December 22, 2009 | Panayoti Kelaidis

Thylacospermum caespitosum on Tien Shan

Has Jingle bells jangled one too many times? Have you tripped over Santa's little elf? Perhaps this would be a good time to waft yourself to the high Tien Shan mountains, above Almaty in Kazakhstan! That green cushion is one of the most compact alpines on Planet Earth, mostly found in the Himalayas, here at a northerly outpost in the Tien Shan: what a day it was! You can see the road we traversed, and that cluster of buildings far above treeline is NOT a ski area, but a Russian Nuclear Plant along the lines of the old Rocky Flats that the Soviets in their wisdom decided to put on a mountain top...I doubt we would have been clambering on that hillside a few decades ago!

It's almost exactly half a year since Mike Bone and I spent that enchanted day in the Tien Shan. Many have asked me to share a bit more a bout it, and midwinter is a good time to do that. I shall post several more pictures and stories in the coming weeks celebrating the longer days. (Just think! In a few weeks we'll be deluged with seed catalogs!)

Below, you can see the same taxon very close up, in full glorious (and yes--extremely inconspicuous) bloom. You can always tell a real rock gardener because they swoon over the darndest plants--usually the ones you need microscopes to admire!

Closeup of Thylacospermum

Even closer up!

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