Monday, November 30, 2015


Between the summer of 1959 and the late spring of 1961 my family lived in the USA.  About a year and a half of this time period was spent in Lantana, Florida.  I was ten years old and I was not happy.  I had been uprooted. All my friends were left behind.  I was learning a new language.  I did not know the ways of the foreign country.  My parents had not been as helpful as I would have liked for they were themselves trying to adjust to a new life. My brother was only three years old and he was too young to share my feelings.

                                                                                     Red hibiscus and fern

Lantana, where I saw hibiscus for the first time is supposed to be a marvelous place with an agreeable climate and an easy going life style. I did not think so. This is why hibiscus is not a happy flower for me. Each time I see a hibiscus shrub I remember my early sadness.

Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae. Several hundred species of the genus are native to temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. It is probably the most popular and widely planted shrub of the tropics.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, known colloquially as Chinese hibiscus, China rose, Hawaiian hibiscus is a species native to East Asia.

Hibiscus flowers are large, from 4-18 cm broad, trumpet- shaped, with five or more petals. Their color ranges from white to pink, red, orange, purple and yellow. The fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capsule dehisces (splits open) at maturity.


This colorful shrub has been grown in Florida for many years. It was introduced to Florida from China by way of the South Pacific and Hawaii. It is Hawaii’s state flower. Only in the southern half of Florida hibiscus is an evergreen shrub. It requires direct sunlight at least half a day and temperatures near the freezing point will easily kill it.

I have read about women expressing themselves through flowers in parts of the world. In Hawaii women wear a hibiscus behind the ear. If it is behind their left ear it means they are married. If it is behind the right ear it signals that they are single and interested in finding someone.

Most hibiscus varieties have one-day flowers, which typically open early in the morning and wilt late that afternoon. Flowers of a few varieties remain open for two days. Most hibiscus are odorless, but a few varieties are slightly fragrant.

Hibiscus shrubs can grow to be very lush and pretty. Coincidentally, the ones in my photographs depict my mental state at the time I first saw this plant.

                                                                   April 1961, Florida

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lagerstroemia indica

Lagerstroemia indica-a big name for a tree with such delicate flowers. Crepe myrtle is a common name for this deciduous tree in the family Lythraceae. In French it is called Indian lilac (lila des Indes). It is oya ağacı-‘embroidery tree’ in Turkish. It grows naturally in China, Korea, Japan and the Indian subcontinent. I believe this ornamental tree was not around during my childhood. I first started seeing it in the mid-1980s. It is a multi-stemmed, wide spreading shrub that can grow into a tree. It will grow to 6 meters with a spread of 6 meters. If it is trained it can have a neater, more eye pleasing look to it.

The trees can be flat topped, rounded, or even spike shaped. They are a popular nesting shrub for birds.

The leaves are small, smooth-edged, oval-shaped, and dark green. They fall each winter, after changing colors in autumn.

Most internet sites talk about the bark being a mottled gray-brown in color and that it sheds each year. With the trees I came across this did not seem to be a prominent feature.

Flowers, on different trees, are white, pink, mauve, purple or carmine with crimped petals, in panicles (much-branched inflorescence) up to 9cm long.



Lagerstroemia indica can be heat, humidity, drought and frost tolerant. It prefers full sun. Many hybrid cultivars of the plant have been developed between L. indica and L. faueri. The genus was named after the Swedish merchant Magnus von Lagerström, who supplied Carl Lennaeus with plants he collected.

Crepe myrtle is a beautiful ornamental tree to be around.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Passion flower

In the past several years everybody discovered the passion flower. When I saw some pictures it looked a little too tropical, too exotic to me. Plus, I had no past with it. On a trip to the Amalfi Coast in the spring of 2013 with friends, we were walking down from Ravello to Minori at our own pace. My husband Henri who was seeing it for the first time thought I would like it and brought one for me to the café where we met up. Right then and there a memory was made.

                                                        Purple passion flower , Passiflora amethyst I believe. Photograph: Vedia Yöndem

Passiflora, known also as passion flowers, is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants, in the family Passifloraceae. They are mostly vines, some are shrubs, and a few species are herbaceous.

Wikipedia tells us that nine species of Passiflora are native to the USA, found from Ohio to the north, west to California and south to the Florida Keys. Most other species are found in South America, Eastern Asia, and Southern Asia, New Guinea, four or more species in Australia and a single endemic species in New Zealand. New species continue to be identified: for example, P. pardifolia and P. xishuangbannaensis have only been known to the scientific community since 2006 and 2005, respectively.

Passiflora caerulea (blue passion flower, common passion flower) is native to South America (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil). It is a deciduous or semi-evergreen tendril vine growing to 10 m or more. The leaves are palmate and fragrant. The flowers are blue-white in color with a prominent fringe of coronal filaments in bands of blue, white, and brown.

I pressed the one Henri gave me but it lost its lovely bluish color. Blue passion flower-Passiflora caerulea has been naturalized beyond its native ranges. It grows in Spain and Italy.

Most species of passion flower have round or elongated edible fruit. The fruit is an orange-yellow berry 6 to 10 cm long and 2 to 5 cm in diameter, containing numerous seeds. The seeds are spread by mammals and birds that eat the fruit. Its flavor is very bland we are told.

In tropical climates, the passion flower will bloom all year round.

From Ravello to Minori….

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ipomea indica

Occupying the mind with memories of plants is a little bit like meditation. One concentrates on the sensations, the details of a memory and most of all the intricacies of the plant at hand. There is oneness with nature and time flies by.

                 I took the above picture in Geneva in the summer of 2014.

Ipomoea is the largest genus in the flowering plant family Convolvulaceae, with over 500 species. The Wikipedia informs us that it is a large and diverse group with common names including morning glory, bindweed, moonflower, etc.

Ipomea indica is a perennial vine native to tropical habitats. Blue morning glory is one of its favored common names.

Most morning glory flowers unravel into full bloom in the early morning.

The flowers usually start to fade a few hours before their gossamer petals start showing visible curling in on themselves. This would draw my attention immensely as a child. The flowers prefer full sun exposure throughout the day. Some morning glories, however, are night-blooming flowers.

I. indica bears heart-shaped leaves and rich purple trumpet-shaped flowers 6–8 cm in diameter, from spring to autumn. The Latin specific epithet indica means from India, or the East Indies or China. Morning glory was first known in China for its medicinal uses. It was introduced to Japan in the 9th century, and Japanese were the first to cultivate it as an ornamental flower.

The climate of Geneva, where I visited my elder daughter who moved there in the spring of 2014 is temperate and oceanic indicating that the winters are mild, usually with light frosts at night and thawing conditions during the day. Summers are pleasantly warm. Precipitation is sufficient and, relatively well-distributed throughout the year, although autumn is slightly wetter than the other seasons. This being the case, at the botanical garden of Geneva as well as the city I came across morning glory and many other warm climate plants.

Deniz and Emily in 2014

It seems places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California and Portugal consider the morning glory to be a noxious and invasive weed.


Monday, November 2, 2015


Kuşadası in western Turkey, a sprawling resort town overly built for its own good, was once an uneventful and charming fishing village. Located on the coast of the best sea in the whole world, namely the Aegean Sea, it was here that the first olive oil refinery of Turkey was founded by a Genoese in 1930. There was a tannery and also an ice factory which all make it unfair of me to describe the place as uneventful. In antiquity it was overshadowed by Ephesus but when the Byzantine, Venetian and Genoese shippers began to trade along the coast, the port was re-founded as Scala Nova-‘new port’.  I’m saddened and angered by the fact that the town’s development didn’t progress in a thoughtful and tasteful manner over the years. That is why I am always critical of its unfortunate growth and crowds.

In the middle of the town, along the main road and only steps from the sea there used to be a park when I was little. We never went to this park but we always passed by it. The ground was packed dirt, if I remember correctly. I don’t recall any flowers in the flower beds. There were mostly small trees that made the place shady and dim like nothing you would expect from a sunny beach town. The hedges were also of the same species of plants as the trees. What made the place even more mysterious for a child were the two lion sculptures on either side of the entrance. The faces of the lions were eroded and they only reached a child’s height. The park is no more but I still remember that park with the lions.

This lion is a handsome version of the ones I remember from the park

The plants in the park were mostly ligustrum which is a  genus of Old World shrubs that are also called privets. This is a genus of flowering plants in the family Oleaceae which is the olive family. Olive, ash, jasmine, lilac, privet all belong to this family. The trees and the shrubs have berries, capsules or drupes as fruits.

Ligustrum lucidum is a species with leaves that are smooth and shiny. In Latin lucidum means bright or shiny and it refers to the glossy leaves. Small white flowers develop as terminal panicles-much branched inflorescence-and then there appear green berries that turn purple and then black as they mature.

L. lucidum are planted as hedges and ornamental trees.

In my experience the smell of these flowers simply overwhelms the olfactory nodes and you want to experience it over and over. Some descriptions of the flowers mention that the smell is pungent and unpleasant.


I do not believe any flower or plant can have an unpleasant smell, unless it is something exceptional like the big corpse flowers (Carrion) which they say smell like a dead body. Carrion has been brought to our attention in the past few years because they are becoming extinct and botanists and naturalists are rushing to capture all they can about this plant.

Photo taken in December 2003 by Klaus Polak

I wish the same could have been done for old towns and buildings.

                       Looking north from the old town of Kuşadası that should have been kept as it was.

This photograph was taken from the opposite direction, looking south. It shows how big ugly buildings are popping up everywhere. When the buildings become taller than the hills and hide the mountains beyond there is no characteristic skyline left to admire.