthorpii.  We saw many different colour forms in different areas; here it was near-white.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2017, 10:44:10 PM by Alan_b »
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2017, 10:58:38 PM »
We continued on to Sumela Monastery.  As it turned out, the area was mostly clear of snow.  My camera has quite a powerful zoom, which I used to take this shot from the road leading up to the monastery.



In the vicinity we found a hillside that was covered with Galanthus rizehensis



A small scilla was flowering amongst the rizehensis



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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2017, 11:16:43 PM »
The weather was warm and sunny, there was a lovely light scent in the air from the snowdrops, this was close to my idea of heaven.  As is my wont, I looked to see what variability existed amongst the snowdrop population.  Unfortunately I am still getting used to my new camera and I did not always manage to achieve a good focus on the flowers.

The first unusual one I found had a green spot towards the tip.  It looked lovely but you only get a poor impression in this bad photograph.  Maybe one of my fellow travellers did better?



This one had the mark on the inners 'running' towards the base.



One of several 4x4s I found



A different type of green tip and an aberrant petal



One with very pale inners

 
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2017, 08:24:58 AM »
I could have stayed there for hours but it was time to press on.  We returned to the coast road and stopped at a cafe for lunch.  This is Sema and Andy; sorry about the unflattering camera angle.

567618-0 
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2017, 12:49:29 PM »
There were five of us "punters" on the tour.  The only other male, apart from myself, was Pat, who had been on many tours of this type including some with forumist 'art600'; they both live in Kent.  Pat was interested in a range of spring flowers and not particularly in snowdrops but he was very good indeed at spotting them from a moving vehicle.  If we did see snowdrops we would stop where possible.  Pat caught sight of these ones which proved to be our first sighting of Galanthus woronowii.  They were perched on ledges down the side of a cliff.









   
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Maggi Young

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2017, 01:17:07 PM »
My goodness, we really can see that nature plants the best gardens, can't we?
Margaret Young in Aberdeen, North East Scotland Zone 7 -ish!

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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2017, 01:19:56 PM »
Our destination for the afternoon was a valley that was home to the rare Galanthus koenianus.  Our itinerary describes this as "a stunning gorge with large igneous bluffs rising vertically out of the thick forest".  Unfortunately a dam was built at the top of the gorge with a road to it so it isn't nearly as stunning as it once was and I'm told the numbers of koenianus are much reduced.  You have to search very hard to find any at all and most were inaccessibly far up those large igneous bluffs.  However Andy went to some effort to find me some that I could photograph.

Most were situated like the ones in this picture; can you even see them?



A characteristic feature of koenianus are the groves that run along the underside of the leaf, which you can just glimpse here if you look towards the base of the nearer leaf.



They also tend to have a diffuse mark towards the base of the inner petals






 
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2017, 01:28:57 PM »
Here an intrepid fellow SRGC forumist takes her life in her hands to get a photo.  My picture does not do justice to how steep and crumbly the cliff face was, nor how high she had climbed.

 
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Alan_b

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Re: 2017 AGS "Galanthus of the Black Sea" Tour
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2017, 08:01:21 PM »
It was dark by the time we reached our next hotel at the end of our first day of botany.  The road into the hotel was ominously banked with snow; would we see anything there?
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