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by Vladimir SHATKO, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), senior researcher, N. V. Tsitsin Botanical Gardens, Russian Academy of Sciences; Liudmila MIRONOVA, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), senior researcher, Karadag Nature Preserve, National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine
The eastern part of the Crimea, the legendary Cimmeria where mountain ranges of the Caucasus and the Balkans rub shoulders, is a wonderful land.
Here, at the boundary of land and sea, mounts and dales, forests and steppes, rises a spectacular natural wonderwork, the ancient volcano Karadag.
A mere dot on the map of the Crimean Peninsula, Karadag ushers us into a magic world of lush forests and variegated plains, all that against a backdrop of the blue with cliffs and coves...
Whatever vade-mecum over the Crimea you take, the Number One sight shall always be Karadag. Everything is without peer there-from fantastic landscapes, fabulous mineral wealth and plant and animal kingdoms to the microclimate and monuments of history and culture. We don't think you can find any place on earth where an area of a little more than 20 sq. km could boast of such riches. This site, for one, has the only active volcano, Karadag, if we take a large territory in and around the Russian Plain in Eastern Europe - a volcano dating from the Jurassic period. Its multiple craters have blown up time and again. Originally these craters were under water, but then the volcano's ejectamenta combined in giving rise to an island shaken by so many eruptions. All that went on for millions and millions of years. The Karadag landscapes enable us to "read" the chronicle of our planet over 150 mln years, with sheets of lava, dykes, volcanic bombs, crevices, and the remains of several craters from which the hot lava gushed out onto the surface. Karadag has even a magnetic anomaly of its own, hence a mountain range dubbed Magnitny, which means "magnetic".
The cumulative effects of wind, rain, heat and cold finished the job begun by underground forces to make Karadag what it looks like today. At any rate, the volcano has
seen little, if any, change in these past fifty million years. "Perhaps both the Genoese and the Scythians could feast their eyes on what we can see now," wrote Vsevolod Zen-kovich, Doctor of Geography and a well-known explorer of the Black Sea shores. "Who knows, may be Odysseus might have seen the Golden Gate, the Ivan-the- Robber or Lion cliffs which he could take for the petrified fellows of the Cyclops Polyphemus..." As many as 100 minerals and more have been discovered here, including semiprecious stones, such as agate, cambay stone, opal, bloodstone (heliotrope), jasper or rock crystal. All in all, Karadag accounts for half of the Crimea's mineral wealth in the number of different varieties found here.
But the plant kingdom is even more varied, with as many as 1,200 flowering species*, over 450 algal species, nearly 100 mosses and just as many lichen species.
The geographical location of the eastern Crimea has determined a specific climate, a transitional one from the Mediterranean to the temporate zone, which has affected the natural setting: sylvan species are found side by side with the steppeland flora, Mediterranean plants grow alongside boreal (northern) varieties, and mountain species occur next to denizens of the plains.
Considering the uniqueness of this part of the Crimea, a government decision of 1979 granted a nature preserve status to Karadag. Today it is in care of the National Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine.
In fact, the struggle for such kind of status began back in the early 20th century when, in 1905, a "scientific colony" pitched camp at the
* The Crimea's flora numbers about 2,500 species, which means that Karadag has concentrated nearly half of the floristic wealth of the peninsula; but the area of the ancient volcano is under 1 percent of the Crimea's. - Auth.
foot of Mount Karadag. Dr. Terenti Vyazemsky, a Moscow University lecturer, set up a biological research station for studying the singular plant kingdom of Karadag. Research laboratories were built, along with an aquarium and a museum open to guests. A small nice park was laid out. Dr. Vyazemsky lent a hand in collecting a rich library of 40,000 volumes, with quite rare books in its stock. Many eminent scientists worked at the Karadag - based biostation, among them such prominent geologists of the first half of the 20th century as A. Fersman and A. Pavlov.
The "green crown" of the ancient volcano appears to have been created by Mother Nature herself just to show the Crimean flora in all its original wealth. It has over 200 rare, disappearing and endemic plant species, with about 100 entered in Red Data Books. Some plants are truly unique! These are the local Karadag endemics, that is plants that do not occur elsewhere, about ten in number.
One is the Koktebel tulip (Tulipa koktebelica Junge). This isn't a large flowering plant, a mere 10 to 15 cm tall, with two leaves twisted into a crescent shape and creeping on the ground. Unlike other flowers, it blossoms out very early in spring, late in March or early in April. It is certainly a standout in its exquisite form and hues. The Koktebel tulip has lilac-colored petals with a greenish vein in the middle; inside they are snow-white with a yellow spot in the center. One single plant may shoot forth as many as 5 blossoms, quite a nosegay! What a pity plant-breeders still bypass this wonderful flower, an excellent specimen for studying multiflowered varieties out in blossom at a very early time; such plants are precious for gardeners involved with town beautifica-
tion, especially in southern latitudes.
The Junge eremerus (Eremerus jungei Juz.), a desertland species, occurs only on rocky slopes near the top of Mount Syuryu-Kai. This perennial plant of the Lilium family is of man's height; it has a rosette of linear bottom leaves and a thick cluster of yellow flowers tinged with gray and perched on meter-tall stalks. It is named for Alexander Junge (1872 - 1921) who, residing at Koktebel, studied the flora of the eastern Crimea.
Anthemis (camomile) - named after Vladimir Transchel (1868-1942), a Russian mycologist involved with botany (he collected a rich herbarium that included Karadag species as well)-looks like a common camomile, though smaller in size, with needle- like dove-colored leaves. Its full name in Latin is Anthemis tranzscheliana An. Fed. This flower occurs only on volcanic rock and never spreads to the nearby chalkstone mountain ridges. It is a fetching white bloom against the background of dark volcanic rock. In May, at the height of the blooming season, this anthemis blends nicely with the yellow camomile (Alyssum tortuosum) and the blue speedwell ( Veronica multifida).
The endemic hawthorn ( Crataegus pojarkovae Kossych) was discovered in the 1970s by Valentina Kossych, a botanist; it has been named for Antonina Poyarkova, a botanist from St. Petersburg, who had been studying hawthorns over many years. It is a low solid tree with bluish-gray leaves and pear-like yellow berries. Unlike the other hawthorns, this one is out in blossom rather late in spring, its seeds sprout poorly (only 50 percent come up). Distinguished for very big berries, the Karadag
hawthorn has good selection prospects.
Botanists who have studied other Karadag plant species still do not agree on their taxonomy. But all of them differ from plants growing elsewhere in the Crimea. Thus, in 1956 Mikhail Kotov made a description of the endemic peony growing on stone (Paeonia lithophilaKotov), it is much unlike the common narrow-leaved peonies ( P.tenuifolia) and smaller in size. One of the local wonders, the motley scutum - flower (Scutellaria hererochroa Juz.) of the Labiatae family and related to the oriental scutum-flower (S.orientalis), runs a rich gamut of colors.
Yet another local wonder, the chephalaria (Cephalaria demetrii) of the Dipsacaceae family, grows only on limestone rock. This plant is remarkable for nice lyre-like leaves and yellow baskets of inflorescences carried on the many long stalks.
The Karadag cornflower (Centaurea sarandinakiae Шаг.), detected in the 1960s, occurs on volcanic rock and hillside wastes. Its low blue-greenish cleft leaves are adorned with purple blossoms. This species is named after Vera Sarandinaki (1878 - 1963), an ardent explorer of Karadag's plant kingdom.
Our relict forest species are represented by the tall juniper (Juniperus excela) and the pistachio ( Pistacia mutica) in between two cliffs dubbed Korol ("King") and Koroleva ("Queen"). Here we find the endemic vetch (Vicia ervilia), a nondescript leguminous plant with fine white-and- blue blooms - it occurs on the Karagach mountain range only.
The Crimean peony (Paeonia daurica Andr.), with its lush pink flowers, is the pride of oak groves in May. The Tatars call it ayu-gyul, or
the "bear's rose". Its profuse growth spreads over large expanses. This is a protected species now-because hardly anyone would resist the temptation of plucking its blooms for a bouquet.
A very rare tulip population is found not far from the Southern Pass, next to the cliff Sphinx. This is Tulipa schrenkii, which is distinguished for elegant blooms in a variety of shades and hues, from yellow to black. It became the world's first cultivated tulip species. Back in the 16th century the Turks took it out from the environs of Kafa (Feodosia). Subsequently known by the name of Turkish flowers, the tulips made their way into Europe and elsewhere all over the world. Quite close by, on the edge of the precipice, you get into a thicket of the creeping carpet plant Cerastium biebersteinii, whose white silvery blossoms indeed weave a carpet during the flowering season in May. It has another name to it, the "Crimean edelweiss". A good botanist will certainly notice another creeping plant, the rare Silene syreistschikowii, of the pink family. Its plain whitish flowers are part of the late spring decor. Otherwise it is quite obscure amongst the plant cover of mountain rock.
Svyataya ("Saint"), the highest mountain of Karadag, has many endemics in the forests that mantle its slopes. One is the Nectaroscordum meliophilum, up to 1.5 m in height during the flowering season. Rosettes of its onion-shaped leaves give off the same odor as onion (both belong to the same family). Its flowers sitting on tall stalks are made up of many roseate harebells with white veins. The Karadag nectaroscordum has a fancy look about it, especially if lit up by the sun in the dusk of the forest.
The northern and northwestern parts of the Karadag preserve are a kingdom of white chalkstone cliffs and intermontane valleys blanketed with dense forests. It is also a land of hills cut across by deep gullies and ravines. The canopy of oaks, hornbeams, ashes and limes harbors a wealth of orchids, including the Cephalanthera damasonium with its large white flowers and the purple orchis ( Orchis purpurea), the largest of the species in the Crimea. Early in the summer you may chance upon a most unusual orchid, the Limodorum abortivum, with nearly all of it, save a half-meter inflorescence of violet flowers (similar sowehat to gladioli), buried in the soil. It is these funnel-shaped and showy flowers that betray its presence. Walking along forest edges or on glades you may hit upon the Orchispunctulata with its yellow-brown blossoms gathered in lush clusters, and the Himantoglossum caprinum, which is a very rare species indeed. Its large motley flowers tinged with olive, purple or brown are cleft toward the end. Don't forget that the Crimean orchids are under special protection and entered in the Red Data Books of the Ukraine and most European countries.
The treeless steep slopes of Mount Legener (a solid tract of limestone!) look as if they had no vegetation at all. And yet it is the home of such "stone-loving" (lithophilic) species as the Crimean "slumber-grass" Pulsatilla taurica, with the big violet bells of fluffy silvery blooms, out in March; the Sideritis taurica, all gray with soft white-blue fluff; and the endemic flax Linum pallas-ianum - a low perennial plant with so many large yellow blossoms quite distinct against white cliffs. All these species do not occur outside the Crimea. A remarkable sage species, Salvia scabiosifolia, grows on less
steep slopes of chalkstone; this is a short semifrutex about 50 to 70 cm tall. Its leaves do not resemble those of any other sage plant, and do not smell of sage, too. The flowers are quite large and ornate. This peculiar variety of sage occurs only in the eastern part of the Crimea and in the Balkans.
A tall perennial of the leguminous family, the Onobrychis pallasi, is found in foothills overgrown with sparse oak-trees and dogrose bushes. It usually grows to 1.5 m in height. Its nice white flowers with a shade of cream decorate the foothills in June. This plant is entered in the Red Data Books of Europe, Ukraine and the Crimea.
Strolling along the seashore at the foot of Karadag, we can size up this ancient volcano in all its might and majestic beauty, and its 300-meter cliff-hangers over the shoreline. Here and there you tread talus and detrital deposits along the narrow strip of beaches. The large pebbles of the shore are the habitat of the yellow sea poppy (Glaucium flavum) showing off a rosette of bluish leaves and oversize glamorous flowers, yellow in hue. Next to it grows the sea kale Crambe maritima with cabbage-like leaves and caps of small and white and fragrant flowers.
The Nitraria schoberii, a thick stone bramble up to 2 meters tall, grows at Karadag only. Its thorny branches are covered with pulpy leaves of blue and green. Its green and yellow flowers look quite homely. This bush fructifies in August and September by producing stone berries that keep until spring. The nitraria bramble bushes grow on the edge shoreline precipices and occasionally even on beaches as well; these are hardy perennials fearing neither salt nor wind nor tide. And still they have become an endanged
species due to crowds of sunbathers on beaches.
Not so long ago we discovered an umbellate perennial, the Cachrys alpina, on seashore slopes. Rising to 1 m in height, this plant displays elegant hairy leaves of deep green on long stalks. Its dark-yellow blossoms come out in May. Its berries, up to 1 cm large, show up in July-dun in hue, as if scorched by a blazing sun of the Crimea. Entered in all the various Red Data Books, this perennial grows also in the Rostov Region.
The Rindera tetraspis is a very rare species even for the Crimea. Otherwise a nondescript plant, it blossoms forth in April - its fantastic cone-shaped hairy flowers of soft blue are certainly an eye-catcher. The berries are remarkable too - 1.5 cm large, fringed with a scarlet rim.
And one of our latest finds is the queen of the Crimean orchids, Comperia comperiana. Its oval blue-gray leaves are folded into a rosette, and its black pink- and-brown blooms sit in ear-like inflorescences. Their labia extend into long threads up to 10 cm in length. For a time it was believed to be a Crimean endemic found in the Laspi valley only; but now we know it occurs in Turkey as well.
The Moscow-based N. V. Tsitsin Botanical Gardens of the Russian Academy of Sciences has been cooperating with the Karadag nature preserve since its very first days. We began by joint studies of the local flora and stock taking. Then we undertook a purposeful search for rare and disappearing species. Subsequently we staked out patches of ground, each 1 sq. m large, for regular monitoring and plant ontogeny studies. An individual number was attached to each plant within such sites. We monitored its growth, the number of leaves and blossoms in the inflores-
cence (and, with good luck, even the number of seeds). All these data were mapped and registered. Such studies conducted over nearly 20 years gave us a wealth of information on the biology of rare species. Thus for the Orchis purpurea, as we found out, this time is too short for it to reach the generative phase (from seed germination on), though the literature says twice as less time is needed for that. The Himanto-glossum caprinum population numbers several hundred, not a few plants at all, as believed hitherto. The Nectaroscordum meliophilum turn out to be a monocarp (dying as it has reached the generative growth phase), while the Anthemis tranzscheliana actually happens to be a biennial.
Plant repatriation experiments were the next stage of our work. In 1986 we transplanted the Cyclamen kuznetzovii from its only habitat in the Crimea. We planted thirty tubers and watched further developments. The number of cyclamens did not increase during the first few years; then it came to self-sown plants and last, the cyclamen spread as far as 5.5 meters beyond the assigned patch since ants carried its seeds about. The overall population went up fivefold in 15 years, and its habitation area expanded.
We are working on several other putative transplants, all of them of rare occurrence in the Crimea and growing next door to Karadag. Monitoring of rare species cenoses is another line of our research.
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