Until May 17 we were locked down and on May 18 I was out there. No matter what, I shouldn’t miss this May. So, the idea started to see the Iris gatesii on the Helkis Mountain, Sason.

This May was a little explosive for me. Last May was missed due to Covid, this May I tried everything to explore the wild fields for some plants.

Until May 17 we were locked down and on May 18 I was out there. No matter what, I shouldn’t miss this May. So, the idea started to see the Iris gatesii on the Helkis Mountain, Sason. This was supposed to be perfect timing to see such beauty after climbing up about a thousand meters on high slope hills. But before reaching this land there were so many to see. 

I was accompanied by my sister, Başak, who knows quite much of this wild land and Ramazan from the Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanic Garden. As usual, the main idea of this trip was sketching some of the Irises. You may know that I am after these wild beauties and trying to sketch a couple of species each year. While I was looking for the best specimen to work on, Ramazan was collecting some others for the living collection at NGBB and some as the herbarium materials which will hopefully serve science for many years.

We started from Trabzon and our first stop over was at Kop Mountains to look for Fritillaria alburyana, the first beauty on our way and first species was sketched when we arrived at the hotel at Erzurum. Then the next day, the plan was actually going all the way to the Sason, passing by the Palandöken Mountains. Fritillaria kurdica and some other big groups of Fritillaria alburya have been spotted around the last snow patches, and many other species as well. Seeing Tchihatchewia isatidea on the way was a happy surprise. So after this moment, while happily driving to the Sason a cow decided to jump on the road and I really had to break hard to not to hit it. Just at this moment we stopped, while my legs were still shaking, we noticed the side of the road was Iris sari field. All blooming and they were just perfect. Iris sari was not on my list on this trip, but there was nothing I could do to not take it. So the plan changed and we drove to the closest point, Muş, to stay at night so that I could prepare some sketches of this beauty. Then the day after, we went to Sason directly, the main stop to look for magnificent Iris gatesii on its own land, Helkis Mountain. We failed. After climbing to 1800 meters, there were none in flower. The land didn’t get any snow last year, so the season was incredibly early, and this means I should be back here in the following year too. I still haven’t seen Iris gatesii, yet! With a little broken heart, we drove all the way to the Van in the same day. 

Van is another story itself. In any near location you choose to go, there is an iris species to find. So the rest of the trip, four nights, we stayed in a hotel at Edremit, Van. And these days, we have found Iris urmiensis, flowering relatively early and Iris paradoxa, on our way to Başkale. After a full day just sketching these species in the hotel, another full day is spared for Bahçesaray only, where you could see numerous bulbous plants if you are here on the right time and yes! We were! Iris caucasica was also sketched but I am not sure if those sketches are going to be enough to complete a full plate. I will see this a bit later in the year. Apart from the irises, we were surrounded by Tulipa humilis, various forms of Fritillaria kurdica, F. minima and F. minuta, Puschkinia scilloides and P. bilgenerii and wonderful Colchicum kurdicum. All the way up to this land we were surrounded by Onobrychis cornuta. This land really can be a story for pages by just itself. One and only species I couldn’t see on this trip was the Iris barnumiae. This species was collected and brought to me by Başak and Ramazan while I was drawing and painting the specimens I had. 

After one final sunset just next to the lake Van, a long journey has started again to go back home with all the knowledge and memories we had. To not to forget these memories, I have prepared this video, Eastern Trio. All the scenes are in chronological order for me to follow myself and you will see all the plants I have mentioned here. I hope you enjoy it! Please enjoy : )

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