Although it does not belong to the desert habitat, the Rhodope SILIVRIAK is a world record-holder in drought endurance. Botanists have established that, dried in a herbarium, it can stay alive for 31 months and then, when moistured, restart its normal growth. That is why, when scientists from botanical gardens throughout the world ask their Bulgarian colleagues to send them silivriak, they receive herbarized plants, rather than seeds, as is usually practised.
Haberlea rhodopensis is a preglacial relict, whose "age" is probably over 2 million years! Spread all over Europe in past times, nowadays it can only be found in Stara planina (the Balkan Range), Sredna gora, the Rhodopes and the Thracian plain.
The silivriak is a beautiful flower and, hence, a highly valued decorative plant. However, collectors who have it in their collections, are very few. It grows in tufts - on rocky terrain, in crevices, mostly in damp and shady places (within the range of 250 up to 1400 m above sea level). Its long, thick leaves are clustered in a ground rosette. In April and May one or more stems, up to 15 cm high, grow out of the rosette, and, in May-June, 1 to 5 pale rose to purple infundibular blossoms open.
The flower was first found in the Rhodopes in 1834 and became known to science as a new species in 1835 owing to the renowned explorer of the Balkans, the Hungarian Imre Frivaldszky. He named it after his teacher - the Hungarian botanist Haberle.
According to the Novinar daily (4 Sept. 2004), Haberlea rhodopensis has aroused scientific interest on the part of experts from the United States (NASA), Russia and Japan.
Haberlea rhodopensis, illustration by artist Dimitar Vlaev.
Habitats of Haberlea rhodopensis in Bulgaria
/Chervena kniga na NR Balgaria v 2 toma. T. 1.. Rasteniya. Sofia, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1984./
The content of the Bulgarian People's Land section has been consulted with Dr. Petar Beron, Director of the National Museum of Natural History