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Altai by camel caravan


Camel Caravan in Mongolian Altai

The Altai and Tien Shan Mountains of Central Asia each comprise dozens of mountain ranges that straddle Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. For three enchanted weeks in late June and early July, Mike Bone (propagator here at the Gardens) and I had the privilege of exploring four of these ranges and the steppes and deserts between them on behalf of Plant Select. Thousands of photographs later, we find ourselves back in the steppes of Colorado, sorting through our files, maps and floras, and basking in the glow of what is likely the most amazing trip I've undertaken in my career. If you squint, the Altai look very much like the Rockies. They lie at the very heart of Asia, as far from the Arctic sea as from the Indian Ocean, equidistant from Pacific and Atlantic. The flora (like the Rockies) derives from the Holarctic Kingdom: we share the same pasqueflowers, fringed sage and a large proportion of higher altitude plants seem identical. But "Vive la difference!" we found numerous endemic plants and of course, the yurts (which they call "gers"), the yaks, the Kazakh nomads and the complex history of wandering peoples is utterly different from what we are used to in our Rocky Mountains. These few pictures should give you a taste of the majesty of "the Golden Mountains" (translation of the Turkic "Altai") which have provided us a wealth of golden memories...

Tulipa heteropetala was still in bloom

The giant Altai columbine: Aquilegia glandulosa

Primula nivalis on summit of pass in Mongolia
Primula nivalis on summit of pass in Mongolia


Pam Jewett

Fascinating and so beautiful. Please post more pictures from your adventures. I'm not likely to make it to the Altai anytime soon, so I'd love to see your photos and hear more about the trip.
Ellen Hertzman

What an amazing opportunity! I can't wait to see what new beauties will be available for Colorado gardeners in the future, thanks to you two.
luigi cicolani

great. More pics please.
anne spiegel

Wonderful, but please continue. This sounds like the trip of your lifetime. More pictures, text, etc., please...
Panayoti Kelaidis

Dear Pam, Luigi, Ellen and Anne, Thank you for your kind comments. I will be uploading lots more pix on DBG's new FLICKR site soon. And you can expect several articles to show up in various publications including NARGS and DBG's newsletters. Meanwhile, I gotta label thousands of images: ugggggh.
Marcia Brown Meigs

Greetings, Panayoti, currently from Truro, MA. Your remarks on oregano on Alpine-L led me to this marvelous website and I have to echo the above pleas for photos. So frustrating to be unable to take such trips and not at least enjoy them via blog and photos. Perhaps you could someday create DVDs for the chapters to share as did Harry Jans on his spectacular DVDs. How do we get to the botanic garden flicker site? Thanks for all you share, and warm regards, Marcia
Diane Jean

Thank you again for sharing marvelous adventures with us stay-at-home " 'lubbers." Vicarious thrills!!
Sjaak de Groot

L.S the picture above of T. heteropetala shows clearly T. heterophylla from the Tien-Shan
Panayoti Kelaidis

Oh, how embarrassing, Sjaak! You are absolutely right. We got seed of T. heteropetala and I got confused between the two. Trust someone from Netherlands to figure out the Tulips!

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