YALOVA – Turkish Daily News
Would you like to see a Lebanese cedar, which many of us used to see only on the Lebanese flag, standing just a few steps from Japan's maidenhair tree, a source of many medicinal extracts? For those who are curious about special wooden plants and want to witness the precious efforts of a nature lover to create the first private arboretum in Turkey, the road leads to the western province of Yalova.
�Who says the trees cannot talk? They talk,� said Hayrettin Karaca, the founding father of Karaca Arboretum, as he walked in the shade of his trees and talked about the very special species. �They talk. For instance, this one tells me every autumn to stay around, as it completely turns pink,� he said, pointing to another species from Japan.
Karaca Arboretum contains around 7,000 plant species and 15,000 plants in total and is easily reachable by the Yalova Thermal road. Along with the Lebanese cedar and the maidenhair tree, the arboretum also has a California redwood, which is possibly the tallest tree in the world; a maple tree, whose leaf is on the Canadian flag; and a baby giant sequoia (sierra redwood).
Familiar to nature lovers
Nature lovers should be familiar with Karaca. This wise and vigorous man who is going onto 90 is one of the two founding fathers of the Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, Protection of Natural Habitats and Combating of Soil Erosion, or TEMA, which has played a critical role in imbuing people with consciousness about the protect nature. In fact, the stories of TEMA and the arboretum went hand in hand.
As a born nature addict, Karaca has enjoyed the village life since his childhood and since his early youth has been thinking about his retirement, in which he hoped to deal with nature rather than work. �When I was 19, my father called me for the family business, but all my mind was at the mountains. I was thinking about my retirement,� he said.
Karaca was also a prominent industrialist and exporter, the brand-father of Çift Geyik- Karaca, a well-known knitwear brand. While he was visiting Anatolia, he saw erosion's effects in Turkey and also visited arboretums and botanical gardens abroad. In 1980, he founded the arboretum, which would represent Turkey's flora, and then in 1992 founded TEMA with his businessman friend Nihat Gökyiğit.
Karaca Arboretum first started as a fruit garden belonging to Karaca's father, ****** but then turned into a gene bank of wooden plants. Currently, the arboretum has more than 300 garden-origin plants, meaning plants that have been landscaped for the first time. The International Dendrology Association honored Karaca Arboretum as for being at the 14th worldwide for garden-origin plants.
�What will happen after me?'
Karaca also founded a foundation for the arboretum to maintain it after his life ends. �This is a scientific center. This is a gene center. All these should live,� he said. Many plants from Karaca Arboretum have already been sent to many universities for scientific study, which is a critical step for the continuity of the arboretum. However, there is not yet any institutional cooperation on official grounds for using the plant bank of Karaca Arboretum. Karaca also built a dormitory for students who have internships at the arboretum. They come and stay in the dorm for free and work in the arboretum. The arboretum is also open to visits