AUGUST 2008 | AUGUST 2007

The weather this year has been unbelievably hot and this, combined with a warm, dry winter has affected the summer flowers on Crete very badly. Some have simply chosen not to bloom at all, some have attempted a small and much less vibrant show, none have flourished – at least not in the east of the island.

Several trips to the Katharo Plateau have shown a considerably reduction in the number of species and also in the volume of flowers from species that have managed to defy the weather.

Most species have appeared earlier than normal and their flowering season has seemed considerably shorter. Around a small church on the plateau there can normally be found large swathes of Origanum microphyllum and also Lactuca alpestris. This year there were none. Goats and sheep could also be responsible for this decline, as a local shepherd told us that his herd was going hungry, because of the lack of grazing. Maybe plants, normally left untouched, have been decimated by starving herbivores? Fortunately, we did find both species at another location on Katharo.

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Convolvulus arvensis - (Field bindweed) - pretty creeping or climbing plant which is common in fields and olive groves.

Onopordum species - amember of the Onopordum species of thistles, which can be found in Crete.

Chicorium intybus - (Chicory) - the beautiful blue of this extremely common plant always catches my eye. This edible plant is a favourite amongst the Greeks who collect the young leaves. Theophrastus, the ancient Greek philosopher and botanist, knew this plant as ‘cichorion’.

Crithmum maritimum - (Rock Samphire) - another beach plant, this time with small creamy-white flowers that are followed by green berry-like fruits. The edible leaves are collected when young and preserved in salt before cooking.

Glaucium flavum - (Horned Poppy) - I have spent the summer intending to photograph this flower, which can be found alongside the main road into Aghios Nikolaos. I had my chance on the same beach as the Malcolmia, where there were many flowers despite the litter.

Heliotropum dolosum - found growing on a piece of waste ground, this small Heliotrope could easily have been overlooked.

Lantana camara - (Feston Rose) - although very attractive this colourful shrub is not native to Crete. It comes instead from America. According to John Fielding and Nick Turland in Australia this bush has become a pernicious weed and, if left unchecked, could do likewise in the Mediterranean area. Not to be encouraged, despite its appearance!

Matthiola tricuspidata - an annual which can be recognised by its three horned fruit husk, which has given the plant its Latin name. It can be found close to the sea.

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