Friday 13 October was a very lucky evening for the group as we were treated to a beautifully illustrated lecturer by Dr. Bob Gibbons.
Bob is a botanist and naturalist, writer and photographer who has led many botanical tours with his company Natural History Travel.
Bob is the author of about 40 books and has travelled widely in the temperate world in search of nature. He has huge collection of photographs and has won many awards such as RHS Gold Medal, AGS Photograph of the Year and International Garden Photographer of the Year Flowery landscaper winner.
Bob introduced us to a variety of landscapes which are particularly flowery, including high altitude environments where flowers emerge for a brief period after snow melt, deserts that flower after rain, environments with winter wet that enables spring flower blooms and traditionally managed pasture and meadows.
We started in Gargano, Italy, on limestone bedrock. The ground is covered in boulders so the land has never been ploughed and fertilised, enabling native wildflowers to thrive. These include Tulipa sylvestris, Anemone apenina and 65 species of orchid including Ophrys bertolonii, lady orchid and sawfly orchid.
In the Peloponnese’s Mani Peninsula many olive groves have never been ploughed. The ground between the trees is painted gold by Euphorbia characias and Asphodeline lutea, along with Saponaria calabrica and Geranium brutium.
Heading to northern Greece and the Vikos Gorge, the world’s “deepest relative to its width”, Bob showed us glorious views of the scenery and flowers including Saxifraga marginata, Galanathus regina-olgae and Ramonda serbica which is a species in the family Gesneriaceae, one of the few European representatives of this family.
Some areas closer to home are notable for their wildflowers. This includes the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, which is home to 160 uncommon flowers, 20 of which are listed as rare. The Western Isles in Scotland are exposed to the Atlantic, which deposit limy sand and shell debris across the peat creating Machair, low lying grassy plains that are rich in wildflowers and birdlife.
In the Taurus Mountains in southern Türkiye are marshlands, rich with Gladilous coccineus. The higher Caucasus Mountains are home to Primula macrocalyx, Pulsatilla violacea and swathes of Scilla.
Bob then took us to the Southern hemisphere and the west coast of South Africa, which varies from the Mediterranean climate around Cape Town to more desert like conditions further north. Some plateaus have 1200 species of bulb, such as Bulbinella and the beautiful Butterfly gladiolus Gladiolus alatus. Plants only flower briefly, after rain, so many bear inflorescences in hot and bright colours to attract sparse insects. Some even have dark spots on their petals to mimic insects, in an attempt to attract more to the flower for pollination.
Finally, we visited the USA, and the superblooms of the Temblor Range at Carrizo Plain national monument near Santa Margarita, California. Hillside Daisies and Phacelia tanacetifolia paint the hillsides with yellow, orange and blue. In Colorado areas of high altitude native woodland have survived because there has been no history of grazing here. The snow doesn’t melt until July, yet a stunning tapestry of colours is provided by perennial flowers including Aquilegia caerulea, annual sunflowers, lupins and Penstemons.
Thank you Bob for sharing your travels and your beautiful photographs with us on a wet and gloomy autumn evening. You can see photographs from some of Bob’s tours at: https://www.naturalhistorytravel.co.uk/photo-gallery