Our final stop on this year's journey was the Berlin Herbarium and Berlin Botanical Garden. The herbarium houses an excellent collection of Camelina, including many rare type specimens. Here we gained an appreciation for how our collections fit into the diversity of Camelina specimens collected by others throughout the world. In addition, we saw two species for the very first time: Camelina anomala and C. stiefelhagenii.
Jordan examines Camelina anomala for the first time. This is a very rare species of Camelina that was last collected over one hundred years ago!
C. anomala is unique among Camelina species in that it has elongated fruit pods. This trait is could potentially increase seed yields since fruits are larger, but unfortunately our efforts to collect this species from the regions where it was originally documented have thus far been fruitless. We got to see this type specimen at the Berlin Herbarium.
Another rare Camelina collection was found at the Berlin Herbarium. Camelina stiefelhagenii is an interesting plant with an even more interesting story. It was collected in a garbage dump in Dresden during 1938. The specimen came with many hand written letters and postcards detailing Stiefelhagen's findings.
The Berlin Botanical Gardens was a treat! Exhibits were based on geographies, even the Caucasus region was represented in the gardens. We found numerous Brassicaceae species dotted throughout these recreated landscapes.
Remnants of the Berlin wall with the dead-zone separating East and West Berlin.
Our final adventure in Georgia was a trip to Batumi, a town on the shores of the Black Sea. The climate in Batumi is sub-tropical and this makes the region an excellent place to grow a variety of plants. As a result, Batumi is home to a fantastic Botanical Garden with an impressive diversity of plants from around the world. We had a chance to tour the Garden with it's chief specialist, Dr. Davit Kharazishvili. In addition, we took some time at the Garden's herbarium to look through collections of Camelina. All-in-all the two days we spent in Batumi were a great way to end our exploration of Georgia.
In the center of Batumi is a statue to Medea from the famous Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Medea is holding the golden fleece. Jason is believed to have been from the region where Batumi now stands.
The Batumi Botanical Garden's park map detailing the many different geographies and regions represented.
A view from the Batumi Botanical Gardens overlooking the Black Sea.
Cleome is a common decorative garden plant belonging to the family Cleomaceae. This family is sister to Brassicaceae.
The main administrative building of the Botanical Garden. The house once belonged to a wealthy local businessman, but was seized by the Soviets following the revolution. Around 1914, the time the Garden was being erected, the government gave the building to be used by the Garden.
Dr. Davit Kharazishvili, Mark, and Jordan pose for a picture in the Garden.
Mark walks across an astonishing living bridge (Liriodendron tulipifera). The original tree fell during a wind storm, but was left because it created a bridge across the small gorge. Later the tree sprouted new shoots. Today it is one of the main attractions for visitors to the Garden.
We are on the final leg of our journey for this season. After an eight hour train trip from Yerevan, Armenia, we arrived in Tbilisi early in the morning and checked into our hotel near the old city. The next morning we met with our hosts and collaborators at the Botanical Institute. We spent the rest of a pleasant day in hot Tbilisi before heading into the field the following day in the environs of Tbilisi, including a stop at the old capitol of Mtskheta. On day 3 in Georgia, we headed out of Tbilisi for an overnight trip to Bakuriani - a mountain ski village. Along the way we stopped in Gori - home town of Stalin. The Stalin museum was fascinating! Collection localities obtained from our work in the herbarium at the Botanical Institute indicated Camelina sativa was collected from around the high alpine Lake Tabatskuri. While the view was beautiful, we were unable to find Camelina. The following day of collections was much more productive as we travelled the river valleys of the mountain region. On our last day in the field, we headed in the direction of David Gareja - a series of old monasteries near the border with Azerbaijan. The monasteries and chapels were carved out of the rock, sometimes using fire to cause the rock to expand and contract. The area is a semi-desert and Camelina was making its home in the dry, dusty environment. In short, Georgia is a beautiful country with bountiful Camelina and wonderful people. Many thanks to Dr. Shalva (Nukri) Sikharulidze, Dr. George Nakhutsrishvili, Manana (Herbarium Director), and of course our field guide and friend George Tedoradze. Good driving George!
The Botanical Institute in Tbilisi. New herbarium and administrative building is at the entrance to the Tbilisi Botanical Garden. Many thanks to Dr. Shalva (Nukri) Sikharulidze.
Jordan gets a view of Tbilisi from the castle on the hillse
First day of collections outside Tbilisi. There were five of us packed into that Lada, Niva (4x4).
At the end of the collection day we stopped at the old capitol city of Mtskheta and toured the church.
Evan proves once again that he is the most stylish of the group by adorning his noggin with some traditional mountain headwear.
In Gori, Stalin's hometown, Mark has a photo-op with the Soviet Premier.
Inside Stalin's childhood one-room home.
Jordan presses specimens collected in the dry mountains outside Borjomi.
A hawk waits in the high alpine fields surrounding Lake Tabatskuri.
Evan demonstrates his search technique for Camelina.
Jordan, Mark, George Tedoradze (our botanist guide & driver), and Evan pose at the lake.
Mark storms a castle along the Mtkvari (Kura) River and loots it of it's Camelina treasure.
Storks roosting along the roadside in rural Georgia.
The guys discuss fruit size and other characters of a collection that might be C. sativa.
On the final day of collections George, Mark, Jordan, and Evan tour one of the monasteries of David Gareja.
Camelina growing at the monastery site.
Evan climbed the hill behind the monastery to capture this view of the complex and the surrounding area.
Our last excursion in Tbilisi was a trip up the hillside in the funicular.
Our time in Armenia was filled with great food, drink, scenic churches, and abundant Camelina! We thank our gracious hosts for showing us the beauty and culture of Armenia.
We ran into the WWF as they prepared to release a 16 month old bear cub back into the wild. Can bears climb apple trees?
The gang comes across the remains of an ancient hotel. Unfortunately there were no vacancies.
Evan, always the fisherman - even when eating the fish.
Jordan and Evan strike poses in front of lake Sevan. Meanwhile, Mark is busy actually looking for Camelina (not pictured).
Jacko and Alma guard the Sevan Botanical Gardens guesthouse.
A power outage in Sisian warnt gon' stop Evan from 'a' learning about the Adventures of Huck Finn.
Some road damage on the pass to Sevan Lake.
Jordan takes a sip from one of the natural mineral springs in the mountains near Yeghegnadzor.
We share some quality time with the locals picnicking near the spring.
Holdover from the Soviet days - ice cream! It was delicious.
No trip would be complete without a little car trouble... fortunately our driver was also a skilled mechanic.
We pose with our collaborators and the trusty Mercedes van at our last collection site along Sevan Lake. Thank you Dr. George Fayvush, Alla, Rapsime, and our skilled driver for making our trip so successful!
The fruits of our labor - a full plant press.
We travelled north and south within the valley that includes Yerevan (capitol) to collect Camelina (can you spot it in the picture below?). The photo gives you an idea of how cryptic some Camelina can be when tucked among high grasses . Our travels throughout the valley included more spectacular views of Mt. Ararat and Little Ararat ( the smaller peak just to the south). In addition to the views, we gathered an appreciation for the bumpiness of the backroads of Armenia (as Evan demonstrates in the video taken in the Mercedes van that was our "home"). Our skilled driver always seemed to find some apricot trees to park under, and from which to collect apricots - the national fruit of Armenia. We gained some cultural perspective by visiting Khor Virap ("deep hole") the ancient capitol of Armenia and the site where St. Grigori was imprisoned in a hole with snakes for 13 years until he cured King Trdat I of lunacy and managed to convert the entire country to Christianity. The seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church is in Echmiadzin; it is an independent church that Armenians are fiercely proud of as they lay claim to being the first Christian country in the world. Finally, Jordan and Evan enjoyed several evenings at the main fountain in Yerevan where a water and light show occurs nightly with various genres of music.
Blogger's note: We've been out of email contact for several days while touring the hinterlands of Armenia. More blog posts forthcoming! We are now in Tbilisi.
Little Ararat (left), Ararat (right).
The church on site at Khor Virap.
The stairs into Grigori's pit!
Parked under an apricot tree.
We had our first day in the field in beautiful Armenia. Good news, Camelina is abundant! Again we mixed both cultural and natural history along the way. Highlights included making our first collections of Camelina laxa, and Evan proved once again that he is definitely the most stylish in his use of Camelina as an accessory. We made a stop along the way to visit the reconstructed Hellenic Temple at Garni - dating from 100 AD. We took a photo at the overlook near the temple with our collaborator Dr. George Fayvush (Botanical Institute of Armenia), Dr. Alla Aleksanyan, and George's student Rhipsime.
With collections in Turkey complete, the team headed to destination two: Armenia. We flew from Istanbul to Tbilisi, Georgia and then hopped the overnight train to Yerevan, Armenia. The travel itinerary takes this circuitous route to Armenia because there are no direct flights from Turkey. Diplomatic relations between the two countries are strained, and this made our trip especially long, although interesting. The journey was mostly in the dark (departing Tbilisi at 10:15 PM), but we awoke to spectacular views of Mt. Ararat. Yep, that's right, the spot where Noah landed after the flood!
After arriving Yerevan, we headed for the Botanical Institute of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences. Using the Camelina collection in the herbarium, we familiarized ourselves with morphological variation in the genus. We also had the opportunity to tour the botanical garden at the institute with one of our collaborators Dr. Alla Aleksanyan and her friend Karine Janjughatyan.
Above: Standing next to our train after arrival in Yerevan. Below: Evan and Mark relax in a 2nd class compartment.
Jordan, Alla, Karine, and Evan pose in front of the liana display in one of the glasshouses at the botanical garden.
Our day started with a history lesson. The subject: Ancient Civilizations. The historic city of Troy, as mentioned in "The Illiad", is located in Western Tureky near the Aegean Sea. The archaeological site contains ten different cities throughout time built on top of each other. We took a team photo in the remains of the amphitheater.
The team boarded a ferry from Çanakkale to the European side of Turkey to begin collections on the way to Istanbul. On the boat Jordan made some fast friends with a Turkish high school students.
At the last stop in the field, Evan, Ali and Jordan pose with our trusty Dacia rental car. Tuesday we leave for Armenia. Ali Dönmez was our constant companion along the trip through Turkey and the work could not have been done without his help. Thank you Ali!
The team continued its travails in Turkey, driving from the city of Denizli to the seaside city of Çanakkale. We made a collection of Camelina from fields along the trip. You can see the seed productivity of a Camelina specimen. At each location we harvest seed by stripping the plant of all mature fruits. Valves from the fruits can be seen along with the seed. In the evenings we process the seed collections by passing them through a sieve in order to separate the seed from the valves. Çanakkale is the site of a famous battle during World War I in which the British and allied forces attempted to pass to the Black sea. The Ottoman Turks scored a major victory against the Brits, according to Turkish history.
Evan walks along the shoreline in Çanakkale. We ate fish for dinner, a welcome break from chicken shish and red meat!
Another productive day in the field. Jordan and Ali Dönmez (Hacettepe University) record collection localities as we pass from the Mediterranean inland toward Denizli. We had a fantastic tour of the agricultural productivity of Turkey along the way passing fields of poppy (see below), apple, apricot, wheat, and almond. We found Camelina adjacent to poppy fields and had a chance to eat raw poppy seed.
Dr. Mark Beilstein (University of Arizona)
Field Collections 2013
Mark Beilstein, Jordan Brock and Evan Forsythe are heading into the field! We are on our way to Turkey and the Caucasus region in search of native Camelina populations. We will be exploring western Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia in order to collect tissue samples, seeds, and herbarium specimens. Camelina contains the emerging biofuel crop, C. sativa. We hope to infer the evolutionary history and origin of cultivation in the genus by sampling and analyzing DNA from native populations. The trip begins June 16th. We will travel by planes, trains, and automobiles. Check back often for details of our trip, including photos and stories of our adventures! This trip has been made possible by a National Geographic CRE Grant.