In praise of Ophrys: an illustrated article on the Flowers of Crete website in which Thomas Sampliner writes about his favourite orchids — click here.

Tom is an active botanist and tutor in Ohio, USA. Photos in this article were taken by Tom on visits with Flowers of Crete. September 2013.

Wildlife art from beach clean up, September 2012.
Photo-feature here >.

Cretan Flora through a Macro Lens: article and photos on Honeyguide's website here, featuring flowers photographed in April 2011.

A Flowers of Crete Art and Photography Exhibition took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in June 2011. The title of the exhibition was Rare and Endangered Plants and was held during the ECOTHEE Conference on the Environment.

The conference was attended by delegates from around the world, an opportunity for artists committed to the environment to share a stage with people from other disciplines.

Flowers of Crete T-shirts!

Good quality machine washable T-shirt printed with an original photograph of the endemic Tulipa cretica - the Cretan tulip.

In white, sizes S, M, L, XL.
S & M 10.00 euros
L & XL 12.00 euros
plus post and packing.
Details of Flowers of Crete on back.

To order contact

Or click through to Flowers of Crete merchandise.


Flowers on Facebook

Julia Jones from Flowers of Crete took up a Facebook challenge to post a flower photo every day for a week, choosing endemic flowers of Crete (naturally!). You can either go straight to our Facebook here, or see the individual posts on the following links:

Day 7 - Himantoglossum samariense Cretan lizard orchid
Day 6 - Fritillaria messanensis ssp sphaciotica

Day 5 - Viola cretica
Day 4 - Ebenus creticus
Day 3 - Tulipa cretica
Day 2 - Orchis papillionacea ssp alibertis a white form of the endemic butterfly orchid
Day 1 - Paeonia clusii ssp clusii

There are many more flower photos to enjoy on Flowers of Crete's Facebook page.

Invitation to participate in a botanic arts festival in Eger, Hungary ... 28-30 April, 2016. Provisional details here.

What's the connection with Flowers of Crete? In 2015, FoC's Julia Jones was invited to co-lead a workshop on the Propagation of the Terrestrial Orchids of Europe; with Crete's lizard orchid Himantoglossum samariense taking centre stage along with Cypripedium calceolus, the endandered lady's slipper orchid.  The event took place in Eger, in northern Hungary as a result of co-operation between Flowers of Crete, PlantaEuropa and the Eszterházy Károly College in Eger.

As a result of this, it was decided to hold a Botanic Arts Festival in May, 2016. This festival will feature music, dance, poetry and literature, but will also include botanic art workshops and a botanic art exhibition, at which Julia will be exhibiting her paintings of endangered Cretan endemics (including her latest painting of Bellevalia juliana, about which see below) and also a recent painting of Cypripedium calceolus.

Oliver Rackham commemorative symposium

As a tribute to Oliver Rackham (see news item below) and his conservation work, a symposium is to be held in Cambridge, UK, in August 2016. More information here.

Bellevalia juliana - a new flower for Crete

A new species of Bellavalia has been discovered on Crete - and named after Flowers of Crete founder and president, Julia Jones.

Bellevalia juliana has been separated from Bellavalia brevipedicellate and B. sitiaca — these two Cretan endemics once considered as one species from plants examined near Elounda and a second location in eastern Crete.

Bellevalia juliana (Steve Lenton)

In a paper* published in Plant Biosystems, P. Bareka, N.J. Turland & G. Kamari, the authors note differences in the leaves and fruit and detailed examination shows differences in chromosomes.

The authors say: "Bellevalia juliana is named in honour of Julia Jones, who is the first person to have spotted the new species."

Julia Jones found the unusual flowers in 2005 and, with Rosemary John, showed them to two of the paper's authors in 2009.


Photo: Bellevalia juliana (Steve Lenton)

The conservation status of the new species is assessed as Vulnerable, according to IUCN criteria.

The Bellavalia genus is closely related to Muscari, grape and tassel hyacinths. Bellevalia juliana flowers in February and March.

* Bellevalia juliana (Asparagaceae), a new hexaploid species from
E Kriti (Greece). P. Bareka, N.J. Turland & G. Kamari. Plant Biosystems - An International Journal Dealing with all Aspects of Plant Biology: Official Journal of
the Societa Botanica Italiana, DOI: 10.1080/11263504.2015.1057258. The full paper is here though to see it requires a log-in and payment.

Oliver Rackham OBE 1939-2015

Flowers of Crete was sorry to hear about the death on 12 February of the distinguished landscape historian Oliver Rackham.

Professor Rackham had a long association with Crete and, with Jennifer Moody, wrote The Making of the Cretan Landscape, which remains a brilliant reference to help residents and visitors understand the landscape we see today.  

Julia Jones of Flowers of Crete said: "Oliver was a charming, erudite and generous man who was skilled in imparting his knowledge to all.  I have fond memories of a talk on Minoan foodstuffs and plants by Jenny Moody and Oliver at the British School of Archaelogy at Pachia Ammos a couple of years ago."  

Oliver Rackham also took a keen interest in the Cretan palms at Préveli, visiting the area after a fire in 2010 burnt many of the palms. He was also a staunch campaigner against development at Cavo Sidero (more on both of these on our News 2011 page). Guardian obituary here.

There will be a Wild Orchid Conservation workshop in Hungary, led by Phil Seaton and Flowers of Crete's Julia Jones.

The workshop, from 1st to 6th June 2015, is organised by Planta Europa and is at Eszterházy Károly College Department of Botany and Ecology, Eger, Hungary.

The workshop includes lectures, laboratory practices and field trips to orchid habitats to the Bükk Mountains near Eger and to Őrség National Park in western Hungary.

More details from Julia - see contact us.

Right: Himantoglossum samariense

Himantoglossum samariense

Cretan fritillary an endemic subspecies
Fritillaries on Crete are now recognised as a subspecies found only on the island, according to research at the University of Patras.

Fritillaria messanensis subsp. sphaciotica
Cretan fritillary Fritillaria messanensis subsp. sphaciotica, near Spili (Chris Durdin).

The Cretan form Fritillaria messanensis subsp. sphaciotica is one of three 'splits' described in the paper 'Karyosystematic study of Fritillaria messanensis s.l. (Liliaceae)' by Georgia Kamari & Dimitrios Phitos, published in Willdenowia in 2006 (full paper online here).

The key difference in the field — apart from distribution, of course — is that the Cretan form Fritillaria messanensis subsp. sphaciotica is short with a stem typically 10-20 cm, compared with the 20-70 cm stem of Fritillaria messanensis subsp. messanensis found in the Peloponnese, the Mt Olimbos (Mt Olympus) area of mainland Greece and southern Italy. The Cretan form is also more delicate and slender and has longer, narrower leaves than F. messanensis. The paper includes an analysis of chromosome variation.

The specific name messanensis comes from where the species was first named in Messina (Sicily).

Though this research is not new, it has only just come to light for Flowers of Crete. FoC's founder, Julia Jones, heard about it at an exhibition about fritillaries at Kew Gardens, London, in a talk by Laurence Hill.

Conserving the Cretan Lizard Orchid. Himantoglossum samariense (right) is one of Crete's most elusive and threatened plants. Julia Jones from Flowers of Crete describes recent efforts to find and protect it. Read the full story here (October 2014). See also 'Omalos road wreckage' story, below.

Flowers of Crete holidays and courses 2015 are now open for bookings. Details of orchid-finding trips in spring and summer orchid-finding trips plus autumn bulb finding all on our holidays page. Food Foraging and Discovery Trips, and a botanic art workshop with Julia Jones in October 2015, are on our specialist holidays page.

Himantoglossum samariense

Monitoring Crete’s endemic plants: Crete has many endemic plants, and for a few of these the Greek government has to monitor them in accordance with European law. In late April and early May 2014, Apostolis Kaltis, a professional botanist at the University of Athens, was on Crete undertaking this work.

The species under scrutiny were the annual daisy Anthemis glaberrima, the small annual composite Crepis pusilla, the pink Silene holzmannii and dittany, Origanum dictamnus, known in Greek as diktamos.

Apostolis has kindly sent Flowers of Crete a summary of his work: read that in full here. He is also President of the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) and in that capacity met a group from Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays, who presented him with Honeyguide's annual donation to HOS.

Unforgettable things to do before you die … discovering wild flowers on Crete. Of course we think that, but it’s not only us.

One of 40 things in Unforgettable things to do before you die by Steve Watkins and Clare Jones (BBC Books, 2005) is a spring visit to see Crete’s wild flowers.

The authors describe two walks from Paleochora on the south-west coast, to the hill village of Anidri and a coastal route from Sougia.

Wildflower Wonders of the World

There are then brief accounts and photos of two walks from Omalos, ascending Gingilos in the White Mountains (Lefka Ori), and then the Samaria Gorge where "… the abundance of wild flowers turns the trail through the gorge from a great walk to a world-class one."

Crete also features in Wildflower Wonders of the World by Bob Gibbons (left), including photos from the Kedros Foothills and Omalos Plateau.

Images from the 3rd ECOTHEE Conference held at The Orthodox Academy of Crete in September, 2013.

Left: Dr Jan-Willem Sneep, Chair of PlantaEuropa, being interviewed on Falasarna beach by Nea TV about the aims of the Conference and the need for conservation on the island.

Above right: Julia Jones just before her keynote presentation on 'What Can We Do As Individuals to Help Safeguard the Environment?'  The presentation opened the morning session of presentations by artists from North America.

Right: Delegates were encouraged to take a sack and indulge in some litter picking on the beach below the Academy. 

At the end of the conference we all gathered around the very powerful statue by German artist Friedrich Koch, where the reclaimed rubbish was stacked up to create a striking image of the effects we are having on our environment.

ECOTHEE is short for Ecological Theology and Environmental Ethics

Omalos road wreckage

This is the sight that met us (writes Julia Jones) when I took two guests from USA into the mountains around the Omalos Plateau in June 2013 in search of the rare, endangered and endemic lizard orchid Himantoglossum samariens

This is one of only two recently recorded sites where this beautiful orchid could be found on Crete.  Obviously, there will be no more orchids of any description here. 

It seems that the road up to the plateau is being 'improved' and widened to accommodate more traffic, i.e. coaches. 

There are already signs of new building at the head of the Samaria Gorge and we can only speculate on the amount of devastation that will be caused.

Omalos road 'improvements'

Proud of your photos or artwork? There is a Painting and Photography competition at the PlantaEuropa Conference at the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) at Kolymbari 22-25 May 2014. The theme is “PLANTS FOR PEOPLE, PEOPLE FOR PLANTS” and participants may send up to two photos and one piece of art. More information here. September 2013

Fungal threat to oriental plane trees: Prof. Oliver Rackham has alerted us to a fungus that is spreading across the Mediterranean. It is apparently in the Peloponnese and might be spread by nurseries, etc. It could, possibly, arrive on Crete.  For anyone interested in checking out this new environmental problem, please take a look at this website (New Disease Reports from The British Society for Plant Pathology.)

The botanic art workshop held at The Orthodox Academy of Crete at Kolymbari 15th - 24th October 2012 was a great success. 

The hospitality was excellent and the weather held for most of the week, allowing us to travel out on several field trips, including a trip to Elafonissi and the chestnut village of Elos. 

Despite the lack of rain, wild cyclamen were in abundance (Cyclamen graecum ssp graecum, ssp. candicum and the endemic Cyclamen confusum, as well as the beautiful flowers and fruit of the Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo). We had a wonderful walk in the Deliana gorge and when we stopped for morning coffee in the village we found masses of Sternbergia - really large and not sure of the identification (photo on Flowers of Crete home page). Plans are already underway for next year's courses, which will include botanic art using coloured pencils, macro photography and botanic drawing and watercolour painting. Details online shortly.

Red palm weevil study

Flowers of Crete has been working with the University of Rome 'La Sapienza' supplying samples of the red palm weevil from across Crete to aid new studies on molecular analysis. Dr Alessio de Biase is carrying out the research and several members of our organisation were kind enough to collect and record insects from their area to send to Dr de Biase.  More on this when we have further information. Many thanks to everyone who helped with this project.  Most women get gifts of flowers or chocolates - for the last few months wherever I have gone I have been given little plastic vials containing weevils preserved in industrial acetone!  Nevertheless, I hope that we have been able to help this valuable study to learn more about this destructive creature.
damaged palm red palm weevil
The photo, above, shows damage to young Canary palms near Hania.
Right: red palm weevil.

25 October 2012

Cavo Sidero: scaled-down development looks set to go ahead

The Cavo Sidero leisure and tourism project has been approved to proceed under the 'Fast Track', ('Invest in Greece') scheme. The plans are revised and scaled down to meet the recommendations of the Appeal Court .

Now, according to information on the Minoan Group website (here, dated 21 September), they are talking about 1,936 beds instead of the original 7,000. Our understanding is that there will be one golf course instead of three, and three 'villages' instead of five, though Flowers of Crete has not yet seen these revised plans. Whether the plans are permanently reduced or this will be a first phase of development is an open question: presumably economic issues will drive that.

Fast Track "...is designed to facilitate strategic investment projects and accelerate their approval." The Minoan press statement acknowledges that there is one remaining step to secure go-ahead for the Project, namely the approval of the updated Environmental Impact Assessment. Minoan's Board of Directors is confident that this approval will be received in due course.

The decision has been criticised by environmental bodies in the local press and ECOCRETE, archeologists and others are being activated.

As noted in our news item below, Cavo Sidero is acknowledged as being of international importance for wildlife and is part of the Natura 2000 network protected by EU legislation. The Environmental Impact Assessment process, if it's done properly, must ensure that the features of European importance are properly protected.

4 October 2012

Wildlife art from beach clean up - to see photo-feature, click here.

With the Orthodox Academy of Crete and Jan-Willem Sneep, Chair of PlantaEuropa, Rosemary and I are working with local children around Kolymbari to clean up the beaches near the Academy. We are using the plastics collected from the beach to make an art installation entitled 'Athanos' - 'immortal'. The Greeks call the America agave Athanatos, so we are building an installation in the grounds of the Academy from retrieved plastics, which will represent this cactus-like plant, now well-known on Crete and established in many parts of the Mediterranean.

Free advertising slots on Nea TV are letting people in the area know about this event and we hope that the ripples we create will start to spread around Crete and help clear up our wonderful beaches.

Collection of plastic from the beach will take place on Saturday, 29th September, and then creating of the installation will take place on Sunday 30th September. The event will run alongside the International OAC Conference on Greed, Poverty and the Environment.

Julia Jones, 20 September 2012

Cavo Sidero threatened, again

The temporary reprieve for Cavo Sidero (see News 2011) seems to be just that - temporary - according to a BBC News report dated 30 March 2012 (full story on bbc.co.uk here).

The report says:

"Glasgow-based travel firm Minoan Group has said Greek authorities are fast tracking its plans for a major leisure and tourism development in Crete. Minoan said Invest in Greece (IIG) had agreed to consider the project, which has been valued at 100m euros (£83.3m). The travel firm expects to receive a response within the next seven weeks."

The area has the status of a Site of Community Importance within the European Union. There is information on the birds and flowers present here: this link is a "Factsheet filled with data from Natura 2000 data set" on the website of the European Environment Agency.

The key species at Cavo Sidero from the Natura 2000 perspective are:

  • Cory's shearwater, 900 - 1000 pairs; and Eleonora's falcon, 750 pairs
  • Cretan palm Phoenix theophrastii and Silene holzmanii, a pink

Natura 2000 is a network of sites recognised as being of European importance for nature. Development should be prohibited from any Natura 2000 site unless it can be demonstrated that it is of 'Overriding Public Importance' (OPI). Flowers of Crete cannot see how any tourism/leisure development can meet the OPI test, but we fear the authorities will be swayed by perceived economic benefits.

It looks like the battle to protect the special character of the area will have to get up and running yet again.

Residential Botanical Workshop 3-7 May 2012

This event will be held at the Alpha Hotel Retreat, Azogires (7 kms from Paleochora, south-west Crete).

The workshop will include botanic walks locally in the mornings and an art workshop suitable for beginners, improvers and accomplished artists in the afternoon. Professional botanical artist Julia Jones of Flowers of Crete will be leading the art workshops.

The walk leader is Jenny Neal, a botanist with a speciality in Cretan flora and currently working on a flora of London project. She has many years of experience in environmental education as well as ecological and conservation work. See Jenny's photos of Cretan wildflowers here. Further details about the course and cost, which includes either a 5-day stay at the Alpha Hotel in Azogires or daily attendance, are in the PDF here.

For more information and details of the course please contact Jenny by email: jenniferaneal@yahoo.com or mobile: 69452 83716

Adonis cretica
Adonis cretica
(Jenny Neal)

Volunteer botanist takes up survey challenge

We are really thrilled to have the help of German university student, Carl Barnick, who is here as a volunteer botanist for the next five months.

Carl will be working with us to survey the threatened orchid meadows at Plaka, the large island off Elounda and the wetlands at Almyros. 

Taking up where Rosemary and I left off in December, Carl will be recording and photographing each species he finds as it comes into flower.  He will also record the flowering period. These records will be available to anyone interested in these areas.

working at Almyros

Survey work under way at Almyros

I will be making a separate list of these areas, together with thumbnail images of species, which will, again, be available to interested botanists and scientists. These species lists will be available in early 2013. February 2012

Flowers of Crete in Orchid Digest magazine

The work of Flowers of Crete features in the January edition of Orchid Digest.

We would like to thank Mark Sullivan of the Orchid Conservation Coalition for getting the plight of the threatened orchids of Crete out to a wider audience.

There is a digest of the article on the Orchid Digest website, or click on the picture on the right.

January 2012

Orchid Digest

THE  MAKING  OF  THE  CRETAN  LANDSCAPE, 22nd 28th April 2012

This short field-course at Knossos is designed for those with a professional interest (ecologists, historians and archaeologists to landscape architects) and the interested amateur alike. It will concentrate upon the ecology of central Crete, and the historical development of its landscape. There will be a maximum of ten participants on the course.

The course will be led by Dr. Oliver Rackham who has worked for many years on the island and has a unique comprehension of its interwoven environmental fabric. He and Jennifer Moody are the co-authors of The Making of the Cretan Landscape (1996) and participants should read this book to appreciate the depth and diversity of what the course offers. Over five days of intensive study, participants will explore a range of urban and rural environments.

The course is run by the British School at Athens, not Flowers of Crete. Full details, including how to book, here.

  News archive: for old news, click News 2008, News 2009, News 2010. or News 2011
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