33 Northern Iran, Alburz Mountains

In a northern region of Iran that is often thought of as a sun-scorched desert, the Hyrcania near the Caspian Sea, there lies a green belt of almost subtropical, sometimes pristine forests. It was only in the last decades that this verdant woodland came under the threat of loggers. With the exception of juniper, Italian cypress and Oriental arborvitae growing on volcanic soils, these are mainly hardwood forests, which have much in common with the forests in the Georgian region of Colchis, on the Black Sea. Caucasian alder and wingnut forests are found on more humid soils, and mixed oak forests elsewhere. In the small arboretum Group 33, Chestnut-leaved oak and Caucasian oak are growing near Oriental beech. Adorning the group is a beautiful specimen of Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), a remarkable species with peeling bark and small colorful flowers, and, as its name indicates, endowed with particularly strong wood. Another striking species on the south side of the Group is the Velvet Maple, so named because of the soft, felt-like underside of its leaves.