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Flowers of the month

Here's a record of the flowers of the month featured on the home page of Flowers of Crete. For more information: julia@flowersofcrete.info

Flower of the month - January
Iris tuberosa - widow iris

Iris tuberosa (synonym Hermodactylus tuberosus) is a plant of the genus Iris, with common English names of Snake's Head, Snake's Head Iris, Widow Iris, Black Iris or Velvet Flower-de-Luce. It was previously named 'Hermodactylus' or Fingers of Hermes for its unusually shaped petals.

It is a native of the northern Mediterranean and western Europe and grows in winter and very early spring, depending on the weather
conditions. Most often found in yellow/green and dark velvety purplish-black, it can rarely be found in a mauve/purple combination.

Iris tuberosa


December 2016, February and March 2017: repeats.

Verbascum sinuatum

November 2016
Verbascum sinuatum

Usually in flower in July and August, Verbascum sinuatum can occasionally be seen blooming in November and December.

This year this mullein could be found brightening up very dry and barren roadside verges south of Heraklion.

October 2016
Colchicum macrophyllum

Usually found in the west of Crete, there are just a handful of places where it has been recorded in the east.  A stunningly beautiful colchicum which blooms before any of its glossy, broad green leaves.

In English the autumn crocus has many names: Son before the Father, Naked boys, naked ladies, among many more regional variations. The chequerboard pattern on the petals is reminiscent of a fritillary, but in the case of this blossom, its palette is purple and pink, instead of the more muted greens and brown of the latter.

Colchicum macrophyllum

Flower of the month - September 2016
Crocus boryii

This striking white autumn crocus can be found in all parts of Crete. With its large, white flowers, showy orange styles and white anthers it is fairly easy to recognise. This specimen was photographed on a dry, rocky north facing slope close to Elounda, east of Heraklion.

It is closely related to two other autumn flowering species, Crocus tournfortii and Crocus laevigatus. One of the loveliest of the flowers to be found in September, providing the winter rains have arrived early.

Crocus boryii

Galatella cretica

Flower of the month - August 2016

Galatella cretica

Formerly known as Aster creticus, this autumn-flowering member of the Compositae (daisy) family is found in eastern Crete and elsewhere in the eastern Aegean. 

It grows in cliffs and phrygana at low altitudes, up to 800 metres. Flowering between now and November, the dense, irregular flower heads lack ray florets. Yellow is the commonest colour but orange and pink flowers can also be seen.

Minuartia wettsteinii

Flower of the month - July 2016

Minuartia wettsteinii

This tiny, insignificant member of the Carophyllaceae (pink) family, is endemic to a small area on Afendis Kavousi in eastern Crete. 

It grows in rocky places and on scree in the mountains above 1100 metres. Depending on the season, it flowers from May to September. Its flowers are a greenish white in colour and can easily be overlooked.

It is listed as 'endangered' in the Greek Red Data Book, although its remote habitat makes it appear protected at the moment.

Flower of the month - June 2016

Cephelantera cucullata - Hooded cephalanthera

This very rare, endemic orchid can be found on all three of the main mountain ranges of Crete. 

This beautiful bloom was photographed at a recently discovered site, which has not previously been recorded. A quick count of individual specimens showed that there were well over a hundred plants. 

As the site is very remote, the colony appears to be relatively safe, unlike other known colonies that have been raided by collectors. There is cause to hope that this endangered orchid is not as rare as originally thought and that there are other sites where the plant is flourishing.

Due to the dry, warm winter, this and other late flowering orchids has been early, but, in 'normal' years, this stunning Cephelantera blooms in early to mid June.

 

Cephelantera cucullata

Centaurea redempta

Flower of the month - May 2016

Centarea redempta ssp redempta

This is one of many composites in Crete that grow mostly in rocky situations. Centaurea redempta is found mostly in gorges in western Crete. The subspecies redempta is endemic to Crete.

 

Dactylorhiza romana

Flower of the month - April 2016
Dactylorhiza romana

This stunning orchid was first recognised in Rome in 1813 - hence the name 'romana'.  Its colour range is from yellow through white to a deep purple.  Standing 15-30 cms tall, it is unmistakable as the only representative of the genus growing on the island, although some sources quote a subspecies from the Sitea area. 

Found in full sun or shade, on alkaline or acid soils, in grows to an altitude of 2000 metres.  This year seems to be an excellent year for this species, with reports of findings from west to east. Not so for members of the Ophrys family, which have definitely suffered as a result of the dry and warm winter.

March 2016 - a repeat

Ophrys basilissa

Flower of the month - February 2016
Ophrys basilissa - royal ophrys

'Basilissa' means empress and refers to the large lip of this showy, early-flowering Ophrys orchid, found in phrygana and olive groves.

Like many of this group, there are different views on species and subspecies. Some books call this orchid Ophrys omegaifera ssp. basilissa. Ophrys fusca ssp. basilissa is another synonym.

Orchid enthusiasts may enjoy subtle differences, but taxonomic change - notably the definition of more species - is underpinned by improved knowledge. There are genetic differences linked to the insects the flowers attract. Usually each orchid species has its own pollinator, often a solitary bee species.

Flower of the month - January 2016
Ophrys iricolor - rainbow ophrys

In a warm, wet winter in late December, the first of the season's ophrys orchids begin to appear. One of the heralds of spring is the beautiful O. iricolor with its vibrant shimmering blue blazon. 

At first glance it is easily confused with O. mesaritica, but a quick inspection of the under lip shows that this understated and elegant orchid conceals a sparkling fuschia/crimson mark of its identity.  With O. mesaritica, the underlip is a somewhat disappointing  dull greenish brown.

This ophrys can often be found in sparse abandoned olive groves and grows in abundance in the Aghios Nikolaos area. 

Ophrys iricolor


Flower of the month - December 2015
Crocus boryii

This beautiful, pure white crocus is in flower this month. It can be found in southern and western Greece and in Crete. The autumn flowering Crocus boryiCrocus tournefortii and Crocus laevigatus form a group of three fairly distinctive species. All have showy style branches and white anthers, however, they are not usually difficult to tell apart. This example, along with many others, was found on a rocky outcrop above Elounda.

Crocus boryii

Flower of the month, November 2015 Colchicum pusillum

This little colchicum is widespread on Crete, appearing from low levels to around 1,400 metres. 

Flowering from October to November, it can often be found alongside the endemic Colchicum cretense. Its flowers vary from white to pale pink and its stamens are yellow.

Colchicum pusillum

October 2015: Hirtellina fructicosa repeated

Flower of the month
September 2015

Colchicum macrophyllum - autumn crocus

This very rare white form of Colchicum macrophyllum was photographed by Fotis Samarakis in western Crete. 

This stunning Autumn Crocus is much more common in the west than in the east of the island, where it seems to have been recorded in only two locations.

The lovely checkerboard patterned flowers, which are more usually pink, appear before the large glossy leaves.

Colchicum macrophyllum

In the UK the Autumn Crocus is called by common names such as naked ladies or 'son before the father'.

Flower of the month - August 2015
Centaurea calcitrapa - red star-thistle

This very attractive but extremely spiny thistle has an interlocking shrub-like habit. The flower heads are relatively small, but of a striking magenta pink colour.

This example was photographed on the Omalos plateau, where it grows in abundance on roadside verges. Despite the many goats and sheep which can be found grazing on the plateau, the sharp bracts keep it safe from attack.

The specific Latin name 'calcitrapa' - foot trap - for this species refers to the resemblance of the flower-head to a 'caltrops'. This was an iron spiked implement that was thrown under horses' feet to disable them during battle.

Centaurea calcitrapa

July 2015: Larkspur Consolida ajacis (repeated)
June 2015: Cretan rock lettuce Petromarula pinnata (repeated)

Flower of the month - May 2015
Salsify Tragapogon porrifolius

Salsify (Tragapogon porrifolius, also known as Tragapogon sinuatus) is a distinctive and common flower of roadsides in lowland Crete, easily recognised by its large flowers in pink or violet with long bracts that extend beyond the petals. Even the flower buds are distinctive, as are the huge dandelion-like seedheads. It's the Mediterranean equivalent of the northern European jack-go-to-bed-at-noon or goatsbeard; the latter English name is also used for this species.

It sometimes grows alongside the smaller-flowered Tragopogon hybridus (=Geropogon hybridus), on which bracts dwarf the florets so it looks like a child's drawing of a star.

Flower of the month - April 2015
Echium plantagineum

Purple vipers bugloss — the English name for this beautiful, vibrant Echium — fits this picture well enough, but it can be found in colours ranging from white through pinks and fuschia to the most wonderful blues and purples. The pink flowers deepen to purple/blue as they age, so a variety of colours can be found on one plant.

On Crete, purple vipers bugloss can be found in large drifts in meadows at low altitude, especially near the sea. It is a member of the borage family. In Britain it is scare and southerly but it's widespread in much of southern Europe.

Echium plantagineum

Flower of the month - March 2015
Bituminaria bituminosa

Pitch trefoil may not be everyone's favourite plant on account of the smell of tar (pitch) when leaves are rubbed, or in warm weather. Presumably that deters browsers — has anyone seen a goat eating it?

But the distinctive scent makes it a fun plant to show to non-botanists and the clover-like heads of violet flowers can bring a dash of colour to waste ground and roadsides.

It can be found though much of southern Europe, flowering from now until well into the autumn.

Bituminaria bituminosa

February 2015
Bellevalia brevipedicellata

This flower of stony places, rock crevices and phrygana at low altitudes looks rather like a pinky-white grape hyacinth, though the strap-like leaves are more like those of a bluebell.

Not only is it endemic to Crete, it is restricted in distribution to parts of the western tip of the island. It is listed in the Greek Red Data Book as vulnerable.

Bellevalia brevipedicellata

January 2015
Androcymbium rechingeri

This unusual, wintering-flowering bulb, related to Colchicums, is endemic to Crete. It was once thought to be restricted to the island of Elafonísi, off SW Crete, and though it was later found on the west coast of Crete, too, that still means a remarkably restricted range.

Androcymbium rechingeri is found in pockets of sand or clay in open, coastal phrygana. It's in flower between December and February. This photo is by Fotis Samaritakis.

Androcymbium rechingeri

 

Iris unguicularis

December 2014
Cretan iris Iris unguicularis

Iris unguicularis subsp. cretensis - often split as the separate species Iris cretensis - is Crete's commonest iris. Clumps flower in winter and spring in a variety of undisturbed habitats, from open hillside to phrygana.

 

November 2014: Narcissus tazetta repeated
October 2014: Cyclamen graecum subsp. graecum repeated

September 2014

Crithmum maritimum
.

Crithmum maritimum
Rock samphire

The young leaves of rock samphire are picked and salted or pickled to provide a relish. When crushed the leaves smell of tar or petrol. It is found in coastal areas around Crete can also be found in southern Britain on sea cliffs.

Crithmum maritimum is an umbellifer, so related to carrot, hogweed etc. The names rock samphire is confusing: it's not related to the other samphires (or glassworts) Salicornia/Sarcocornia. What they have in common is fleshy leaves and being found by the coast.

August 2014

Ononis spinosa

Ononis spinosa subsp diacantha
Spiny restharrow

A low growing, hairy shrub which flowers from April well into August. At a time when very little else is in flower, it is a pleasure to see.

Like the northern European version, it has some vicious spines to resist browsing where it grows in phrygana, waste ground, roadsides and other dry, inhospitable places, including, occasionally, the sea shore. The hairy leaves reduce water loss in high summer.

The Aegean version of spiny restharrow is classed as the subspecies diacantha. The species is also known as Ononis campestris.

July 2014

Lomelosia minoana sps minoana

Endemic to the Dikti Mountains, this large-flowering scabious is very ornamental and also has wonderful fruiting heads.

Lomelosia minoana seedhead

dragon arum

Flower of the month
June 2014

Dragon arum Dracunculus vulgaris

This plant always impresses, perhaps especially for first-time visitors to Crete. The large, white-spotted leaves and blotchy stalks are distinctive even before the sometimes huge, maroon (but occasionally pale) spathe appears; the slender spadix adds a finishing touch. And it stinks of rotting flesh, to attract pollinating flies.

It's often found on disturbed ground, such as olive groves, but here by the sea at Frangocastello.

 

Crupina crupinastrum

Flower of the month
May 2014

Crupina crupinastrum

Looking rather like a cornflower or a small knapweed, crupina is an attractive annual composite found in stony places, including fields and phrygana.

It's peculiarly tricky to photograph as the solitary flower heads are on the top of long, thin stems so they tremble whenever there's a breeze. This one was at Mirthios.

 

Flower of the month, April 2014
Cretan cyclamen
Cyclamen creticum

The gorgeous Cretan cyclamen reminds us that being an endemic (or nearly so - it's also on Karpathos) doesn't always mean rare. In open woodland, Cretan cyclamen can be in dense carpets with flowers numbering in thousands. They can also be seen in gorges, but typically not in such masses. Cretan cyclamen can found, in the right habitat, in the majority of Crete. Flowers are usually white, occasionally pink. These were inland from Plakias.

Cretan cyclamen

Friar's cowl

Flower of the month
March 2014

Friar’s cowl Arisarum vulgare

This peculiar, compact perennial is often in patches where there is some damp from rocks or shade. The stalked brown- or green-striped flowers may be tucked in under the glossy heart-shaped leaves, or like this one poke through showing the club-like spike of its spadix coming out of the cowl-like hood.

It flowers in the winter and early spring. It’s widespread in much of southern Europe and on Crete; this one was near Spili.

 

Limonium sinuatum

Flower of the month
February 2014

Limonium sinuatum

One of the many Limoniums — sea lavenders — to be found on the beaches around Crete in late winter and early spring. 

This one was found on the beach near Paleochora in south-west Crete last February. Limonium sinuatum is common on parts of the north coast ... but not shown from the south coast in the Flora of the Cretan Area.

 

Anemone coronaria

Flower of the month
January 2014

Anemone coronaria

The beautiful Crown Anemone Anemone coronaria can be seen all over the island in late winter and early spring.  Colours vary from almost white through to deep rich fuschias and purples and they can be found in huge drifts on meadows and hillsides. 

 

2013

Flower of the month - December 2013

Crocus oreocreticus

This was photographed on the Yious Kambos in late November.

The fields were full of hundreds of this beautiful saffron crocus, in shades ranging from white to deep mauve.

C. oreocreticus is endemic to Crete and is the symbol of Flowers of Crete.

The stunning veining on this crocus makes it fascinating to photograph or paint.

Crocus oreocreticus

Flower of the month - November 2013
Biarum davisii

It will soon be time for the strangest little endemic to begin blooming in the hills above Elounda. This rare Cretan subspecies can be found in large numbers if you know where to find it, but it is easily overlooked. For me, Biarum davisii signals the start of another season of flowers and I await its appearance with some impatience.

B. davisii subsp. davisii is a member of the arum family. Photo taken 9 November 2009.

Biarum davisii

Euphorbia dimorphocaulon

Flower of the month - October 2013
Euphorbia dimorphocaulon

This tiny little euphorbia was photographed growing on an otherwise barren hillside before the autumn rains had really started.

Around it everything was completely desiccated and dry. Amazing how such a fragile plant can grow in such harsh conditions.

 

September 2013: Sea daffodil Pancratium maritimum, repeated from September 2010.

Hogweed seedhead

Flower of the month: August 2013
Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium

This is the seedhead of Heracleum sphondylium, commonly called Hogweed. A member of the Apiaceae family (formerly known as Umbelliferae), it is common in northern Europe, but somewhat rarer in the Mediterranean. 

It flowers in open woodland, grassy places and roadsides from April to July and its distinctive white flowers are followed by these beautifully fragile seed pods.  This particular specimen caught my eye as we were driving on the Lassithi Plateau and we just had to stop to photograph it.

Euphorbia rechingeri

Flower of the month: July 2013
Euphorbia rechingeri

This endemic spurge is only found in a small area high in Lefka Ora, the white mountains. It grows in calcareous crevices and on screes above 1800m.

It's closely related to (and sometimes put as a subspecies of) the better known Euphorbia myrsinites. Photo by Anna Meurling.

Campanula tubulosa

Flower of the month: June 2013
Campanula tubulosa

This bellflower is endemic to western Crete, and prefers rocky slopes.

It has two characteristic swellings at the base of each calyx lobes, shown below in close-up.
This flower is from Kourtiolótiko Gorge (photo by Chris Durdin).

Paeonia clusii

Flower of the month, May 2013
Paeonia clusii

This beautiful flower, found only on Crete, mostly in the White Mountains, is usually white, though occasionally (as pictured) is pink.

It's such a striking looking bloom that bridegrooms from Sfakia used to pin a peony on their lapels, it's said.

 

Ophrys episcopalis

Flower of the month, April 2013
Bishop's ophrys Ophrys episcopalis

Ophrys episcopalis is sometimes ‘lumped’ with O. holoserica found elsewhere in SW Europe. It is a similar shape to sawfly orchid O. tenthredifera but with a variable patterning reminiscent of the woodcock orchid group such as, on Crete, Ophrys heldreichii.

Chunky, with a lip that’s square and downy, Ophrys episcopalis feels self-confident and with the purplish sepals the name bishop’s ophrys seems to suit it better than the alternative name of large-flowered bee orchid.

Links: Ten Cretan orchids;
Crete orchids on www.honeyguide.co.uk.

Scilla nana

Flower of the month, March 2013
Scilla nana

Scilla nana (Glory of the Snow) is found in the mountains, blooming as the snow melts, so its flowering time is very varied.  When we are lucky enough to find it, we are always taken aback by the beauty of the blooms, from white, through a pink blush to a startling blue. 

Endemic to Crete, this species is now known everywhere as a superb rock plant, providing colour when very little else is in flower.

Photo by Joost Brouwer.

Flower of the month, February 2013, Silene colorata
The cheerful Silene colorata is starting to come out all round the island, as a herald of the wonderful flowers to come.  Its bright pink petals shine in the winter sunshine and always lift the spirits.

Narcissus tazetta

.

Flower of the month, January 2013
Narcissus tazetta

One of the most beautiful winter flowers of Crete, Narcissus tazetta, or paperwhite narcissus, is found all over the island from November through to February. Often forming large drifts, the strong scent of this lovely narcissus can be  carried on the breeze. Unfortunately, the attractive blooms, with their sweet aroma, makes this bulb an ideal cut flower for brightening winter homes and huge bunches of picked blossoms can be seen in weekly markets.

2012

Crocus tournfortii

Flower of the month, December 2012
Crocus tournefortii
 

This beautiful crocus can be recognised by its yellow throat and white anthers. The leaves, which appear with the flowers, are dark green with a central light white ridge. 

It can be found in the east of the island at low altitude — often on stoney roadsides and in olive groves. It's in flower from late October to mid December.

Flower of the month
November 2012

Sternbergia

Unidentified Sternbergia outside the village of Deliana.  

At first sight, I thought that this beautiful, bright Sternbergia was Sternbergia lutea, but it seems too robust.  It was growing along the roadside and beneath shrubs and bushes on the banks. Any thoughts on identification would be most welcome. 

Despite the late arrival of the rains this year, the autumn flowering bulbs are making a spectacular display in the west of the island. 

Flower of the month
October 2012
Hirtellina fructicosa

Hirtellina fruticosa

This autumn-flowering member of the daisy family grows in rock crevices, mainly in south Crete, including in Kourtoliótiko gorge near Plakias.
Hirtellina fruticosa - close-up

It was formerly known as Staehellina fructicosa. Fructicosa means shrubby, which can help when looking for flowers with that name.

Campanula jacquini

Flower of the month - September 2012

Campanula jacquini

This beautiful and rare endemic Campanula grows in the mountain regions of Western Crete above 1,800 metres. 

This specimen was photographed by Anna and Olle Meurling on one of their mountain hikes.

Flower of the month - August 2012
Thymus capitatusThymus capitus

This wonderfully aromatic wild thyme can be found in flower on hill and mountain sides across Crete throughout August. Its nectar draws in a multitude of bees and it is responsible for the unmistakable flavour of Cretan honey.

At the height of summer, the air is filled with the scent of thyme, sage, rosemary and origano and the sound of the humming of thousands of happy Cretan bees. This culinary herb can be found across the eastern Mediterranean and into Turkey.

Helichrysum doerfleri

Flower of the month - July 2012

Helichrysum doerfleri

This tiny, rare, endemic Helichrysum is known only from the Thripti Mountains in eastern Crete. No bigger than a thumbnail if can be found over a few square metres near the summit of the highest peak there. 

Despite its tiny proportions, it is very beautiful, shining in the summer sunlight. This species is recorded as 'endangered' in the Greek Red Book.

 

Epipactis cretica

Flower of the month - June 2012

Epipactis cretica - Cretan Helleborine

This rare Cretan endemic, the Cretan Helleborine, was photographed in a remote forest area near Ierapetra.  It is a shade loving plant that is quite difficult to photograph. This specimen, growing under plane trees near a fast flowing mountain stream, was equally difficult to spot. 

It is a delicate and subdued plant but nevertheless very beautiful and in need of protection from both animals and humans. It flowers in mountainous areas from the end of May through June, depending on weather conditions.

 

Phlomis cretica

Flower of the month - May 2012

Phlomis cretica

Phlomis cretica is the Cretan species of Jerusalem sage and at this time of the year many hillsides are covered with its brilliant yellow flowers.

Growing alongside Phlomis fructicosa, its nectar provides a feast for many insects, including the endangered Cretan bee.

P. cretica can be distinguished from other varieties by the dark brown/orange blush which can clearly be seen on its upper section.

 

Flowers of the month - April 2012

Crown anemone, Anemone coronaria

One of the brightest and certainly most varied flower on Crete in spring. They can be red (like this one, left, near Spili), white blue, purple, violet or mauve - like these below, on the Omalos plateau.crown anemones, Omalos plateau

Ophrys fleishmanii

Ophrys fleishmanii  

This interesting little ophrys is said to be relatively common on Crete, but in all the time we have been photographing and botanising, I have only seen is in two locations in the east of the island. 

It has a lovely purple/brown colouring and, as you can see, it covered with fine, long white hairs.  The areas where it grows are on rocky hillsides covered with low and very spiney bushes, so getting a good image is not easy.  This was one of a large clump, growing among many other ophrys and orchids.

Bellevalia brevipedicellata

Flower of the month - March 2012

Bellevalia brevipedicellata

This rare, endemic plant, Bellevalia brevipedicellata, can be found flowering only in the south west corner of Crete during the late winter months.  Although it could be easily overlooked because of its muted colouring, it is really a lovely little plant. 

Photographed by Julia for the first time this year, it was growing in abundance on rocks at sea level and even on the side of the main road around Paleochora.  This endemic is one of several of this species that can be found in isolated areas from west to east.

Bellis longifolia

Flower of the month - February 2012
Bellis longifolia

Bellis longifolia is a pretty endemic daisy which is, as its name suggests, recognised by its long serrated leaves. 

The flower heads are held on long stalks and are extremely beautiful when seen en masse. More commonly found in central and western Crete, this is a favourite with Flowers of Crete.

Ophrys bomblyiflora

Flower of the month - January 2012
Ophrys bomblyiflora

Several specimens of this little ophrys,  Ophrys bomblyiflora, were found in bloom on the meadows above Elounda at the beginning of this month. 

The flowering season continues to the middle of April. Known as the Bumblebee ophrys, it grows in its hundreds on several of the orchid-rich sites in this area.

 

2011

Scilla autumnalis

Flower of the month - December 2011
Scilla autumnalis

Scilla autumnalis (synonym Prospero autumnalis) or the Autumn squill is one of the first bulbs to come into flower after the rains. 

Botanists believe that there are probably several subspecies of this little flower, but more work needs to be done to prove this. 

Blooming in soil preferred by orchids, it is a good indicator for discoveries later in the season.

Although very small, the flowers can often be found in such large colonies that the hillside takes on a soft mauve hue. The Autumn squill is very common and can be found all over the island.

 

Flower of the month - November 2011
Narcissus tazetta

This beautifully fragrant narcissus, known to gardeners and florists around the world, can be found blooming on banks and in meadows around Elounda on Crete's north coast during the month of November. 

More commonly found in late January and February, this superb bulb is a favourite amongst gardeners and florists around Europe. As a cut flower this sturdy flower lasts well in water and this has sadly led to over-picking by locals either to adorn their homes and offices or to sell in the market to raise a few extra euros. 

Narcissus tazetta

Flower of the month - October 2011
Biarum tenuifolium ssp zelborii

Known only from two confirmed sites on Crete, this very rare biarum grows north of Neapoli in the rubble of a gorge bed at around 200 m. The strange spathes appear before the leaves, growing directly from the parched soil. 

This photograph, taken by Flowers of Crete supporter Anna Meurling, was taken in what may be a new site on the far east coast. These biarums are small members, around 12 cms high, of the Aracea family, so a sharp eye is needed to spot them.

Please report any possible sightings, with a photograph if possible. Flowers of Crete's 'Most Wanted' for the month of October.


Biarum tenuifolium ssp zelborii

 


Campanula cretica

Flower of the month - September 2011

Campanula cretica 

September is not rich in flowers, as it marks the end of the hot, dry summer season. However, this rare, beautiful and endemic bellflower produces large white or pink flowers from the end of June to the end of this month.  This specimen was found growing close to the road, where the steep bank was covered with a mass of these spectacular flowers. With the late afternoon sun shining through its petals Campanula cretica provided an unexpected and unforgettable sight.

Eryngium maritimum

Flower of the month - August 2011

Sea Holly - Eryngium maritimum 

Now considered threatened in the UK, the Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum is abundant on Crete's north coast. In the hot summer months it attracts huge numbers of brown and yellow hornets whose buzzing fills the air. The sea holly is a fairly dull looking plant until it blooms and even then it needs carefully scrutiny to appreciate just how beautiful its blossoms are. Despite the high summer temperatures, several coastal plants come into flower in August, including the delightful Pancratium maritimum, the Sea Daffodil.


Cephelantera cucullata

Flower of the month - July 2011

Cephelantera cucullata - Hooded cephalanthera 

This beautiful and rare endemic orchid grows in only a handful of places on Crete and is listed as 'endangered' in the Greek Red Book of Endangered Species. 

On a recent photographic trip, we found three specimens in flower, but were horrified to see that someone had been digging up bulbs throughout the forest. Growing in remote mountain areas, it seems virtually impossible to protect these species and with the current economic crisis in Greece there is little or no money available for such environmental projects. Orchid collectors in the Far East are prepared to pay large sums to obtain bulbs of this species, but the chances of them surviving are very slim - even the Botanic Gardens at Kew struggles to grow on members of the Cephelantera family, so what chance for the amateur?

Petromarula


Flower of the month - June 2011

Cretan rock lettuce Petromarula pinnata

This photo of the endemic rock lettuce Petromarula pinnata was taken in the grounds of the Orthodox Academy of Crete at Kolymbari. 

Found growing in old stone walls and in rocky crevices, it is easily recognisable, not only by its distinctive flowers but by its beautiful blue colouring and its elegant flower spikes.

Petromarula, as it's often called, is more commonly found in west and central Crete. As the English name suggests, the leaves of this early summer flowering species can be eaten as a salad vegetable, despite actually being in the campanula (bellflower) family and not a true lettuce, which are composites.

Orchis pauciflora

Flower of the month - May 2011

Few-flowered orchid Orchis pauciflora

This year, after a late start because of the cold weather, the orchids have been magnificient.

The fields around Spili were full of the bright yellow Orchis pauciflora. This orchid is usually found on the lower slopes of mountains and often can be seen in large drifts.

It was once considered to be a subspecies of Provence orchid Orchis provincialis, which is much scarcer on Crete.


Storax

Flower of the month - April 2011

Storax Styrax officinalis

This beautiful small tree or shrub has hanging bunches of fragrant flowers that in bud are reminiscent of a snowdrop.

According to myth, the plant originated in Crete and was introduced to Greece by Radamanthys, son of Zeus.

It prefers cooler locations such as gorges and riversides: this one was photographed in Kourtaliotiko gorge.


Romulea bulbocodium


Flower of the month - March 2011

Sand crocus Romulea bulbocodium

This beautiful Romulea was photographed on the grassy meadows at the back of the beach at Falasarna on the west coast of Crete.  The area was bright with a myriad of this lovely little flower, in colours ranging from white to  deep purple. 

This member of the iris family can be found on Crete from sea level to the high mountains and is in flower from February to April.  Romulea bulbocodium is one of four species that can be found on Crete, and is the one most likely to be found, often in great numbers.

Giant orchid

Flower of the month - February 2011

Giant orchid Barlia robertiana

With yet another mild winter, the first orchids of the season are in bloom. One of the most spectacular of these is Barlia robertiana - Robert's Giant Orchid, which can grow to one metre or more.

Beautifully scented and with a colour range from greenish white to deep burgundy, this orchid is one to be photographed time and time again. Sadly, this Barlia is often picked to decorate homes and offices. The good news is that it is fairly common and can grow in large numbers all around the island.

Viscum album

Flower of the month - January 2011

Cretan mistletoe Viscum album ssp creticum

The berries of Cretan mistletoe, which can be found growing in the east of the island around Aghios Nikolaos on Pinus halepensis ssp brutia - The Turkish or Calabrian Pine.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant which can grow on evergreen or deciduous trees. Growing high in the branches of pine trees on Mount Thripti and above Kritsa, it is often shot down to provide festive decoration at Christmas.

2010

Verbascum macrurum

Flower of the month - December 2010

Verbascum macrurum

This mullein is a reminder of the familiar botanists' observation that plants don't read books, as its 'official' flowering season is March to August.

The specimen must be the most wonderful of its kind I have yet seen. It was spotted by Rosemary John (botanist for Flowers of Crete), at the end of November on the Yious Cambos, above Rethymnon, flowering at a relatively high altitude.

The plant itself was squat and stocky but the amazingly vibrant flowers – each was at least 3 cms across – made it visible from several metres distance. Standing amidst Crocus oreocreticus (see below) and Crocus laevigatos on a bright, clear day, it was an absolute joy to see.

Allium tardans

Flower of the month - November 2010

Allium tardans

This little, unassuming allium was found on Rosemary's hillside recently and is one of my favourite Cretan area endemics. (It can also be found on Karpathos.) Despite being, on first glance quite insignificant, its subtle colours are a delight when viewed up close.

It is widespread on Crete, preferring calcareous cliffs, abandoned fields and phrygana. I suppose one of the reasons why I love it, is because it heralds the start of the growing season and all the delightful things we are bound to find in the coming months.

Flower of the month - October 2010

Varying from pale to deep pink, this beautiful sowbread is found in rocky habitats in October and November in western Crete, notably the Kórikos and Rodopoú peninsulas. It's also found on mainland Greece where it is common in the Peleponnese.

Cyclamen graecum flowers in October and November, though this may depend on temperatures and when the autumn rains come. It's one of five cyclamen species on Crete. The endemic Cyclamen candicum (formerly C. graecum subsp. candicum) and C. hederifolium are also autumn-flowering; C. creticum and C. persicum flower in spring.

This beautiful flower was photographed a couple of years ago at the wonderful cyclamen meadows near Astratigos, near Kissamos in the west of the island. Sadly these fields are now being ploughed to plant yet more olive trees. However, we have recovered as many corms as we can and these are doing well in pots around Aghios Nikolaos, until we can find somewhere more suitable to re-plant.

Cyclamen graecum subsp. graecum. The corm of this cyclamen was estimated to be at least 40 years old.
Cyclamen graecum

Flower of the month - September 2010

Sea daffodil Pancratium maritimum

Being autumn-flowering, spring visitors to the Mediterranean miss out on this seaside gem - apart from the daffodil-like leaves and, with a little searching, its chunky black seeds. The sea daffodil can be found on the sea shore in many places around Crete and is so beautiful that it is now cultivated in the grounds of several luxury hotels. Its perfume is sweet and heady and altogether this must be one of the most attractive plants on the island.

Pancratium maritimum

Flower of the month - August 2010

Origanum dictamnus - Cretan dittany


This endemic labiate of calcareous cliffs and gorges, from sea level up to 1900m, has been used as a medicine for many centuries. It is now cultivated for a herbal tea, locally known as díctamos or érondas. Much of the colour is from deep pinky bracts that overlap the whitish-pink flowers.

Cretan dittany

Flower of the month - July 2010

Consolida ajacis - larkspur

A beautiful annual found in localised areas on Crete. This specimen was photographed on the edge of cultivated fields on the Katharo Plateau above Aghios Nikolaos.

 

Consolida ajacis

  1. Others

Bufonia stricta

This plant is Bufonia stricta, in the Caryophyllaceae (the pink family).

It is very characteristic with its four sepals and petals and wiry stems.

Also it’s one of the few things in flower high in the mountains at this time of year.

Information from Nick Turland, photo by Olle Meurling.

Featured on the home page in November 2012.

Bufonia stricta
Centaurea pumilio


Centaurea pumilio
This rare centaurea can only be found in Crete on the western beaches around Elafonísi. It was in bloom when delegates from the conference on biodiversity made a field trip to the remote beaches of the south west tip of Crete.

The intensely grey hairy leaves are for moisture retention, typical of many flowers of maritime sands. Photo taken 8 May 2010.

 
  See also:
Ten widespread flowers of Crete
here
Ten rare plants of Crete
here
Ten Cretan orchids
here
 
Flowers of the month
 
 
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