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Despite Georgia's relatively small area, the country possesses an unusually diverse flora. This is a result of the variety of geographical and climatic zones, a topography of marked contrasts, and a territory that happens to be at the crossroads of a number of landscapes of differing origins.

Georgia has 5,000 types of wild vegetation and approximately 8,300 types of cryptogamous vegetation (5,000 types of mushroom, 2,000 types of seaweed, 600 types of moss, and 73 types of fern).

Ten species are extinct, notably the chickpea (Cicer arietinum), the Georgian elm (Ulmus georgica), the Transcaucasian poplar (Populus transcaucasica) and the Eldari pine (Pinus eldarica), which now exists only in Azerbaijan. Fifty species are in a critical state, including the fern (Osmunda regalis), the Mingrelian birch (Betula megrelica), the Colchic water chestnut (Trapa colchica) and the Caucasian yam (Dioscorea caucasica). Around 300 species are now rare, including the Pitsunda pine (Pinus pithyusa), the Saguramo camomile (Anthemis saguramica) and a type of brassica called Pseudovesicaria digitata; about 140 are seriously reduced, including the joint-pine (Ephedra distachya), a red- berried undershrub (Pachyphragma macrophyllum) and the Mediterranean caper (Capparis spinosa). Others of interest include: Campanula mirabilis, found only in one gorge in Abkhazia; Iris iberica, only in the southeast of Georgia; Hypericum thethrobicum, only in Javakheti; Senecio rhombifolius, a Caucasian endemic found throughout Georgia; Solidago turfosa, in peat bogs; Epigaea gaultherioides, in the Colchic forests; Heracleum sommieri, in subalpine megaphorbias; Rhododendron caucasicum, in alpine habitats; and Delphinium caucasicum, in subnival habitats. Around 2,000 vascular species are of economic value (for timber, fruits, dyes, oils, fodder and medicinal properties) and at least 150 fungi are edible.

The flora of eastern and western Georgia are quite different, mostly due to the fact that the arid and semi-arid vegetation of the unforested parts of eastern Georgia is absent from the densely forested west, where forestation begins at sea level.

Western Georgia is distinguished by four main zones: forest (sea level to 1,900 meters); subalpine (1,950-2,500 meters); alpine (2,500-3,100 meters); and nival (3,100 meters and up). Beginning at sea level, alder and wingnut trees thrive in the swampy Colchian lowlands. In less moist areas are ample numbers of oak, chestnut, hornbeam, and liana. The famous Pitsunda pine grows in Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast. A unique grove of these trees on the Pitsunda Cape is protected as a natural monument.

Eastern Georgia is divided into six zones: semi-desert (150-600 meters) dominated by dry steppes and sparse treegrowth; forest (600-1,900 meters); subalpine (1,900-2,500 meters); alpine (2,500-3,000 meters); subnival (3,000-3,500 meters); and nival (3,500 meters and up). The lowlands and foothills are forested along the Mtkvari, Iori, and Alazani rivers, with oak, poplar, several types of willows, and occasionally mulberry. The Alazani valley forests are rich with liana. Eastern Georgia's dry valleys support wormwood and Russian thistle. A little higher, where the climate is more humid, bear grass steppes are dotted with pistachio, juniper, maple, and pomegranate.

Lowland Colchic forests are dominated by oak (Quercus pedunciflora, Q. hartwissiana, Q. imeretina), chestnut (Castanea sativa) and lime (Tilia sp), while higher regions are covered by beech (Fagus orientalis), fir (Abies nordmanniana) and spruce (Picea orientalis), with an evergreen understorey. At subalpine levels there are crook-stem and dwarf forests of birch (Betula litwinowii, B. raddeana, B. medwedewii, B. megrelica) and oak (Q. pontica). Other trees and shrubs found in the Colchic district include hornbeam (Carpinus caucasica), pine (Pinus kochiana, P. pithyusa), juniper (Juniperus foetidissima, J. polycarpus), pistachio (or turpentine; Pistacia mutica), Colchic boxwood (Buxus colchica), cherry-laurel (Laurocerasus officinalis), holly (Ilex colchica), bladder-nut (Staphylea colchica), Colchic hazel (Corylus colchica), rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum, R. luteum, R. caucasicum, R. ungernii, R. smirnovi), rowan (mountain ash; Sorbus subfusca), wing-nut {Pterocarya pterocarpa), Caucasian wing-nut (P. fraxinifolia), small-leaved elm (Zelkova carpinifolia) and the extremely rare strawberry tree (Arbutus andrachne).

The High Caucasus is also rich in endemics; on the southern slopes at lower to mid altitude there's thick deciduous forest, which on the south-western slopes is described as 'temperate rainforest' (although it falls far short of Chilean or British Columbian standards). Then between 1,250m and about 2,300m there's mixed deciduous-coniferous forest of birch, dwarf rowan and rhododendron (the lilac- flowered R. ponticum below and the bright yellow R. luteum at the forest limit), with spectacular flowers in clearings and on the forest edges, such as the yellow Turk's cap lily (Lilium monadelphum), purple bellflower (Campanula latifolia), columbine (Aquilegia olympica), fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea), butterfly orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) and marsh orchid (Dachylorhiza spp). Around Mestia, for instance, you'll also find red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra), tall pink campion (Silene sp), large yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata), henbane (Hyoscyamus niger, Datura sp), endemic giant hogweed (Heracleum sommieri), hollyhocks (Alcea sp), as well as white foxgloves, yellow cinquefoil, and wild strawberries and gooseberries.

Above the treeline (between 1,800m and 2,400m) are subalpine meadows, which are very lush to the west: herbaceous plants include masterwort (Astrantia sp), maroon lousewort (Pedicularis sp), bistort (Polygonum bistorta), lilies, columbine, delphinium, ranunculus, bellflowers, orchids, campion, vetch, scabious, pansies and cornflowers. Above these you'll see the white-flowered Rhododendron caucasicum and alpine meadows (up to 3,000m), home to perennials, many in rosettes or cushions. These include spring gentians (Gentiana verna pontica), Pyrenean gentian (G. septemfida, G. oschtenica), purple oxlip (Primula elatior meyeri, P. algida, P. auriculata and P. bayerni), pink cinquefoil (Potentilla oweriana) and yellow cinquefoil (P. ruprechtii); sandwort (Arenaria sp), chickweed (Cerastium undulatifolium), fleabane (Erigeron sp) and dwarf forget-me-not (Myosotis sp), Snowdon lily (Lloydia serotina), rock-jasmine (Androsace villosa and A. albana), whitlow grass (Draba bryoides) and wild pansies (Viola caucasica, Pulsatilla aurea), fumitory (Corydalis conorhiza, C. alpestris), fritillaries (Fritillaria latifolia), the white Anemone impexe and yellow A. speciosa, prophet flower (Arnebia pulchra, Trollius ranunculus), and finally, saxifrages, bellflowers and buttercups.

Many native plants have suffered from an increase in trade: in 1994, 515,000 bulbs of the snowdrop (Galanthus ikeriae), a species listed in Appendix II of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), were illegally collected in Georgia and subsequently exported by Turkish traders to Western Europe. Other species have also been affected by this illicit trade, including wild cyclamen (Cyclamen spp) and snowflakes (Leucojum spp).