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
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
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
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
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
- Cyprus Rock
Woundwort....(Sideritis cypria) and others.
Over the whole
island the number of endemics is over 100.
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 for science.
The visitors will
find three areas for study in the Herbarium, one showing plant
specimens, the second the spirit collection, and the third the
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.
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
exmining 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 North
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 sheets.
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
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".
North Cyprus Herbarium', (1991), T.R. of Northern Cyprus,
Ministry of Forestry, Nicosia.