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With all its grandeur, Ağrı is a miracle towering up to the sky in Anatolia. It has been the subject of many legends. Those who were enchanted by its majesty set out to reach its snowy peaks, and those in search of Noah’s Ark made it their destination in light of what is said in the holy books. The highest mountain of Anatolia conceals yet another secret: “Noah’s Flowers.”
Erodium chrysanthum, Veronica persica poiret, Trifolium davissii hossain—these are just a few of the thousands of flower species documented on the foothills of Mt. Ağrı for the “Noah’s Flowers” Project. It seems that from now on, Ağrı will be remembered with its spectacular flowers along with its snow covered summits and the legend of Noah’s Ark.
Thanks to its unique geographical location and a rich diversity of climate and soil characteristics, Turkey has an opulent flora. While there are twelve thousand species identified in all European countries as a whole, there are ten thousand documented species in Turkey alone. The region surrounding Mt. Ağrı has its share from this spectacular diversity. Until a group of scientists led by the University of Iğdır and the District Governorate of Aralık, under the auspices of the Governorship of Iğdır, launched a study in May 2011, however, there had been no systematic research on the region’s flora. A core team made up of Asst. Prof. Yusif Zeylanov from Iğdır University, Aralık District Governor Mehmet Fatih Çiçek, and photographer İsmail Şahinbaş is the architect of the “Noah’s Flowers” project. Their objective is to identify and analyze the natural richness of the region, document endemic species, and provide protection for endangered ones.
A TAPESTRY OF FLOWERS ON THE FOOTHILLS OF AĞRI
This majestic twin-peaked mountain stands where the Aras River meets Iğdır Plains and is visible from Iran, Nakhichevan, and Armenia. The ice mass at the 5,137 meters high summit is Turkey’s largest. The belief that Noah’s Ark came to rest here after the Great Flood lends Mt. Ağrı an air of divinity. Along with its spectacular grandeur, the mountain stands out with hundreds of endemic plant species, too. To see these beauties, all you have to do is spend some time on the foothills of Mt. Ağrı. The Korhan and Serdar Bulak plateaus in particular offer a stunning diversity of flowers.
A DISCOVERY ROUTE FOR EVERYBODY
Although Mt. Ağrı is known to be a challenging route for mountaineers, it remains to be an achievable target for those who want to trail after the Flowers of Noah. The distance between Kars Airport and the city center of Iğdır is just 140 kilometers. Only forty-five kilometers farther is the district of Aralık, located at the junction of Iran, Nakhichevan, and the borders of Armenia. There are passenger cars to and from the flatlands. After drive of only one hour, the flatlands spread as far as the eye can reach. Easy to walk for almost anybody, the flatlands offer a diversity of flora every season from eight hundred up to three thousand meters in altitude.
With the liveliest shades of all colors of nature, the region is also a center of attraction for photographers. With lush flatlands with colorful flowers, a crystal-clear blue sky, and the cloudy peaks of Mt. Ağrı, it boasts a picturesque landscape is heaven on earth for photography enthusiasts.
Aralık is a small district at the north of Mt. Ağrı. The University of Iğdır is a relatively new institution with a lot to achieve. Yet as a result of the collaboration of these two, the Noah’s Flowers project is of global importance with regard to its outcome. This year, the research team plans to come up with a scientific publication on the Noah’s Flowers, shedding light over the unknown riches of the region.
THE FLORA OF TURKEY PROJECT
Another important aspect of the Noah’s Flowers project is the fact that it will provide valuable data to another research. Under the auspices of President Abdullah Gül and implemented by Flora Research Association, the Flora of Turkey project will be the first scientific publication in Turkish that covers the entirety of Turkey’s flora. The twenty-volume publication, prepared by Turkish botanists, is planned to be completed by 2023.
As the foothills of Mt. Ağrı are being discovered one step at a time, new species are added to our national flora. Various legends of Mt. Ağrı, the enchanting beauty of its foggy peaks, peoples who found shelter at its foothills and a rich wild life… Noah’s Flowers are the latest secret to have come out of Ağrı’s treasure chest.