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Greeting the blue dome Alpine flowers
2003 / September

Yellow, purple, white and red silky petals are lifted on slender stems to greet the blue dome of the sky. They seem like butterfly wings that might blow away in the lightest breeze. Yet these delicate flowers live in a bare, rocky landscape high in the mountains, where snow drifts still remains in the deep valleys long after winter has gone, where the temperature difference between night and day is extreme, and the winds blow fiercely. It is this harsh habitat that distinguishes alpine flowers from other species. They flourish here in the thin soil of alpine meadows between the treeline and the permanent snow line (nival). As altitude increases temperatures fall, limiting the period in which vegetation can grow, flower and seed. This means that mountain vegetation varies widely, with different species growing at different altitudes, so as you climb higher the flowers constantly change in colour, size and abundance. The great diversity of alpine flower species are each adapted to cope with differing amounts of snow and rain, wind speeds and temperatures.

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Greeting the blue dome Alpine flowers
2003 / September

Turkey is a country of mountains and high plateaus, with an average altitude of 1132 metres. One fourth of its area is over 1500 metres in height, and one tenth consists of high mountains. It also encompasses three major flora zones, due to wide variations in mountain height and climatic conditions, and is therefore it is one of the world's most important regions in terms of alpine flower species. Altitude is the foremost factor in the diversification of alpine plants. The first to flower are those in the mountains in the Mediterranean region. As the snows begin to melt in March, the flowers at a lower altitude appear first. Bulbous plants in particular carpet these mountains with flowers in March and April, followed in turn by those in the mountains of the Aegean, central, northern and eastern regions. The yellow, purple and white blossoms of crocuses, scillas, winter aconites and grape hyacinths transform the mountains into flower gardens. Alpine flowers at their most exuberant from mid-May to mid-July, when the snow is receding rapidly towards the peaks.

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Greeting the blue dome Alpine flowers
2003 / September
Small lakes form everywhere and streams are swollen by the melting snow. In the Toros Mountains along the Mediterranean coast the streams carry soil rich in nutrients, and this is deposited in dips and hollows sometimes many kilometres in extent. Here the soil retains its moisture for a long time, making it ideal for plant growth. During these months rain and occasionally snow or even hail continues to fall. This is the best time for mountain walking, when the high meadows, and even rocky areas and escarpments are bright with flowers. They are most abundant on the banks of streams and lakes, and spectacular views combining mountains, water and flowers are provided by glacier lakes. The Kackar Mountains of northeast Turkey, the Aladag Mountains of the south, and Mount Uludag in the Marmara region with their many glacier lakes can be recommended for hiking in this season. During July, August and September the subnival zone of rocky outcrops and snow valleys between the alpine zone and permanent snow line bursts into flower.
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Greeting the blue dome Alpine flowers
2003 / September
The flowers of this area are fewer in number and consist largely of species that form dense cushions, since they have to withstand fierce winds and frost. These flowers are thought to have grown here since the ice age. As a general rule there is a marked difference in the vegetation of the northern and southern faces of mountains. This is particularly striking in the case of the mountains that run parallel to the Black Sea in the central and eastern Black Sea regions. The alpine meadows above 3000 metres on the northern flanks of the mountains are covered with flowers even in August because of the high precipitation and heavy mists. The spaces between rocks and stones are like flower gardens. The best time to enjoy this festival of wild flowers is in late May and early June, at an altitude of 1500 - 2200 metres. Purple, yellow and white rhododendrons cover extensive areas above 2000 metres, and for around 15 days the air on the high pastures is heavy with their scent.
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Greeting the blue dome Alpine flowers
2003 / September

Rocky escarpments, crevices between rocks and stones, and the banks of glacier lakes and streams are embroidered in a myriad intricate patterns by alpine flowers. At this special time Turkey is transformed into a garden of dream-like beauty.

* Ali Ihsan Gökçen is a photographer

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