Thursday 17 April 2014

Spring Blossoms from Istanbul

Now that spring is in full swing, parts of Istanbul (the parts that still retain trees) are blooming with red, white and purple flowers of all sorts. I have been observing this beautiful phenomenon for years, but only now have I had the chance to capture it on camera. Here are some specimens from my mini-adventure in urban botany: 

These white-flowering trees are very common around the neighborhood of Şişli, on the European side of the city. I couldn't identify them properly.

These splendid, purple flowering Judas trees, Cercis siliquastrum, are iconic in Istanbul. In Turkish, these plants are known as erguvan. The Judas tree is so familiar in the city that the period between April and May is termed the "erguvan season"; when Judas trees paint parts of Istanbul's panorama delightful splashes of purple.

These magnificent, soft-pink tamarisk trees, Tamarix parviflora, also look like erguvan trees, but that similarity is deceptive. Their branches and flowers have a completely different form.

In some parts of the city, Wisteria blossoms envelop walls, trees and sides of buildings in dreamy cascades of white, red, lilac and purple flowers.

A number of trees erupt with white flowers, this is a white peach tree, Prunus sp.

These Paulownia trees also look amazing with sets of enormous purplish-white flowers. They crop up unexpectedly in the worst urban areas of the city.

These white trees are cherry blossoms, also Prunus sp.
Did you know that cherries and peach trees were closely related?

Several varieties of Syringa hyacinths can be found in gardens and empty lots across the city. These plants show a tremendous amount of subtle variation.

Another Syringa, with a slightly more reddish colour and longer bunches of flowers.

Large flowers on apple trees, Malus sp. In the fall, these will transform into red or green apples that passers-by can pluck and eat at their leisure.

Horse-chestnuts, Aesculus hippocastanum, are also in bloom.
Sometimes, their beautiful flowers come in a red-pink variety.

Extremely bright of "pink cherries," probably also Prunus sp.

Another eye-catching pink tree is the "carnation" blossom seen below. I couldn't figure out their scientific name, but they are distinct from true carnations, Dianthus sp, which are stalked flowers that grow closer to the ground.

This unusual plant with wide, oily leaves and exotic, stacked flowers often shows up in parks and in shady areas between apartment blocks. My online friends have identified it as the cherry-laurel, Prunus laurocerasus.

These spectacular yellow mimosa trees, Acacia dealbata, bloom early in spring for a brief period. Cunning flower-sellers break the branches from trees in parks and gardens; and sell them to passers-by on the high street.

Elegant and beautifully-scented Mediterranean laurels, Laurus nobilis, make their appearance in the first weeks of April.

Delicate magnolias, Magnolia sp. produce some of the largest and prettiest flowers of Istanbul's springtime.

This concludes my brief sampling of Istanbul's spring flowers. Admittedly, this was a very incomplete and patchy selection, but check back often, I am continually updating this post with new photos. I'm also terrible at identifying plants, and any help on identifying the unnamed plants above will be very welcome. Enjoy spring!