A Rose By Any Other Name

r1Last week I was rambling on about wandering over the mountains and getting overly excited about a huge stick of ‘asparagus‘ that I’d discovered. In my sweaty, fevered state I’d convinced myself that it must be the biggest tongue orchid anyone had ever seen and vowed to return this week to check it out once it had flowered.

Two things came to mind this morning; well, three actually: 1 – I should check my reference stuff more thoroughly; 2 – I should keep my mouth shut until I know what I’m talking about (a point J makes often); 3 – J can be a hard taskmaster in an ‘Onwards and Upwards’ sort of way.

We’d determined to revisit the site on the very steep mountainside by approaching from a different direction. We knew there were no tracks and that footing would be precarious in places – the best we could hope for was a lot of sweat and a goat track to guide us. It proved to be a heart-pounding climb – even J suggested a couple of rests.

On the way we were looking out for other interesting stuff and here are a few photos to break the monotony!

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Orabanche aegyptiaca – Egyptian Broomrape (totally parasitic has no chlorophyll)
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Gladiolus italicus – Field Gladiolus
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Phlomis fruticosa – Jerusalem Sage

Arriving at the site of the ‘asparagus’ I knew right away that keeping ‘schtum’ and checking references (engaging brain before opening mouth) is a good mantra for there were indeed a few that were open including the one in the photo below.

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What we have here ladies and gentlemen is Limodorum arbortivum – the Violet Limodore or the Violet Bird’s Nest Orchid (for some obscure reason). This orchid is interesting in that it has no leaves, lives off decaying matter and is totally dependant upon, but not parasitic of, fungi of the Russulaceae family. It produces the largest seeds of any of the European orchids and the seedlings are very slow to develop staying below ground for 8-10 years before flowering! It is also fairly common and very widespread.

So, an interesting but disappointing find, especially considering the physical effort needed to get to it? Not at all, because there is a twist in the tail (or tale) – as you can clearly see from the photo it is anything but ‘violet’. We have violet near the house and in other places around the area – these specimens are pink. That means that what we have here is a variation or sub-species named Limodorum arbotivum var. rubrum which was only confirmed in 1997 and is spread very thinly on the ground only recorded at 20 other sites in Turkey.

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Now ask me if it was worth the blood, sweat and creaking joints . .

Alan in Okçular

If You Go Down To The Woods Today

There are times when being awake is worse than reliving that moment in the film ‘Alien’ when John Hurt leans over one of those ‘eggs’ in the hold of the alien ship and suddenly – Waaaghhh! – the thing is all over his face and doing a Linda Lovelace impersonation.

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‘Deep Throat’ people – ‘Deep Throat’!)

J and I had our first ‘egg’ moment three years ago – we were heaving ourselves up to a ledge in one of our local valleys when there ‘they’ were at nose level. Eggs and aliens! A terrible stench of rotting carcasses filled our nostrils along with hoards of flies trying to do the same! We had never seen anything like these weird creations of some warped, alien imagination.

Since that first close encounter of the t#rd kind we have found a number of these alien hives – some very close to our house. We have also learned a little about them – say ‘Hello!’ to Clathrus ruber aka the Lattice or Basket Stinkhorn or, as the country folk around the former Yugoslavia prefer, ‘Witch’s Heart’!

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Alien leaping from its egg
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Clathrus ruber – Lattice Stinkhorn sharing an intimate moment with John Hurt; compare with Alien above – see the family likeness?

Learning about the Stinkhorn family is laced with auto-erotic symbolism – they are of the Order Phallales and Family Phallaceae; ‘eggs’ are called volva. In my opinion they are about as erotic as a smear in a Petri dish! They are however, part of a very interesting group of fungi. Another member of the group C. archeri or Octopus Stinkhorn, is a native of Australia and New Zealand –

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an Oz alien Clathrus archeri guarding its eggs

– examples have turned up in Turkey and spores are believed to have been transported here in the boxes and equipment of the ANZAC troops following the invasion of Gallipoli/Çanakkale in 1915. It is equally weird but lacks the putrid stench associated with the Lattice Stinker.

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glistening and pulsing the ‘egg’ slowly opens –
like John Hurt, curiosity draws you closer – suddenly . . Waaaghhh!

The ‘egg’ is roughly spherical, up to 6 cm (2.4 in) in diameter, with a jelly-like interior. White or grayish in colour, it is initially smooth, but develops a network of polygonal marks on the surface prior to opening. The ‘alien’ bursts the egg open as it expands (a process that can take as little as a few hours), and takes on its new persona as a cross between a dead body and a Wiffle ball! (a plastic ball with holes in it) As the sponge-like ‘lattice’ develops a thick, foul-smelling goo called gleba covers the inner surfaces. This attracts flies and other insects which help to spread the spores. Whilst the ‘eggs’ may take days or weeks to reach ‘hatching’, the amazing fruit will last but a few hours before dissolving into a slimy smear.

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Alien hosts a ‘Bring-a-Blowfly’ party

The time to see them is now . .

Alan in Okçular

What You Do Speaks So Loudly

. . that what you say I cannot hear! A variation on ‘Deeds speak louder than words!’

(recovered from Archers of Okçular blog first posted 20.01.2013)

Here in Turkey I am lucky enough to live in a country that is so enthusiastic about protecting its natural environment that it has probably signed up to more treaties, conventions, agreements and memorandums of understanding than any other on the planet. Turkey ‘Talks the Talk’ like few others. The obverse of the coin, ‘Walking the Walk’ leaves something to be desired!

hypocriteIt would be more accurate to say that ‘Money Talks and Walks the Walk’ – in 16 years of living here I have seen example after example. I want to stress that Turkey is no better and no worse than most other countries around the world – greed, ‘primitive accumulation’ lies at the heart of the economic system; a system that commodifies everything – including the environment! If tiresome protection laws get in the way of the ‘fast buck’ then they are to be ignored, rescinded or bribed away.

The small town of Dalyan is a case in point; it sits at the heart of Turkey’s very first Specially Protected Area – the setting is stunning! Carian tombs, mountain views, amazing beach and Loggerhead Turtles, the potential for exploitation was enormous and so exploited it was!

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the last of its kind, Omer’s ‘Old Turkish House’ bar in Dalyan – demolished and replaced by a row of concrete shops

These days the attractive old houses have been demolished and replaced by concrete. Great swathes of once beautiful countryside are covered in villas that stand empty much of the year. Unregulated development means an excess of hotels, pansions, restaurants, fashion shops, boats on the river, etc., all chasing too few customers to make a decent living. The once magnificent reed beds of the Dalyan canal and delta are gone, replaced by sedge due to salination because of excessive fresh water extraction. Inadequate infrastructure means some parts of the town stink of raw sewage in the summer.

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all that remains of old Dalyan’s charm

Tourists are now guaranteed to see endangered Caretta caretta turtles as the captains have taken to baiting them with kitchen scraps on fishing lines so they hang around instead of going off and living a natural life. Many are injured or killed by boat propellers, some have bitten tourists and had to go for ‘rehabilitation’. Much of what once drew visitors to the town has now gone – exploited away, and no amount of fancy floodlight illumination of the Carian Tombs or plastic turtles in the park will bring it back.

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baiting endangered Caretta with endangered Blue Crab at Dalyan (travbuddy.com) and below the consequences
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. . and one of the consequences

Another case in point is the Lycian Way – Turkey’s first long distance walking route.

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my copies of Clow’s books

Pioneered by Kate Clow, the route begins at Hisarönü near Fethiye in the west and ends, 500kms later, at Hisarçandır 25kms short of Antalya in the east. In between lies some of the most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt countryside to be found anywhere along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast – but, for how long? Truth be told, Turkey gets a lot of prestige but very little money out of the Lycian Way. The Lycian Way will never really be an income generating asset – unless that is it can be turned into a commodity!

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Lycian Way above Ölüdeniz 
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Lycian Way near Mt Olympus

‘Tadaaaa!’ Welcome to the future as Ölüdeniz Belediyesi (local council) blithely drives the thin end of a very big wedge under its end of this world famous, world class walk. How? By granting permission, admittedly together with the Environmental Agency for hotel development on the first few hundred metres of the route, and then allowing the bulldozing of the ancient path to make way for the standard, 7mt wide, access road.

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getting it wrong – the future for the Lycian Way
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. . is that the rustle of leaves or banknotes I hear?

It won’t stop there of course, it never does. There will be others anxious to give tourists access to this most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt path by building hotels, swimming pools and restaurants (whilst making a little honest income, of course). And they’ll be ready to grease the odd palm to do so! Just as has happened at Hasankeyf and so many other places money will trump ÇET (environmental impact) reports and the earth-moving machines will be in before you can organise a protest group. The damage will be done, shoulders will be shrugged and the wedge will get another surreptitious tap or two from the bulldozer.

One day those who jumped on the bandwagon will wake up and realise that the very things that drew visitors to the area have disappeared along with the visitors. There will be much wringing of hands and midnight flits; the once snazzy ‘butik’ hotels will become sleazy flop-houses as overheads outstrip income. I predict that the ‘patient’ will straight-line within a few years. The Lycian Way, one of Turkey’s genuine, long-term assets will have been ‘Dalyanised’ and no amount of green fluorescent strip lighting or plastic palm trees will bring it back.

armageddonMass tourism, that ‘pile-it-high flog-it-cheap’ commodity has had its day and is declining rapidly. Unless the politicos, local and national, wake up to the real worth of this beautiful, historic country that they have inherited, and start to protect and defend that worth then sustainable tourism is finished. Not in my lifetime, it’s too late for people my age, but what about your grandchildren Başkan – don’t they deserve something better than the ‘fast buck’ you are offering now?

Alan in Okçular