Flower symbol of Expo 2016 subject of debate

Flower symbol of Expo 2016 subject of debate

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Flower symbol of Expo 2016 subject of debate

In an online poll asking citizens about their choice for the Antalya Expo 2016 symbol, the carnation came in first by far, but the ministry picked the peony. DHA photo

The peony has been picked as the expo flower for the botanic-themed Antalya Expo 2016, but there have been disputes about the appropriateness of the choice. Some agriculture experts claim that the flower cannot represent Turkey and that the country would have to import the peony, which is unsustainable.

Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker announced on July 6 that the symbol flower would be “Paeonia turcica,” a type of peony. “The flower, which has ‘Turk’ in its name, belongs to us. Its genetic origin is in Anatolia. We determined the peony as our symbolic flower because it belongs to our soil and criteria,” he said.

The ministry, however, made this choice against the recommendations of an academic council and the results of an online poll, sources close to the matter said. The academic council had presented six candidates to the ministry to be picked as the forthcoming expo’s symbol flower – the carnation, snowdrop, daisy, heather, iris and amaryllis. The ministry eliminated some of them but kept the carnation and daisy, then added peony and violet to the list, sources added. In the online poll, the carnation came in first by a long shot, but the ministry picked up the peony.

“The flower we had selected belongs to the Antalya region,” the ministry repeated yesterday in a press statement, adding that three independent academic councils had presented 16 candidates to the ministry before and the ministry picked the peony, which has had a real place in Turkish history and Anatolia.

Dr. İbrahim Baktır from Akdeniz University’s Faculty of Agriculture said, however, that the peony was not possible to cultivate in the southern province of Antalya, daily Cumhuriyet reported. “After the peony is planted, it will dry out in a week. If the symbol of the expo will be the peony, they might have to import it, which would cause a great loss,” Baktır said. He also claimed that only the companies who bought the patent had the regenerated kind of the peony.

Not enough time

However, during the expo between April and October 2016 an institute of the Ministry of Agriculture will provide the peonies for the stand. Erdal Kaya, an expert from Atatürk Garden Cultures Research Center Institute in the northwestern province of Yalova, said in a telephone interview with the Hürriyet Daily News that the institute, which is attached to the Ministry of Agriculture, had sold the patents of three kinds of peony to three companies by tender. “We have sold the three taxons of peony in an auction to Garden AŞ, Asya Lale and Lezgi Çiçekçilik. It takes six years to cultivate a peony, so these firms cannot raise the flowers by the expo, which will be held in three years,” he said. Kaya said it was impossible to purchase peonies from these three companies under these conditions.

Kaya also noted that the institute was the one that would provide the peonies and the ministry was participating in the project, so there would be no need to buy additional flowers. Baktır said the carnation was more suitable for an expo flower to represent the country as it made up 95 percent of flower exports in Antalya, although Kaya said the carnation was not a plant of Turkey and did not have an attractive look.