The Sultan marshes are thought to be the only place where flamingoes, cranes, herons and pelicans breed together.
The protected salt marshes near Izmir are like a natural museum, with some 190 species of birds living in its marshes, lakes and hills.
The hills also shelter rabbits, foxes and even boars.
In the Iztuzu sand beaches near Dalyan are the main breeding area for sea turtles.
Some 400 species of indigenous or migratory birds live in Turkey, some of which are extinct in Europe.
The most important species for environmentalists is the bald ibis, a peculiar bird with a bald pink head and drooping feathers.
A number or these birds are now under protection in a colony on the shore of the Firat (Euphrates) river in Eastern Turkey.
Turkey is an important stopover for birds migrating between Africa, Asia and Europe, with the Istanbul Strait and Artvin being the preferred sites.
Each spring and autumn, hundreds of thousands of birds, including storks and some predatory birds stop in these places before continuing on their journey.
According to the International Office of Aquatic Birds and Areas, there are some 800 aquatic species in Turkey spanning sixty different areas.
The shores or Lake Manyas near Balikesir are home to over 200 species of indigenous or migratory aquatic birds.
This lake is considered to be one of Europe's richest aquatic bird centers.
Over 250 indigenous or migratory birds live in the Sultan marshes near Kayseri; 20 of these are considered endangered species, although they come here to mate and breed.
Flora (Plants) -Crocus
White daisies radiant as brides, for example, are associated with fervor; the rose, orchid and lily with love and special occasions; chrysanthemums with ceremonies, and tulips with the fragrance of spring.
Crocus- SYMBOL OF SURVIVAL
The crocus, or ‘Colchium’ by its Latin name, has a extensive habitat in rural areas.
But we encounter it more often at high and cold elevations, in the foothills of mountains, towards the end of winter.
Crocuses are look delicate.
They are not about to be blown away by the slightest gust of wind.
No flower can surpass them in resistance to cold temperatures and harsh winds.
Crocuses, which symbolize life under severe conditions, seem to have been created expressly to brighten up the environment with their vibrant colors.
Crocuses, which are among the few plant species that bloom in winter, spring up in autumn in the form of colonies on hills and plains.
Yellow, purple, pink, white and blue, they appear before us in a rainbow of hues and tones, coloring the bare earth where the snow has just begun to melt.
We encounter them too in autumn when the long days of summer are over.
These crocuses, usually purplish pink in colour and known as ‘autumn crocuses’, remind us that winter is slowly coming in.
The seeds and bulbs of autumn crocuses, which grow some 10-30 cm tall, contain various alkaloids, including mainly colchis, and are therefore extremely poisonous.
Colchis meanwhile is used to treat rheumatism and gout as well as being employed in cell and genetic research.
Crocus - UNIQUE TO ISTANBUL...
Turkey boasts 59 natural species of the crocus, which is indigenous to Eurasia.
Nearly 30 species of this flower, which is found in almost every part of the country, are endemic, in other words, unique to Turkey.
The ‘Istanbul crocus’ (Crocus olivieri subsp. istanbulensis) is one of them.
This brilliant yellow crocus, which is found around Tasdelen and Ömerli, grows only in this region of the world.
The Kadiköy ‘Bitter Crocus’ (Colchicum chalcedonicum), which blooms in September, also made Istanbul its home.
Discovered in 1911 by botanist Kevork Viçen Aznavur, who introduced it to the botanical literature, this species is found more often on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, in the Pendik-Kartal area.
It is also encountered on the city’s European side between Alibeyköy and Ikitelli.
The buds of the crocus, a bulbous plant, appear in spring and autumn.
They blossom quickly, and after blooming for about two weeks open their leaves completely, thus concluding their growth cycle.
When the weather begins to warm up, they fade and wither. But this is no process of destruction. For, thanks to the bulbs, which function as plant storage depots, they continue to live underground in a dormant state until the next year. The crocus bulbs sold by florists are in exactly this state, which means that you can grow colourful crocuses in pots either in your garden or in your home. But there is one thing you must be careful of, namely that the ones that bloom in autumn have to be planted in June and the others in either late summer or early autumn.
THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE SPICE
Did you know that saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is the stigma of the ‘Crocus sativus’, another member of the crocus family? More than 225 such stigma are needed to produce just half a kilo of saffron, which was widely used in the Ottoman period.
This plant, which grows primarily in Spain, was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to spread a pleasant fragrance in public baths.
Saffron, which is obtained from the light purple crocuses that bloom in September and October, is a plant that has been raised for centuries in Anatolia as much as a spice and dye as for medicinal purposes.
The records indicate that saffron production in past centuries reached as high as ten tonnes. Although it was produced most widely in Safranbolu (city of saffron), which is named for it, saffron was also grown around Istanbul, Tokat, Izmir, Adana and Sanliurfa.
Cultivated only in a small area of the village of Davutbasi near Safranbolu today, saffron is used not only in foodstuffs but also in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
WHAT’S DOES TO MEAN TO YOU?
The crocus, which is popularly known in Anatolia by names such as ‘kalkgit’, ‘vargit’, ‘itbogan’ and ‘mahmurçiçegi’ (‘get-up-and-go’ or ‘sleepy flower’), has also given its name to a number of Anatolian highlands.
One of the best-known among them is the magnificent Çigdem Yaylasi (Crocus Highland) at 1400 metres on the forested plateau of Mount Elmacik in Adapazari province.
As their name implies, crocuses never fail to run riot on this plateau, carpeting it in yellow and purple in winter and spring and in pink and lilac in autumn.
So dense is the crocus cover that you can hardly take a step without treading on one.
This flower, which has a special meaning for the highlanders, also tells them when to go up to the plateau and when to come back down. Yellow and purple crocuses indicate that the weather has begun to warm up and it’s time to go up, while pink and lilac-coloured ones announce the approach of winter and the time to return home. Thus is the crocuses’ message to the highlanders on Mount Elmacik.