Where The Bee Sucks . .

. . or ‘Sips’ or ‘Sups’ and is first line of Ariel’s song from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. It is also the reason for the Bard’s reputation for bawdiness and the cause of many a ‘six of the best’ across the backsides of smutty-minded little grammar school oiks! Let me explain – it was the habit of printers in days of yore to elongate the first ‘s’ of a word so that it looked much like a lower-case ‘f’. If you carry out this substitution in the first line of Ariel’s solo you will quickly understand the delight found by low-minded little brats and the ready use of the cane by teachers of Eng. Lit. For those of you who struggle with these things the following may help to enlighten you (you are, of course, welcome to view the original if ever you visit):



That said, how on earth I got here and what it has to do with this post is a mystery!

This post is actually about orchids; something this old ‘Boffer’ takes great delight in without pretending to know much about them. They are, just like we humans, complex and amazing in their variety; dependent upon ‘substances'; many are scroungers who sponge off others; charming deceivers well able to propagate across ‘races’ and decidedly promiscuous!

I could go on about the 26,000 odd naturally occurring species; the fact that if David Attenborough had bothered to look around when he was ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ he would have seen teeming orchids being trampled underfoot – they have been around doing their thing for a very long time. Here in Turkey there are some 150+ species – European varieties as opposed to the more exotic tropical sorts. Some might think them drab and insignificant, or not see them at all and pass them by with no more thought than the dinosaurs – they would be missing so much!

I started to ‘hunt’ orchids around Okçular about seven or eight years ago and there is hardly a season that goes by that I do not ‘discover’ new species – not new to science, just new to me. So far I’ve spotted and photographed 36 different species – a remarkable number – this year has seen two more added, one of them (Ophrys homeri) very rare here in Turkey with (as far as I can discover) only two other sightings.

Ophrys homeri – Homer’s Orchid

Often lumped together as ‘Bee Orchids’, Ophrys are mistresses of deception that entice male insects with sexy good looks or exotic scents that drive these silly males into a frenzy of sexual desire – a case of ‘Wham-bam thank you Sam!’ (I just knew I’d find a link between smutty oiks; Shakespeare, bees and orchids)

Ophrys sicula

a Tongue Orchid – Serapias politisii first spotted last year – this photo taken a few days ago just over the garden wall

ophrys mamosa005_1

Ophrys mamosa

For those of you who are getting bored with orchids, my bug-crazy, 13 year-old grandson arrives next week. We are going to be attempting to collect the dried-up skins of dragonfly nymphs of a very rare species of damselfly for researchers in Holland, so I’ll be boring you with that next! Oh! Wish us luck.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Where The Bee Sucks . .

Absolutely Fabulous!

hobbit menu‘Hobbits!’ I thought as J and I tucked into our second breakfast of the morning – Hobbits, you see, have second everything and breakfast at our hotel was now being followed a couple of hours later by a veritable feast. We were being hosted by a couple of ranking bureaucrats (no names to protect the guilty) who were taking the opportunity to bunk off on the pretext of a public relations junket with ‘important’ visitors from Okçular.

The object of the exercise had been for J and I to spend the day exploring and wandering about in parts of the fabulous Yenice National Park up here in Karabük. I say ‘had been’ because, as sometimes happens here, ‘mission creep’ blunders on to the scene and takes over. As it happens this creeping mission turned into the most wonderful of experiences.


Orman 1 leads off

Our pair of hookey-playing bureaucrats had brought with them a couple of Orman (Forest Ministry) 4x4s and the renowned chief forester of this world-class chunk of mountainous forest who would be our guide! J and I were each presented with a copy of the excellent official guide book and maps, which we reciprocated with the Okçular book, and then off we set.

Yenice Book and Map

Yenice is a vast, mixed forest set in a land of towering mountains and precipitous canyons. There are rivers and plateaux, scattered villages and upland meadows, ponds and meres. Access roads to the lower villages are reasonable but once above these you are in the land of the 4×4, ‘Shanks’ Pony’, real ponies or even buffalo!

Rhododendrons drip down the mountainsides at this time of year adding bright splashes of colour to the forty-shades-of-green of the trees.

Ahmet Elbir – Chief Forester and passionate defender of Yenice

Ahmet Elbir, our passionate forester and guide, stopped at various places along the road and led us through trackless forest to places that looked out over stunning views and dizzying drops. It didn’t take me long to find my first orchid of the trip.

unknown orchid 1

as yet unknown orchid

We stopped for a coffee at a newly refurbished traditional wooden house that is being converted to a lodge for walkers and cyclists. Albergo Butik Otel will be open for guests in about a month and I can tell you that J and I will be back sometime soon – they don’t have a website up yet but you can get info at Yenice kaymakam’s site.

guest house bathroom

always a good idea to check the bathroom!

Back on the track the 4x4s were soon demonstrating why they are essential tools for the guardians of this forest. There is so much water flowing that many parts of the route are a mud bath – in fact, such is the terrain that much of the logging that is done relies on teams of buffalo to get the timber out.

buffalo logging2

We slithered, bounced and ground our way upwards until, around a bend in the track, a great, area of upland meadow opened up to us. Cows and sheep grazed and kangal dogs kept watch against bears (which some of the party had spotted lower down), lynx, wolves and human intruders. We debussed and wandered a short distance to the temporary homestead of a herding family who, forewarned, were to be our hosts.

shepherds house

Greeted like long-lost cousins we were soon tucking into warm, fresh-baked bread, home-made cheese, salad, ayran, chilled spring water and lashings of tea.

 our hosts

J with our generous hosts


lashings of ginger beer!

A great platter of fresh woodland fungi was produced with the promise that this would be cooked up and served with more fresh bread after we returned from our hiking/wandering.

fungi feast

WOW man! – then say it backwards WOW!

Hiking up the gentle slope I was soon distracted and side-tracked by swathes of orchids and violets, a species of arum and a number of other plants that will have to wait until I get home to my reference books for identification. Such is the geography of this vast forest that  micro-climates and various eco-systems abound – the diversity is mind-boggling!


unknown Arum

unknown orchid 2

another unknown orchid (as yet)



strange flower

the seed pods of the hellibore


Muscari – and there was so much more

Back at our host’s encampment we were soon tucking into a mound of succulent fungi, fresh bread and tea. We were joined by the matriarch of the family and a splendid time was  spent with much chat, laughter and hugging that is such an endearing quality of Turkish country folk.

our sponsors

truants, forester, shepherd hosts and a tourist (serious faces aside we had a great time)

Later, as we slid and bounced our way back down to the less civilised civilised world, J and I were left with the warm glow of gentle kindness, our cameras full of reminders of sights and things.

wild ride

it was a wild ride back down – this was the view through my eyes as well!

It has been one of the most absolutely fabulous days ever and we have our two truant bureaucrats, our celebrated chief forester, their drivers and a generous family of mountain shepherds to thank for the experience – Oh! and Toprakana – Mother Earth, of course!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps to those who had trouble with the photos I can only say that Windows is the most useless OS I’ve ever had to deal with – roll on getting back to Ubuntu!

Absolutely Fabulous!

A Rose By Any Other Name . .

Last week I was rambling on about wandering over the mountains and getting overly excited about a huge stick of ‘asparagus‘ that I’d discovered. In my sweaty, fevered state I’d convinced myself that it must be the biggest tongue orchid anyone had ever seen and vowed to return this week to check it out once it had flowered.

Two things came to mind this morning; well, three actually: 1 – I should check my reference stuff more thoroughly; 2 – I should keep my mouth shut until I know what I’m talking about (a point J makes often); 3 – J can be a hard taskmaster in an ‘Onwards and Upwards’ sort of way.

We’d determined to revisit the site on the very steep mountainside by approaching from a different direction. We knew there were no tracks and that footing would be precarious in places – the best we could hope for was a lot of sweat and a goat track to guide us. It proved to be a heart-pounding climb – even J suggested a couple of rests.

On the way we were looking out for other interesting stuff and here are a few photos to break the monotony!

Orabanche aegyptiaca – Egyptian Broomrape (totally parasitic has no chlorophyll)

Gladiolus italicus – Field Gladiolus

Phlomis fruticosa – Jerusalem Sage

Arriving at the site of the ‘asparagus’ I knew right away that keeping ‘schtum’ and checking references (engaging brain before opening mouth) is a good mantra for there were indeed a few that were open including the one in the photo above.

What we have here ladies and gentlemen is Limodorum arbortivum - the Violet Limodore or the Violet Bird’s Nest Orchid (for some obscure reason). This orchid is interesting in that it has no leaves, lives off decaying matter and is totally dependant upon, but not parasitic of, fungi of the Russulaceae family. It produces the largest seeds of any of the European orchids and the seedlings are very slow to develop staying below ground for 8-10 years before flowering! It is also fairly common and very widespread.

So, an interesting but disappointing find, especially considering the physical effort needed to get to it? Not at all, because there is a twist in the tail (or tale) – as you can clearly see from the photo it is anything but ‘violet’. We have violet near the house and in other places around the area – these specimens are pink. That means that what we have here is a variation or sub-species named Limodorum arbotivum var. rubrum which was only confirmed in 1997 and is spread very thinly on the ground only recorded at 20 other sites in Turkey.

Now ask me if it was worth the blood, sweat and creaking joints . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

A Rose By Any Other Name . .

Burası Türkiye! This Is Turkey!

Look at this photograph – it was taken just two weeks ago. The track outside our garden was flowing like a river from the torrential rain and hailstones were piled up in various corners. The sky was drab and gray – we were drab and gray and spent much of our time camped around the fire with a good book and an even better single malt. Life was almost miserable!

Compare and contrast – today J and I went for a gentle wander along the lanes and goat tracks around our house to see what was to be seen. The morning was clean and fresh and bright – no clouds, no rain, no grey and no single malt (can’t have you thinking I’m one of those mindless, eternal optimists can I?).

Anyway, the Giant Orchids – Barlia robertiana have been around for a week or so and they are the heralds for the rest of orchidkind around here.

Over the next few months there will be a succession of different species and I live in hopes of discovering yet more to add to the twenty seven I’ve recorded so far. Let me tell you though, it isn’t as easy as you might think.

how is anyone supposed to find anything in this clutter?

‘Why not?’ I hear you ask. Because the place is so untidy – everywhere you look is covered in anemones and asphodels and gagea and buttercups and daisies and sand crocus and . . and . . and . . even the beautiful little Fritillaria carica ssp carica is getting in the way a couple of weeks before it is supposed to!

Despite the clutter we did spot these:

Sombre Orchid – Ophrys fusca

Ophrys bremifera

Yellow Ophrys - Ophrys sicula (prev lutea)

Burası Türkiye! This is Turkey! Ain’t it great!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Burası Türkiye! This Is Turkey!

Testing – Testing

This post is by way of a try-out for a slide show – so maybe you’ll see it, and maybe you won’t. Maybe it’ll be here later and maybe it will have been kicked into touch! Maybe it’ll be something different from the usual waffle – and maybe it won’t!

If it works, here are just some of the beautiful ‘Orchids of Okçular’ – if it doesn’t work then here are not some of the beautiful ‘Orchids of Okçular’!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Testing – Testing

Back Roads and Tracks – to Ulu Dağ and İznik

Taking the less used pathway from A to B; getting out of the car and venturing into the unknown usually brings rewards far beyond the anxiety of arriving on time or the risk of wondering exactly where you are. There is only one road to Ulu Dağ, so it doesn’t really count as a back road; getting out of the car and wandering off along animal tracks into the forest does.

Some Snail!

In a similar spirit, J and I went many miles out of our way to take a back road on our journey from Bursa to İznik. I don’t know if wild flowers and wild snails turn you on, but they certainly do me! The forests of Ulu Dağ are splendid, in direct contrast to the ghastly ski resort at the top. If this is Turkey’s premier ski resort it is a bloody disgrace! Getting off the road led to the discovery of thousands of Fritillaria pontica, three different crocus, scilla, great swathes of Muscari latifolium and a number of, as yet, unidentified flowers along with one of the finest snails it has been my privilege to meet!

'you forriners is a rum old lot!'

Turning off on to a back road to İznik we drove through countryside festooned with wild dog rose; met an old man, his son and grandson who farm pears and peppers. The old fellow was amazed that I wanted to photograph ‘weeds’ and told his son that foreigners were very odd (or words to that effect). Stopping to find a bush for a pee, led to the discovery of beautiful clumps of Iris germanicus and a solitary Orchis lactea.

Fritillaria pontica




white violets
blue violets
unidentified - yet
yellow crocus
white crocus


Muscari latifolium


Orchis lactea



Enough, already!

Alan Fenn, İznik

Back Roads and Tracks – to Ulu Dağ and İznik

“Come Into The Garden, Maud(lin) – tra-la-la!”

Toprakana - Mother Earth
Toprakana - Mother Earth

Good old ‘Toprakana’ (Mother Earth); she knows when to put on a show to cheer up her supporters. Faced with the destruction being wrought by Dalyan Belediye on one side of our house, she has raised the proverbial ‘two-fingered salute’ by scattering a small selection of her finest works on the bit of hillside we call our back garden.

Here’s a few of her offerings to ‘warm the cockles of your heart!’ No more being maudlin!

Funny sort of word, ‘maudlin’ – meaning sad and tearful it’s derived from old English from Mary Magdelene, sad and weeping at the tomb of Jesus. Magdelene College, Oxford is pronounced ‘Maudlin’ – not many people know that!



Giant Orchid – Himantoglossum robertianum (formerly Barlia robertiana)

This beauty is not uncommon but is rather ‘picky’ where it lives – grows in profusion around the mountains and valleys of Okçular.

Wild Peach - Prunus persicum

Wild peach is easy to distinguish from Almond blossom by the deeper pink of the petals.

Woodcock Orchid - Ophrys scolapax

Woodcock Orchids are incredibly ‘promiscuous’ and appear in many guises.

Friar's or Monk's Cowl - Arisarum vulgari

Monk’s Cowl is a member of the Arum family and a plant of shady, damper spots.

Laurustinus or Viburnum tinus

This beautiful shrub is a veritable ‘honey-pot’ of a plant, attracting many insects.

Liquid Amber or Frankincense Tree - Liquidamber orientalis

The Liquid Amber or Frankincense Tree is a remarkable tree with remarkable properties, to learn more, click the link. It is endemic to SW Turkey and grows around Okçular and my garden. This picture shows the two red, drooping female flowers and the fine, upstanding male in the middle (seems pretty normal to me!).

Fritillaria carica ssp carica

These delicate Fritillaria are a joy to see; together with F. acmopetala, F. sibthorpiana and F. whittalii they make the family that I know around here.

Fritillaria carica ssp carica

. . and to finish, a simple, beautiful daisy.

Southern Daisy - Bellis sylvestris

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

“Come Into The Garden, Maud(lin) – tra-la-la!”

A Natural Antidote To Depression

Anemone coronaria red
Anemone coronaria

There’s no denying that at a personal level, the past two weeks have been bloody awful. J and I chose to live where we do for the beauty and semi-solitude of the location – discovering the bio-diversity and our delightful neighbours has been a real bonus. However, the last few months have seemed like Armageddon with great machines hacking away at our corner of paradise.

First it was Kara Göl or Black Lake, a seasonal area of shallow water just below our house that has been home to some very rare species of damselflies and dragonflies as well as a huge variety of more common fauna. There has been an attempt to drain this last vestige of a once mighty flood plain – I say ‘attempt’ because it looks as though it might have failed to achieve the purpose – I live in hope! In the process the machine ripped down mature trees and long established areas of undergrowth that were home to so much; what is left looks like the Somme on a bad hair day! The fact that the Somme lived to fight another day (and World War) gives me hope that Black Lake might do the same.

Cyclamen alpinum
Cyclamen alpinum

Then came a real body blow; having played a part in the villagers’ fight to stop Kocadere Valley from being turned into a quarry and cement works, we now have the nightmare of an army of great machines and trucks ripping the forest and mountainside to pieces 200 metres from our house! The ‘authorities’ are widening the death trap that constitutes the main road from Dalyan to Ortaca in a bid to weed out more of the stupid, macho prats who endeavour to kill themselves and others with their excessive speed!

J is far more pragmatic than me; pointing out how quickly stuff grows and the fact that we have been promised a ‘nature park’ to replace the real nature park that is now becoming a quarry! I take these things far more personally, having never got passed the infantile feeling that ‘I’m being picked on’ and consequently get ‘down in the dumps’ very quickly over such affronts. I know there’s no point, that it doesn’t make anything better or different, but pasting on a rather unconvincing smile doesn’t make the feeling go away either. Pathetic, really!

Gagea villosa
Gagea villosa


Today, J dragged me out for a walk to the ‘kale’ (castle) at the other end of the small tepe or hill where we live. The kale is what remains of a Neolithic fort that nobody else seems bothered about, so it is a perfect place to survey our ‘kingdom’ and take stock of life in general and the beauty of our surroundings (as long as I don’t look ‘over there’). The walk is not far and the track is littered with nature’s gemstones – flowers are everywhere!

Those who know me will remember my love of orchids and today ‘Toprakana’, Mother Earth, offered up a gift to lift my depressive state of mind. There, not 50 metres from our house were several dozen of the beautiful and very delicate Ophrys fusca the Sombre Bee Orchid. Thank you, Earth Goddess! Thank you!

Instead of pictures of destruction, here are pictures of life!


Ophrys fusca - Sombre Bee Orchid
Ophrys fusca - Sombre Bee Orchid




















Ophrys fusca - Sombre Bee Orchid

Ophrys fusca – Sombre Bee Orchid



Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

A Natural Antidote To Depression