A Legend of the Great Balkhan

The Great Balkhan is a mountain range in the west of Turkmenistan, in the Balkan velayat, near the south-eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. The dry river bed separates it from the Small Balkhan and the western end of the Kopetdag ridge. The highest point of the Great Balkhan is Mount Arlan. The mountains are famous in all the surroundings, and the ridge itself looks like a fortress, towering over the surrounding plains. Many legends are associated with the mountain system of the Great Balkhan. Thus, there are widespread legends about the valour of people living in the mountains, who experienced many ordeals. One of the legends says that once the Great Balkhan abounded in mountain springs, but during one of the enemy raids, the locals clogged them with felt mats. When the enemies left, people failed to make the precious water come back. There is a hope in this legend that the water will return, and the surroundings of Balkhan will again turn into a blooming oasis.

On Useful Properties of Plants

The history of the development of therapeutic and daily nutrition, based on herbal ingredients, goes back to time immemorial. Since ancient times, the inhabitants of the oases at the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains have cultivated the land and grown cereals, legumes, vegetables, fruit, melons and gourds, besides, they have traditionally collected edible wild plants. Such a food is of energy value in the form of fibre, starch, sugars, proteins and fats, it enriches the diet with vitamins, microelements and biologically active substances. 

A Mystery of the Coloured Mountains

Long time ago I heard about the “colour canyon”, the beauty of which I saw only in photographs. Finally, I got an opportunity to see it with my own eyes. We left Balkanabat with a group of like-minded people and headed to the north along the Oglanly road in the hope that we would arrive at the place before sunset. The route was complicated and the road was long, but the desire to see the canyon, which I believed hid some kind of mystery, was irresistible. For some reason, subconsciously, I expected something fantastic from the trip that I had never seen before, although I often go hiking in the mountains. On the way, we came across the chains of camels gravely wandering along the side of the road. The picturesque hills with flocks of sheep darted past. Here we are! We drove straight to the top of the mountain, from where a breath-taking view of the colourful splendour of Yangi-Kala opened up. Below, at a depth of several hundred metres, we saw an incredibly beautiful heap of bizarre limestone deposits that look like frozen lava. We arrived right before sunset, and we had enough time to adjust the camera to capture the unusual colours of Yangi-Kala in the sunset rays. We walked down and examined the bottom of the canyon. What I saw made me forget about fatigue from the long journey; I wanted to use every minute of my stay in that spectacular place, to contemplate the natural

Mountain Ashes in the Kopetdag Mountains

Not many people know that three rare species of wild mountain ash can be found in the nature of the Kopetdag Mountains that often hide in dense thickets of other plants, in shady and watered places. Indeed, it is difficult to believe that the forest moisture-loving beauty with fruit similar in shape and structure to all known small “apples” could survive in our dry arid climate, as it is a relative of the apple and pear, a congener of the rose and wild rose; they all belong to the same family. In this regard, the Kopetdag Mountains can be called a fount of global genetic wealth. The mountain ash is the oldest representative of the plant world on the planet, which existed even in the Tertiary period, the ancestors of which went back to an even earlier, Cretaceous period that took place 80 million years ago. Experts have counted 84 species of mountain ash around the world, plus many of its hybrid forms. Our mountain ashes that grow in the Kopetdag Mountains are very specific, and they did not get lost in this large family arousing interest among scientists for their main feature – high tolerance to high temperature; they exhibit xerophytic nature.

Kyrk­gyz Ma­kes Wis­hes Come True

The na­tu­ral cor­ners of Koy­ten­dag are ama­zing and diver­se. The­re is the hig­hest moun­tain of Turk­me­nis­tan Ay­ry­ba­ba, the Um­bar-De­re gor­ge, the Kyrk­gyz grot­to, the Pla­teau of Di­no­saurs, wa­ter­falls and much mo­re. All the­se are breath-ta­king. The fa­bu­lous­ly beau­ti­ful cor­ners of our count­ry are known out­si­de our count­ry. One of the unique na­tu­ral mo­nu­ments of Koy­ten­dag is the fa­mous Kyrk­gyz (“For­ty girls”) grot­to. It is located on the way to the Kho­ja­pil vil­la­ge. The­re are al­ways ma­ny pilg­rims and tou­rists. Tens of thou­sands of long rib­bons adorn this sacred si­te. Accor­ding to the sto­ries of the el­ders, everyo­ne who visits the place can ma­ke a wish. To do this, you ne­ed to dip the piece in­to clay and throw it to the sto­ne arch. If the rib­bon “sticks” to the arch of the moun­tain, the che­ris­hed de­si­re will cer­tain­ly come true.

Lake Mollakurban — a Gem of the Karakum Desert

Long trips to the depths of the Karakum Desert to conduct biodiversity surveys are the everyday life of ecologists, but each new visit to the vast expanse of the multifaceted sands makes you sure of the beauty of our sunny land. The route of a small expeditionary group of scientists stretched from Turkmen Lake Altyn Asyr. We skirted round its overflows and stopped several times to take pictures of birds, white and black saxaul thickets that formed thick forests in some places and gorgeously fruiting bushes of the sandy acacia. We were lucky to find an interesting and rare plant in the Family Fabaceae in those places. It is called gulan guyruk, and its scientific name is Eremosparton. The plant is endemic to the Karakum Desert; it grows on the dunes and in the territory of the state nature reserves Bereketli Karakum and Repetek. The Artemisia dimoana from the Red Data Book was found in some places.

Medicinal Kaplankyr

The Kaplankyr State Nature Reserve is located in the north-western part of Turkmenistan, at the junction of the northern and southern parts of the Turan lowland within the Ustyurt and Sarykamysh geographical regions. In the south-east, it covers a small area of the sands of the northern Karakum Desert, called Zaunguz, in the west, the Kaplankyr cliffs form a distinct natural border, which in the east was marked by the ancient riverbed of the Uzboy. In the north, the protected area is adjoined by the Ustyurt plateau. The main territory of the Reserve is located on the Kaplankyr plateau, the vegetation of which consists of wormwood and saltwort communities. The species diversity of the flora of the Reserve consists of 400 species of plants from the families Chenopodioideae, Cruciferae, Gramineae, Fabaceae and Compositae. The upper layer is occupied by the black saxaul and kandym, the second one is formed by the wormwood with the participation of semi-shrub salsolas – tetyr and kevreyik, and the third, lowest, tier is composed of grasses – sedges and various ephemerals. In the southern part, one can find white saxaul groupings, characteristic of hilly and ridge-hilly sands. There, the white saxaul is supplemented by the kandym, Salsola richteri, Ephedra strobilacea, sandy acacia and astragalus. One can often find the wild onion, iris, eremurus and an ephemeral plant from the

Nature – a source of prosperous and healthy life

The issues of the conservation and rational use of natural resources are one of the urgent challenges of our time. Therefore, among the strategically important 17 Goals adopted by the world community as the Global Agenda for Sustainable Development for the period up to 2030, it is determined the following: to achieve the rational development and efficient use of natural resources, the preservation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and the rational use of forests; to fight against desertification and land degradation. The environmental factor is present in almost all Sustainable Development Goals as an essential condition for their achievement. Thus, it is emphasised that the stable socioeconomic development of society and the life of people on the planet depend on how natural resources are used and on the attitude of people to nature. The search for a solution to environmental problems has become a unifying principle for the world community to revise social values and to form a global, universal consciousness in which people realise themselves not as kings of nature and conquerors, but as its integral part, and therefore must take care of preserving their natural habitat.

Keeper of rivers and springs of the Kopetdag mountains

The Juniperus turcomanica (Turkmen juniper) or archa is a coniferous plant of the Cupressaceae family.

Flowers to blossom in late summer

The Ungernia, an amazing representative of the Turkmen flora, has a break between spring vegetation and flowering. The plant seemed to have realised that it had forgotten to bloom, and gives us beauty at the end of summer – marvellous bells, which, against the background of dead wood scorched by the sun, look like a real miracle. The origins of this special behaviour and the unusual rhythm of life of this little-studied plant lie in the peculiarities of its biology and ecology. After waking up at the end of February, it forms only a rosette of leaves, which reaches full development by mid-April and wither in May. During the summer heat, growth and development “freeze”, the plant “falls asleep” to come to life again in late July and early August. And then, after two months of suspended animation, a leafless flower stalk with an umbrella-shaped inflorescence and funnel-shaped flowers of various colours, from light brown to reddish-pink, appears on the warmed soil, which is no longer able to give birth to green shoots. This perennial herb blooms for one to two weeks, and in September fruit, three-lobed swollen capsules, are formed. Soon, they crack along the valves and pour out the seeds. Therefore, the Ungernia can be found in colonies where young plants grow next to the mother one.