Nature & Wildlife
Most people can confidently name the commoner, showier plants in the
countryside, and farmers, shepherds, and foresters know dozens more.
But how many of the twenty North Cyprus endemic species, found
nowhere else in the world would you recognise?
To identify a rare, or inconspicuous species, or to distinguish
safely between two similar ones, one needs a reliable textbook with
descriptions and illustrations and for complete certainty, an
authoritatively named specimen to compare with the ones in question.
What is a Herbarium?
A Herbarium is a collection of pressed plant specimens mounted on
paper and carefully labelled to show when, where and by whom each
was collected, provides information on the plants endemic to an
A large Herbarium was built up over the years in Nicosia during the
British colonial times and thereafter, but since 1974 it has been
inaccessible, to those who wish to refer it, from North Cyprus.
To fill this gap and help those who are interested as well as
visitors, including the many foreign experts who come to investigate
our flora, work was started in 1988 by an English botanist, Dr.
Deryck Viney, assisted by personnel and facilities of the Forestry
Department of the North Cyprus Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Opening of the Herbarium
November 9, 1989 saw the formal opening of the first North Cyprus
Herbarium by Mr. Taskent Atasayan, the then Minister of Agriculture
and Forestry. At its inauguration, the Herbarium comprised about 450
species. By the summer of 1990 the number had increased to nearly
800, including most of the North Cyprus endemics, such as the:
St.Hilarion Cabbage...(Brassica hilarionis)
Cyprus Rock Cress....(Arabis cypria)
Cyprus Pink..............(Dianthus cyprius)
Lapta Stonecrop........(Sedum lampusae)
Cyprus Woundwort....(Sideritis cypria) and others.
Over the whole island the number of endemics is over 100.
Serious botanists, of course, know plants not by their English or
Turkish names, but by their official pair of Latin names, one for
the genus, the second for the particular species. It may be
particularly irritating for the beginner that in order to hunt down
a specimen in our Herbarium s/he first needs to know the Latin name
of the genus it belongs to. But the use of these internationally
recognised names is essential. The Crown Daisy may have dozens of
popular names in different countries, and indeed more than one name
in North Cyprus, but the term Chrysanthemum coronarium
immediately identifies it for specialists throughout the world. The
day will come when academic institutions abroad will want to consult
our specimen sheets to see, for example, whether Cyprus Sage is
exactly the same as the Salvia fruticosa that grows in Turkey
-a point botanists have argued over. For such purposes the 'dead`
languages, Latin and ancient-Greek have a permanent, living value
Inside the Herbarium
The visitors will find three areas for study in the Herbarium, one
showing plant specimens, the second the spirit collection, and the
third the line drawings.
To find a particular plant in the Herbarium, say the Lentisk, we
first look for its genus name, Pistacia in the alphabetical list
on the information board. (If we only know the Turkish name,
Sakiz Agaci, there is another list of Turkish and the Latin
names to help.) Against Pistacia we find a serial number (0260)
which leads us straight to the Pistacia genus-folder in one of
the cabinets; this contains mounted specimens of the Lentisk as
well as other Pistacia species. The technique of pressing plants
between sheets of absorbent paper, replaced frequently until the
specimens are bone-dry, has hardly changed over the centuries,
as we can see in ancient but forever expanding herbaria like the
one in London's Kew Gardens, the world centre of botanical
study. Ideally, several complete specimens of each kind are
mounted, roots and all, showing buds and fruit as well as leaves
and flowers. With careful arrangement, e.g. to show the lower as
well as the upper sides of foliage, a dried specimen usually
gives a good idea of the living plant. Indeed, botanical
illustrators sometimes have to work from pressing and by
treating a fragment with hot water; it is even possible to
examine the original cell structure under a microscope. Whilst
looking at the fragile and sometimes irreplaceable specimens in
the Herbarium, viewers are asked to hold the sheets horizontal
at all times; to use the tables for examining the specimens and
to replace the sheets and folders in their correct serial order.|
For some groups of plants, notably the interesting Orchid
family, pressing is unsatisfactory: the dried flowers not only
lose their complicated shape and beautiful pattern but turn
uniformly black as well. At Alevkaya Herbarium, however we have
adopted for orchids a technique used at Kew, namely preserving
the flowers in a dilute mixture of alcohol, glycerol, and
formaldehyde which, though it does not save all the colours,
does keep the shape intact. The new `Spirit Collection' at the
Herbarium already exhibits most of the orchid species found in
LINE DRAWINGS: In the same room, visitors will find
displayed the line drawings by Dr. Deryck Viney, originally
exhibited in 1989 at the Ataturk Cultural Centre in Nicosia, and
at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta; they are
accompanied by another list from which the visitors can trace
the illustrations of the Lentisk of choice. These drawings are
designed to be included in a completely illustrated `Flora of
North Cyprus', to supplement the classic `Flora of Cyprus'
written by the British botanist R. D. Meikle. Dr. Viney had
completed approximately 750 line drawings when the Herbarium
opened its doors for the first time to the visitors. In the
Herbarium, the drawings are arranged to show the plants on a
month to month basis as they appear throughout the year. This
may mean that gradually flowers and fruit appear on different
How to get there?
The Herbarium is housed in the Alevkaya Forest Station on the
mountain ridge between Esentepe and Degirmenlik.
It can be approached either by mountain road -or by a lower tarmac
road. Via the mountain road -coming from Girne / Kyrenia- drive past
the Five-Fingers mountain and at the top of the hill take the left
hand turn to Alevkaya.
This is a five mile drive along on a good unmade road but the views
make this route worthwhile. The other route takes the road, further
down the hill, signposted to Alevkaya.
The Herbarium is officially open between 08:00 hours - 16:00 hours
during the week, including weekends. However, if a visitor arrives
outside these hours, the forester on duty, is always willing to
"open the doors".