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In Search of Phlomis Species in Southern Turkey

Text and photographs by Olivier Filippi

For an article describing the trip illustrated by these photos, see The Mediterranean Garden No. 40, April 2005

No fewer than 25 species of Phlomis are found in Turkey, as well as about ten natural hybrids. The country is quite simply a paradise for Phlomis lovers! We are getting more and more fond of this genus because of its ease of cultivation in widely varying soil conditions. Here we see Phlomis grandiflora growing beneath a cedar. This little-known species is interesting for its height (up to 3m) and its excellent resistance to cold.

One of the rarest species, Phlomis chimerae, which as its name indicates grows around the site of Chimera. This is why botanic explorations in autumn are exciting: the plants are covered with seeds, all you have to do is bend down to collect them!

A grasshopper on Phlomis lunariifolia. This species grows at an altitude of between 500 and 1000 metres in the valleys above Alanya.

Phlomis leucophracta, its magnificent undulating leaves bordered by a broad band of white or yellow, depending on the clone. It grows with Phlomis lunariifolia above Alanya.

Phlomis lycia, with its curious golden foliage, growing among the ruins of Arycanda. This is the most common Phlomis in South-West Turkey. Its leaves change colour as the season advances: green in winter and covered in golden hairs in summer for better protection from the heat.

Perhaps the most beautiful of all: Phlomis bourgaei, whose very large undulating leaves are gold to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the clone. It grows in the mountains north-west of Antalaya.

Pistacia terebinthus and several species of Phlomis have colonised the necropolis of Termessos, destroyed by earthquakes. We spend a long afternoon exploring the necropolis, searching for natural Phlomis hybrids.

And here's the first hybrid! Phlomis x termessii was discovered and described for the first time in 1951 at Termessos by P. Davis, the author of the Flora of Turkey. Leaf specimens collected for our herbarium: on the right P. x termesii, and on the left its two parents, P. lycia above and P. bourgaei below.

Another hybrid, found near Mugla: above on the left P. grandiflora, on the right P. bourgaei, and below their hybrid P. x mobullensis.

Another hybrid, found further east this time, near Alanya. Phlomis x alanyense (below in the photo), with its two parents: above it P. leucophracta and to the right P. lunariifolia.

As well as all the woody Phlomis, there is a group of herbaceous Phlomis with many species in Turkey. On the site of Termessos alone, we collected Phlomis nissolii, with broad, downy white leaves, Phlomis armeniaca, with narrow green velvety leaves, and Phlomis samia which grows beneath oaks and Ostrya carpinifolia. (The photo opposite was taken in our garden during the month of May).

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