Incredible Okçular!

Crystal Ball Gazing

J and I have a habit of packing up a bit of cheese, olives and bread; humping (in an English as opposed to a US sense) the camera gear and wandering off into obscure places. Yesterday it was the head of one of our local valleys that has likely seldom felt the tread of man (or woman) since the dawn of time. This time of year we are searching out new flora, in particular orchids, but we’re not proud, anything will do!

So it was that we were scrambling up a very narrow crevice in the pine forest surrounded by masses of greenery, millions of white Cistus salvifolius bushes – Sage-leaved Cistus (Rock Rose), countless red Armenian Tulips and not much else! Bit like ‘not being able to see the Wood(cock Orchid – Ophrys scolopax) for the Trees (of Heaven – Ailanthus altissima). Ever optimistic we kept onwards and upwards expecting something – anything different.

At last J called out ‘Got an ophrys’. Big deal I thought as I huffed and puffed my way up to where she was, bee orchids of numerous kinds are ten-a-penny all around our area. This one, Ophrys heterochila sitting there in solitary splendour, was not particularly rare although its distribution is fairly limited. Oh well! Better than nothing I suppose.

Ophrys heterochila

We could see the top of the ridge through the trees and I convinced a sceptical J that I knew where we were, so we decided to head over and down an adjacent valley back to the car. What confronted us at the top wasn’t exactly what I’d thought it would be (but was exactly what J had thought it would be, or so she said!). In our sweat-blinkered, huffing and puffing scramble we’d crossed from one side of Kösten Mountain to the other and taking the track we could see way below us back to the car would have taken several hours. I slumped at the thought of the scramble back the way we had come with just one bee orchid photo to show for all the aches and groans tomorrow would bring. J is disgustingly fit in this respect.

Then I saw them; they were everywhere; like great stalks of asparagus. No flowers yet, but I’m convinced these are Serapius cordigera – Heart-flowered Tongue Orchid.

look at the size of these things

If they are then this is an unrecorded site as the species is only known around Istanbul and a few isolated places in our own Muğla Province, mainly the Datça Peninsula.

. . and it will look like this – magnificent! (Wikimedia stock)

Being dedicated followers means a return trip in about ten days to see if they have flowered. It also means that as an ‘old soldier’ I’m a believer that a ‘third class ride is better than a first class walk any day’. So, thanks to GPS and Google Earth we’ll be driving around the mountain and hoping there are a few animal tracks to get us a couple of hundred feet up the near vertical scree. I’ll also be hoping there are a few specimens at the edge of the track! Oh, and that ‘crystal ball’ bit? I might hope for one to help ‘discover’ new stuff, meanwhile I’m rubbing in the horse liniment!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

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