Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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A naturalist's notes

Kyrgyzstan - Land of the Tien ShanThe flora of Kyrgyzstan is rich and varied due to the geographical location of the country. The habitats of many different plant species overlap here, and it is quite possible to find Mediterranean wild vines growing alongside the Adonis from the Himalayas and other plants of Turanian and Indo - Himalayan groups. There are about 500,000 species of plants in the world and about 3,500 of them grow in Kyrgyzstan. Endemic wild plants are found in Kyrgyzstan. Central Asian flora evolved mainly from the tertiary (palaearctic) flora and includes walnut, barberry, rose, maple, currant, apple tree, pear tree, juniper, fir and others.

Arslanbob, the world largest natural nuciferous forest, is a source of particular pride to the Kyrgyz. Pears, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, peaches and other plants grow in this unique forest. The walnut tree is especially valued. It derives from the Juglandaceae family. "Juglans" is formed from the Latin words Juvis and clans, and means "Jupiter's acorn". The common long-held belief is that it was introduced to Europe and Russia from Greece, supposedly its native habitat. In fact the walnut tree originates from Southern Kyrgyzstan and was brought to Greece during the campaigns of Alexander the Great. The biochemical structure divides the walnut into two groups: high-oil walnuts, which contain 70% oil, and high-protein walnuts, which are recommended for diabetic patients. The walnuts also have a high iodine concentration. The pistachio tree is also very valuable. Its fruits are nutritious and healing, and pistachio dyes used in dyeing fabrics derive from its galls or gum accumulations.

Kyrgyzstan is rich in herbs. During the Soviet period Kyrgyzstan was the main supplier of certain raw materials for the medical industry. One such was ephedra (up to 90-93% came from here), known to locals as chekende. Ephedra grows to a large bush and is at home not only on the desert plains, but also on the mountain slopes, preferring stony soil. In the autumn it is covered with orange cones and resembles the decorated fir-tree. Ephedra is the raw material for ephedrine, a very valuable medicine. Annually 1000 tons of Ephedra are stored in the republic.

Kyrgyzstan is the land of origin of the tulip. Holland is commonly known as the tulip state but the original tulip state is in fact Kyrgyzstan. There are eighty types of tulip in the world, seventy of which are grown in Central Asia. Twenty-two types of tulips can be found in Kyrgyzstan, eight of which are very rare.

TulipKolpakovskiy's tulip. This plant with small yellow flowers can be found on the damp moss-grown mountain slopes. The very early flower is sometimes white. They say that human happiness is hidden in these flowers.

Grage's tulip is the king of the tulip. It has the largest flower and spotted leaves. Over 500 new ornamental types of tulip are cultivated from this plant.

One could assume that Juniper is the national tree of Kyrgyzstan. It is always being glorified in poems and folk literature, for its quality of unique sustainability. Juniper is often likened to fearless powerful heroes or wise old greybeards or beautiful slender girls. Indeed, Juniper has many aspects.

The Juniper growing in open sunny places and rich soil is branchy and powerful. Its lower branches touch the ground and the thick crown-like foliage lines the great conic trunk. These resemble strong heroes. The trees growing at the bottom of a gorge or under rocks have a pyramidal cypress-like form and resemble young girls. The trees that grow on mountain slopes have elfin-like forms with crooked serpentine trunks. Those with a real interest in flora who want to discover more should travel to Kyrgyzstan. Here you can really appreciate the wonder of nature, and admire and enjoy its extraordinary masterpieces.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #5

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