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 - drive past the Besparmak 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.
Officially open between 08-00 hrs - 16.00 hrs each day, including weekends. However, if a visitor arrives outside these hours, the forester on duty, is always willing to 'open the doors.'
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 one in question.
A "herbarium" - a collection of pressed plant specimens mounted on paper and carefully labelled to show when, where and by whom each was collected, provides precisely this guidance. A large one was built up over the years in Nicosia, during British times and thereafter, but since 1974 it has been inaccessible, to those who wish to refer to it, from North Cyprus.
To help our future students ,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 the personnel and facilities of our Forestry Department, and with the encouragement of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
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 (Brossica 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 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 over specimen sheets to see, for example, whether our 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 visitor 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. (lf we only know the Turkish name, Sakiz Agac, there is another list of Turkish and 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 pressings 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 numerical 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 however, we have uniformly black as well! At Alevkaya, however, we have adopted for orchids 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. Our new Spirit Collection already exhibits most of the orchid species found in this country.
In the same room you will find displayed the line drawings by Dr. Viney, originally exhibited in 1989 at the Ataturk Cultural Centre in Lefkosa and at the Akdeniz University of Magusa; they are accompanied by another list from which you can trace the illustration of your Lentisk, for example. (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 prior to the publication of this booklet, not an easy task. It is of course a very time-consuming exercise to locate, collect, identify, press and also draw all the different species. Then these are the technical difficulties of using a very fine stylus with attendant ink-flow problems in the hot months, when specimens quickly wilt unless immediately consigned to an ice-box in the boot of the car.
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.
A childhood interest in plants, followed by a study of botany at Cambridge University, from 1939-1940, (until interrupted by his army service), has contributed to the work done by Dr. Viney, in establishing the Herbarium.
A chance visit to North Cyprus in 1988 rekindled his old affection for botany. When he found that in fact no comprehensive illustrated guide to the local flora was available, he set out to rectify this omission himself.
Working solidly from February 1989 until October that year, he located his first few hundred species with the aid of information in Meikle's 'Flora of Cyprus' which gave reliable records of earlier sightings, their location, date, etc. back to the eighteenth century.
Meikle's pioneer study lists about 1100 species (excluding grasses) native to the area which is now North Cyprus; but much hard work remains to be done. Strictly speaking, it will never be completed. For Nature does not stand still: some of the plants recorded by earlier investigators may have died out here, such as cornfield weeds eliminated by agricultural chemicals or, regrettably, attractive species subject to commercial exploitation. New building sites may eliminate some little-noticed rarity. On the other hand we have already found a few species not seen by Meikle, such as water plants, that have found a home in new reservoirs.
All the Herbarium can hope to do is to record the state of our native flora as it was in the year 1989 and thereafter. As members of the public come to know and use the Herbarium we trust they will also contribute to its development. Interesting specimens can be passed on by the Forestry Department office in Lefkosa, in plastic bags please, with a clear indication of the place and date of gathering but single, isolated, specimens should not of course be dug up; just a portion, or simply the information, should be sent to the Department.
For this collection is not meant for specialists alone. It is intended, as its originator put it, to help anyone "who visits this country with open eyes - or was born to share, and protect, its natural heritage".
people visited Cyprus , since 15th Sept, 1995