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The most tenacious trees. What treasures have been preserved in Kazakhstan since the Ice Age

05 March 2021

The nature of Kazakhstan is diverse and unique, there are groves of relict turanga and ash, which, according to scientists, were able to survive the ice age. They have long remained sacred to their ancestors. In this article, we will tell you where these natural resources are located.

Balkhash region

Not far from the city of Balkhash, several unusual groves of the unique relict turanga still grow. One of them is located on the Tokyrau River, in its lower course, the age of the grove is several thousand years old. The tree has several names – relict Turang poplar, Euphrates poplar, tograk, turanga.

In Kazakhstan, it is also called zheltorangy, that is, turanga, calling the wind. Even in the most intense heat, it provides shade and saves travelers from the heat. The tree is also unique in that its leaves are of different shapes, the leaves from different parts of the crown of the crown do not look like each other, as if they were plucked from different trees. Therefore, turanga has another name-poplar raznolistny.


Until now, scientists are arguing about the origin of the name of the tree. There is a version that it is named after the Turanians, presumably, who lived on the territory of modern Kazakhstan several centuries ago. Historians still do not know exactly who the representatives of this nation really were and where they came from. It was believed that these were representatives of nomadic Iranian-speaking peoples, the Saks and Turks were also called Turanians.

Iran and Turan, according to the great Persian epic “Shahnameh” by the poet Abulkasim Firdousi, have long been at war with each other. Their war lasted for a thousand years, until Prince Siyavush married the Turanian Princess Farangiz.

Turanga, or Asian poplar, is unique in that it can grow in sandy and saline soils. Its powerful root system is able to go into the soil to a depth of up to 30 meters. Thus, the Asian poplar can find ground water under sand deposits and feed on their moisture, which allows it to survive in the harshest conditions.

In fact, this is the most tenacious tree on Earth, a real fighter who fights for life to the last. Scientists believe that this tree is one of the few that managed to survive the ice age. Asian poplar is listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan.

The curved trunks of the turanga attract birds, and titmice, hoopoes, and blue larks make their nests in them. White-tailed eagles and golden eagles settle on the tree crowns. During the summer heat in arid and desolate places, the grove provides travelers with a saving shade.

Knowing the indomitable nature of the tree and its will to live, the ancient Turks, and then the Kazakhs, revered it in ancient times and still revere it. It was considered a great sin to cut down this sacred tree. There was even a belief that when the last turanga dried up, the world, turning into a desert, would finally perish. But for a long time, gnarled trunks soaked in salt, not subject to decay and rapid destruction, will hold on to the ground.

Where it is located:

Relict grove is located 25 kilometers from the city of Balkhash, near the village of Orta-Deresyn, in the lower reaches of the Tokyrau River.


In the Altyn-Emel nature reserve, another relict turang grove has been preserved, its age is several thousand years old. In summer, in this area, which is covered with salt marsh, almost all the plants burn out, but the turanga remains covered with foliage, offering travelers a saving shade.


Writer Bakhytzhan Bektepov in his story “Tears of Turanga” tells the legend of a girl named Turanga. In the center of the plot is the story of a beautiful woman who for a long time chose between two horsemen Karazhal and Temir. Karazhal won the competition. However, the girl’s heart was drawn to Temir.

“It was a time when people lived in harmony with each other and with the whole world. It was a time when no one knew what envy and meanness, treachery and cruelty were. It was a time when the thousand-faced God of Evil had not yet been born. In a rich and generous village lived Bai Nurali with his wife Kuralai, and they had a daughter named Turanga. Neither the bottomless sky nor the blooming steppe could compare with the beauty of Turanga … ” – this is how the author describes the beauty of the girl. But Turanga, having married, could not appreciate all the advantages of Karazhal.

She gave her heart to Temir, and then there was grief, as a result of which an entire family died.

The young woman began to see her husband as a protector and support, tender feelings begin to awaken in her, because Turanga was already expecting a child from her husband, when Temir briefly stopped by the village of Karazhal while Karazhal was hunting. And Turanga, remembering her passionate feelings for Temir, goes to the old fortune-teller, and she helps the woman get rid of the child.

Karazhal returns from hunting and learns about his wife’s act. He decides to share his grief with Rod and demands punishment. The elders drive Turanga out of the village and threaten to put a curse on anyone who feels sorry or speaks to the criminal. Karazhal, unable to calm the heartache, plunges a dagger into his heart. The sufferer Turanga becomes a turang tree, the leaves of which seem to cry transparent drops.


“…The stars looked sadly from an unattainable height at the freely spread earth below, shrouded in the darkness of night. Sometimes some of them fell in streaks-tears, as if the sky itself was mourning those who were there, far, far below, in the middle of the steppe, peacefully breathing the fragrance of the blooming zhusan. And, as a reflection of these stars, on the leaves of the turang trees growing here and there in the vast expanses, myriads of transparent drops lit up, called by the people the tears of Turangi “- these words end the sad story “The Tears of Turangi”.

Where it is located:

The grove is located on the bank of the Ili River (below Kapchagai on the left bank or or above – on the right) in the Altyn-Emel Nature Reserve.

Ash Grove of relict centenarians

Sogdian ash trees in the Charyn canyon are a rare relic of the Ice Age. Ash trees were named after the Sogdians, who ruled for a long time on this section of the Silk Road. The trees themselves are very ancient, the grove used to be part of a large large ecosystem that is more than 25 million years old. Now the grove, as a remnant of former luxury, occupies a strip of 25 kilometers.

Since 1964, this place has become a conservation area, the trees were taken under the protection of the state. And it is not surprising: the grove once witnessed the invasion of the Mongols, under the shade of these spreading trees, caravans that traveled along the Silk Road rested.

Sogdian ash grows in China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. In Kazakhstan, the grove is located in the Charyn and Temerlik canyons. Impassable because of the dense undergrowth, the grove remains sunny. The waters of the Charyn were able to make their way through the relict grove, which at noon, when the steppe is sweltering with heat, attracts travelers with coolness.

In the grove you can see various birds, such as the brown pigeon, tyuvik, white-winged woodpecker, white-tailed eagle, Semirechensky pheasant. Here you can also meet muskrat, hare, fox, reed cat and wild boar. The territory is protected, and the animals feel protected.

The main attraction of the grove is the giant Sogdian ash trees, they are so large that the locals called these trees-elders aksakals, which are revered with the same respect. These are the oldest trees in the grove, which have reached the age of more than 300 years. Sogdian ash can reach a height of about 25 meters, the thickness of the trunks reaches up to five girths. The bark on the trunks resembles deep wrinkles that keep the memory of events of long ago.

Один из многовековых ясеней-аксакалов, @al_feyalive

Where is it located:

The grove is located in the Uyghur district of Almaty region, north of the famous Valley of Castles (the name of one of the most picturesque sections of the Charyn Canyon), on the territory of the Charyn State National Natural Park.

Information taken from the site Tengritravel.kz

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