Fritillaria of the Eastern Aegean and Beyond Part 1

Fritillaria carica Fritillaria occur on all of the large Aegean islands that skirt the western coastline of Turkey. While a number of species are endemic to a particular place a few are more widely represented on the Turkish mainland. Two examples of the latter group are Fritillaria carica and Fritillaria bithynica , both of which occur on the higher slopes of Mount Ambelos on the Island of Samos. F. bithynica favours sheltered grassy breaks in the pine woodland below the bare, sun-blasted limestone rock slabs that are the home of F. carica. It grows in there along with Galanthus gracilis and a range of crocus including C. biflorus ssp nubigena and C. cancellatus ssp mazziaricus and I think its pink and green winged capsules make even more of a visual impact than their sweet blue-green blossoms.

Fritillaria bithynica

 I have also found Fritillaria bithynica around Mugla and Goke Tepe in South western Turkey and in some of these populations, particularly around  Kizilcaboluk, the fruiting capsules are unwinged.  Both Rix  and Davis treated these as the same species but in a recent survey they have been reclassified as a new species, Fritillaria milasense. There are other minor difference in the leaves, and its tepal shape and colour.

F. carica grows in great numbers on Mount Ambelos in very exposed sites often following cracks and channels in the limestone slabs. It has the very beautiful Colchicum variegatum , Crocus olivierii ssp balansae, C. pallassii ssp pallassii as well as the other previously cited crocus for companions on these dry and barren tops. Another small, tufted, sage-like plant (Sideritis sp.), which is of great interest to the local Greek population is found here as well. This herb is known locally as "Chai Temoros" or Tea of the Mountains and so valued are its dried leaves for their health-giving and restorative powers that grazing is not permitted in some areas until the plant has been harvested. Fritillaria carica is widely distributed in Western Turkey being found as far eastwards as the ancient site of Termessos and to Honaz Dag in the north. In between exist many populations, the identities of which have been hotly disputed over the years, and three in particular deserve special mention.                                                                

           Crocus biflorus ssp nubigena   Galanthus gracilis  Colchicum variegatum

At the Dermil Pass near Atanyala a very fine plant was discovered quite recently by the late Ole Sonderhousen and later described by Martyn Rix as a subspecies of F. carica, much to the chagrin of the discoverer who swore that it was a new species. This is of course the subspecies serpenticola or as some would still argue, F. serpenticola, and as the name suggests it grows along with Crocus baytopiorum, C. cancellatus ssp lycius,  Muscari mirum  and Merendera trygynum on the brown earth derived from serpentine rock. The lower side of the pass is covered in managed forest plantations and there the fritillaria thrives behind fences on exposed north western slopes. On the opposite side however its numbers are the subject of much attention from grazing goats and have been reduced to just a few scattered groups cowering under thorny bushes. As a postscript I believe this plant has been elevated to the species level, as F. serpenticola so now dear Olle has his wish and can rest in peace!

Fritillaria milasense

Further to the north on scrubby banks alongside the beautiful azure blue Lake Salda grows another population on serpentine. Their flowers are brick red through to orange and are so unlike any others that some have proposed the name F. saldensis.  However the prevailing approach of treating it as just another variant in what appears to be a variable and intergrading species is unlikely to change. As always the greatest density of plants are found where the goats are the least. On the pass leading down into the lake plants are sparse and it takes a keen eye to spot solitary individuals growing in the scree or hidden in the thorny bushes. But further along the lake shore in little pockets of open ground protected by palisades of dense scrub they are everywhere amongst the boulders and rocks. Their chief companion bulb is a fine form of Muscari muscarimi with yellowish flowers instead of the more common dirty white.

Much further eastward at the Sinekcebeli Pass near Elmali just on the rim of the Cappadocian Plateau is  found the last of the trio. It has been given the species status of F. kittaniae but many dispute this and argue that it is just another example of the variable F. carica or a hybrid between it and F. elwesii. These populations show considerable variation in flower markings from rusty yellow through to boldly striped brown on yellow as well as in stem height, from quite dwarf to over 25 cm. I cannot pass any comment on the argument over status but I can say that I have had a devil of a job locating this plant.

Fritillaria kittaniae  On my one and only attempt I spent a very hot frustrating day searching up hill and down dale for it with my then 17 year old son whom I had to cajole with promises of chilly ice creams and luscious drinks just to keep him (and me) on the job. Eventually I was forced into a local teahouse to interrupt its disinterested, non-English speaking patrons to seek advice with crude hand-drawn pictures and amateurish mime routines. Whatever good instruction I was given went straight over my head, the only information I could glean was a vaguely waved hand to the north accompanied by a statement that sounded something like "in the mountains" - but we were ALREADY in the mountains! Alex and I did eventually find a few seeds most of which blew out the back window of the car when he opened it on the way back to our digs - but that's another story for another time.

Big Thanks to Janis Ruksans for a lend of his image of Crocus biflorus ssp nubigena.


Thank you ... these articles are a delight and I thoroughly enjoy them and also pass them on to a couple of friends so they can enjoy them also. I didn't place an order this year as our weather has been so discouraging ... still very dry ... so a cause for concern with summer approaching ... I do appreciate the effort you go to in preparing these articles ... Jean.

Hi Jean,


Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you enjoy reading my offerings. It's great to be able to pass on knowledge and experience.

Cheers, Marcus

Dear Marcus. Viewing these photos and reading your commentaries is both educational and indeed inspiring. Your documentations reveals to us all, the beauty the World of Plants has to offer. But, most importantly, the need to protect and to conserve these beauties for generations to come. Don't stop revealing the charms plants can offer to the dull and dreary world that is Humanity!

Hi Ron,

Thanks for your kind words. I would love to see these plants protected but most are not. Meanwhile people in suits set out objectives and agendas involving all sorts of regulation and control of the demand side of horticulture (in fact they have made people like me criminals) but carefully avoid the "elephant in the room", HABITAT LOSS. No country is made address this. No good having a zillion and one regulations preventing the trade/exchange of  these plants if they are not protected in situ as well.

Cheers, Marcus