Alkanna mughlae (not a rose by any other name!)
This is the story of a ‘Wallflower’; a ‘Shrinking Violet’ so retiring in nature as to be overlooked and passed by ever since clever people began giving things names and fitting them into ‘boxes’.
This is the story of a plant; an insignificant member of the Borage family which has over 2000 species. A plant with relatives that have wonderful names; names like ‘Viper’s Bugloss’, ‘Patterson’s Curse’, ‘Hound’s Tongue’, ‘Fiddleneck’, ‘Geiger Tree’, ‘Lungwort’ and ‘Forget-Me-Not’. Names that conjure up phantasmagorical images and have you wondering how such a monika could come about.
This is the story of a plant that doesn’t have a fancy or poetic name; a plant so secretive that it only came to the attention of science just over 10 years ago, in 1998. A plant so rare that it was known to exist in only two isolated and deliberately unpublicised places on Planet Earth; both of them in Muğla Province, here in Turkey. Isolated, that is, until I ‘discovered’ and photographed it growing in Kocadere Valley, Okçular.
‘Discovered’? Huh! What a joke that is. In order to discover something you have to have some idea that it is there to be discovered; that what you are looking at is new to science or to an area – it certainly has to be new to something! As far as I was concerned it was just one of several hundred different flowering plants I’d photographed around Okçular with my new digital camera toy. The camera was my obsession of the moment, not wading through my shelves of reference books looking for labels. I was collecting pics of flowers like little boys used to collect stamps, some ‘twitchers’ log birds in a book and traffic wardens collect car numbers! It was not a scientific exercise. Anyway, this plant was not that much to look at when lined up along side so many other beauties.
When outsiders threatened to turn Kocadere Valley into a quarry and cement works; destroying its unrivaled flora and fauna, I sent CDs of every species I had to whoever I thought might be able to help. Within a few days, to my utter amazement, we had professors and students from İstanbul, Bolu and Ankara universities hammering at our door, all demanding to know one thing – ‘Where is this plant?’ ‘Why?’ asked I. ‘Because this is Alkanna mughlae – one of the rarest plants on earth!’ ‘Come with me’ I said, ‘but it can’t be that rare, it’s growing all over the place in Kocadere!’
And so it came to pass that a modest beauty queen of exceptional rarity joined forces with a few activists and a lot of very determined villagers and cast down the idol to Mammon and drove his ‘evil-doers’ out of our village and out of the biologically unique paradise that is Kocadere Valley – forever! Kocadere and Princess Alkanna of Muğla are safe and ready to welcome those who cherish modesty, beauty and the treasures that are our birthright.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü