Mtatsminda Mountain in Tbilisi features a range of soil and exposure conditions that host diverse perennial flora. In this post, we introduce a few ground-level perennial species found on Mtatsminda’s slopes and ravines.

Iris caucasica ssp. caucasica, is a stout geophytic species that thrives on the poor, dry, south-facing slopes of Mtatsminda. Photo by author.

In early spring, geophytes (literally ground-plants) are abundant. Geophytes keep their perennial buds below the surface, often attached to corms, bulbs, or tubers. Starting in February you can find Crocus and Cyclamen blooming in the snow, followed by Corydalis, Fritillaria, Iris, Muscari, and Scilla.

Iris reticulata, the netted Iris, erupts out of the previous year’s thatch on Mtatsminda’s northern slopes. We found this cluster on one of our studio plant walks above Turtle Lake. Photo by author.
Corydalis angustifolia is an April groundcover that proliferates under Mtatsminda’s stands of Carpinus. An ephemeral, this species sheds its growth in the heat of summer, retreating to a network of underground tubers until the weather consistently cools. Photo by author.

April is wild orchid season. They can be found at higher elevations on the woodland floor where there’s more organic matter in the soil and humid conditions.

Orchis caucasica, endemic to the region.

Ophrys cyclocheila.

Anacamptis pseudolaxiflora. Native to the Middle East and Central Asia

Geophytes dominate from early spring until the hottest days of July. At its floral peak, Mtatsminda is covered with umbellifers, euphorbias, and members of the Lamiaceae family; these pair beautifully with the long, feathery inflorescences of Stipa pennata and fluffy spikes of Koeleria pyramidata on the forest floor. In later summer months, Cotinus coggygria blooms with airy pink flower clusters and Dictamnus albus, the Gas Plant, can be seen poking out between dark green stalks of Spiraea and Ephedra. Cushions of yellow Onosma taurica, with their curling stems (a trademark of the Boraginaceae Family) punctuate open rocky slopes.

Here’s Salvia candidissima (not to be confused with the very similar, but endemic, Salvia verbascifolia) gracing a mountain bike path with its white flower spikes in late April. Photo by author.
A Tbilisi Triffid, the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is not only very dangerous (the sap is phytotoxic and can cause scarring blisters on the skin when exposed to sunlight), but monstrously large for an umbellifer. Here’s my dog Kvevri for scale. Photo by author.
Silvery Stipa pennata, golden spikes of Koeleria pyramidata, and one Rumex acetosa are highlights of this textured summer meadow. See if you can find the lone Dictamnus albus in the mid-ground. Photo by author.
A closer view of Dictamnus albus. Photo by author.

Our favorite spots for perennials on Mtatsminda include the ridge above Turtle Lake (Kus Tba), the Nightingale Forest; for iris, the exposed slopes above Okrokana, and orchids, the trails and slopes near the Bagebi cemetery.

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