May or June-July. Spring or summer flora.|
The rout generally lies east of Yerevan on the south-facing slopes of lower Geghama ridge, in an altitude of 1200-1600 m.
The rout begins in wormwood scrub with Artemisia fragrans. In early spring miniature ephemera flower here: Androsace maxima, Ceratocephalus falcatus, a strange tiny umbellifer Hohenackeria excapa and various ephemerals: Allium, Muscari, Ornithogalum and others.
Towards the end of April and beginning of May, there is a short flowering season of the beautiful Iris elegantissima, whilst Capparis spinosa flowers all summer. Its spreading, shrubby growth can reach 2 m and more in diameter. Characteristic members of the wormwood scrub include also prickly cushions of Acantholimon armenum, covered in pink flowers, and various species of Astragalus, Centaurea, Consolida, etc.
On a high hill near Vokhchaberd stands an arich, erected in memory of a famous Armenia poet Eghishe Charents. A wonderful panorama of the Ararat valley opens here, trailing into the distance towards the foot of the biblical Mt Ararat. A little to the side of it the beautiful double-peaked massif of Mt Eranos is visible. Its slopes are covered with rose-red, cream and violet slabs of marlaceous limestone.
On this background here and there appear dark candles of evergreen juniper. This, together with the blue-white, as if on air floating Mt Ararat, makes a most poetical impression. A little higher there are various grasses (Stipa capillata, S. caspia and others), giving the flora a steppe character. Here one can see a beautiful composite Gundelia tournefortii, a rare umbellifer Actinolema macrolema, wild wheat, Aegilops sp., etc.
The route then winds down towards Garni with its picturesque neighborhoods, unique architectural monuments and very rich and interesting flora. Garni is located on a basal plateau on the right bank of the Azat river. The uncommonly beautiful river runs through 100 m deep canyons in places, flanked on both sides by regular basalt prisms.
The river bed is lined with smooth hexahedrons which form alcoves in the canyon walls. The dry, steep, rocky terrain is similar to monotonous stony semi-desert and upland steppe. Here one can recognize another type of flora – phrygana, characterized by xerophytic shrubs, briars, etc.
In rocky crevices, among the stones and on scree slopes, wild pistachios, almonds, cherries, pears, rhamnus and spirea (Pistacia mutica, Amygdalus fenzliana, Cerasus incana, C. mahaleb, Pyrus salicifolia, Rhamnus pallasii, Spiraea crenata) are common.
Cushion plants such as Astragalus, Acantholimon, Onobrychis cornuta have an important role here. The latter is very beautiful in spring when the entire cushion is covered by bright pink or purple flowers. Another shrub, Hymenocrater bituminosus, a labiate with violet-blue flowers and a large yellow calyx, is also pretty.
By crossing bridge from the 11th century, one can reach the left bank of the Azat river where, near a steep path a little higher, one can find Tulipa Julia, beautiful sky-blue Linaria armeniaca, Verbascum phoeniceum, Iris caucasica, Muscari, Bellevalia flowering in May. A whole range of new species has been described from the vicinity of the river Azat, including Pyrus sosnovskyi, P. takhtajanii, Scrophularia zvartiana, to name but a few.
The phrygana is composed of many interesting plants, among them Michauxia laevigata and Allium materculae. The first is noticeable by its appearance, unusual for the Campanulaceae, as it has a rather large red-green basal rossete and a thick, strangely bent, often taller than a man stem with open, white flowers. The other plant, Allium materculae, is jokingly called “Armenian Welwitschia” by botanists because, as that plant, it has 2 wide, flat, prostrate, twisted leaves.
Before one reaches Gekhard, on dry, very steep stony slopes, many different species of rare larkspurs and other plants flower in June-July, such as Serratula serratuloides, S. coriacea, Tomanthea aucheri, and Lotus gebelia with bright pink flowers and silvery-grey leaves.
In the Geghard area, fragments of an oak forest (Quercus macranthera) have been preserved. Apart from the oak, 5 spacies of rowan grow there (Sorbus aucuparia, S. persica, S. graeca, S. kusnetzovii, S. hajastana), and also Fraxinus excelsior, Acer ibericum and other species (Crataegus, Malus, Pyrus, Cerasus, Prunus, Vitis) etc. The area around Geghard is very beautiful; huge rocks drip with decorative flowers of Symphyandra armena, Campanula choziatovskyi and others. In amongst the rocks, the grassy slopes are aflame with the flowers of Papaver orientale whilst near the water grows a rarer, interesting Datisca cannabina.
In March-April-May the following are commonly seen: blue Scilla sibirica, pale blue Puschkinia scilloides, lilac coloured Crocus adamii, Primula macrocalyx, purple Dactylorhiza romana, D. flavescens and other species.