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Ten common flowers of Crete

Ten Cretan orchids

Cretan crocus
Crocus oreocreticusCrocus oreocreticus

This stunningly beautiful autumn saffron crocus is the symbol of Flowers of Crete. It is characterised by its large, purple-veined flowers, in colours ranging from almost pure white to deep mauve.

It is endemic to eastern Crete, where it can often be found in considerable numbers, although in localized areas. It is in the Greek Red Data book, where it is listed as ‘rare’. Unfortunately, it is at risk in the Lassithi area from increased cultivation and building. C. oreocreticus can be found throughout November in mountainous areas.

Cretan Date Palm
Phoenix theophrasti
Phoenix theophrasti

Known only from Crete and south-west Turkey, this species forms the only natural palm forest at Vai on the east coast of the island.

Tall and very elegant, these palms are at threat from tourist development and changes in agricultural methods, but more importantly in recent years from the introduction of the Red Palm Weevil. This insect is moving rapidly along the north coast and should it reach Vai, the environmental impact will be enormous. P. theophrasti is recorded as ‘at risk’ in the Greek Red Data Book. More here.

 

 

 
Ten special plants of Crete

This is a selection of 10 flowers that are endemic (found only on Crete), near-endemic or notable species. Many of these 10 flowers are listed in the Greek Red Data Book, which means they are considered a priority for conservation effort.

Anchusa cespitosa

This is a rare endemic which is only found in the mountainous Lefka Ori in western Crete. The stemless, vibrant blue flowers are unmistakable, blooming from April to July in soil pockets, dolines, and rocky slopes. In older plants the flowers form a ring at the freshly growing edge of the mat.

Anchusa cespitosa

Biarum davisii ssp davisii

Biarum davisii ssp davisii

This must be one of the strangest little flowers, which can fancifully be likened to a little alien sitting, as it does, in gravel and among rocks. It is a member of the same family as the arum, and its creamy/pink spathe surrounds the hidden flowers. Listed as rare in the Greek Red Data Book, it is probably more widespread than previously believed and can form large colonies. This fascinating endemic is in flower from October through November.

Campanula cretica (Symphyandra cretica)Cretan Bellflower

This large and often showy endemic campanula is only found in western Crete, where it blooms in profusion on roadside and steep rocky banks and shady cliffs. It is localized and listed in the Greek Red Data Book of endangered species. Colours range from white, through pink to blue and its flowers can be appreciated from June through to September.

Campanula cretica

Crocus sieberi

Crocus sieberi ssp sieberi
Sieber’s crocus

This superb endemic crocus is difficult to find, even when its growing site is known. It blooms just as the snow melts and is therefore unpredictable. On Crete it is the only spring flowering crocus: however, in cold years it has been recorded in flower as late as June. Its tepals are white on the outside and suffused with purple to violet/black on the outside.

Paeonia clusii ssp clusii Clusius’s peony

This must be one of the most beautiful plants on Crete. It is an endemic of woodland, scrub, garrigue and rocky places and flowers between March and May. Its large, cup-shaped flowers have a wonderful scent and so, sadly, it is often gathered for indoor arrangement. Its colours range from white through the pinks to a most delightful raspberries and cream ripple effect, but those with an intense deep pink are the most stunning. P. clusii also has to contend with goats, which seem to find its leaves irresistible.

Paeonia clusii

Scilla nana

Scilla nana (Chionodoxa nana)
Glory of the Snow

Another spring flowering endemic that is difficult to catch in bloom. Like C. sieberi it grows in snow melt. However, it is much more easily spotted because of its intense sky blue flowers. This plant is grown in the UK and elsewhere as a garden or rockery plant because of its very attractive blooms. It is another flower which appears in the Greek Red Data Book.

Silene succulenta ssp succulenta

Although not an endemic, S. succulenta is extremely rare on Crete and can be found only on outlying islands, such as Elafonisi, where this photograph was taken. Because of its habitat in increasingly popular tourist locations, it is listed as ‘rare’ and, while not the most beautiful of plants, efforts should be made to conserve and protect it for the future. Elafonisi is designated as a Natura 2000 site, but sadly on many recent visits little respect is being shown to areas that have been cordoned off.

Silene succulenta

Viscum album ssp creticum

Viscum album ssp creticum
Cretan mistletoe

It is surprising to think that mistletoe grows here on Crete, but this endemic parasite can be found in three locations in eastern Crete, where it grows on pine trees. Locals use guns to shoot the plant from the trees as it grows high and often overhanging steep, rocky banks.

 
 

More flowers month by month here

 
Ten rare flowers of Crete
 
 
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