JULY 2008 | JULY 2007

This July in Crete has seen some of the hottest temperature on record. On one sweltering day in Elounda the temperature in the sun at lunchtime reached 53°C! As a result the ground is baked hard and many of the late summer flowers are failing to bloom. Up on the Katharo Plateau, vegetation is in such short supply that the sheep and goats are going hungry, and their diet is being supplemented with hay. On a recent trip to Mount Lazarus, one of our party remarked that Katharo had turned into a dust bowl. Many fires have raged around Aghios Nikolaos and elsewhere, and I have included an image taken from my roof terrace, which shows just how terrifying these fires can be. We stayed up most of the night watching the flames and hoping that the wind would not pick up. Fortunately no lives were lost and no property destroyed, but the whole hillside is now charred and blackened. We have to hope that this freak weather is just a ‘blip’ and that autumn will see the rains returning and the flowers blossoming again.

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Campanula? - this little withered flowers looked like a campanula, but in its sorry state it is really difficult to tell.

Centaurea calcitrapa - a very pretty, but very spiny, flower, which we found growing on the Katharo Plateau. Although the flower heads are relatively small they have a lovely shading, in this case from cream to an almost beige pink tip.

Chicorium spinosum - flowering all summer, the wonderful blue of the wild chicory is always a welcome sight. The leaves of this plant are eaten fresh in salad or can be boiled.

Cuscata atrans - strange little parasitic plant, which I found very difficult to photograph. It has very thin, red stems, which wind around the host plant and it produces small white flowers. This Cuscata is endemic to Crete. Look for it in the mountains under spiny shrubs and bushes.

Petrorhagia - this is possibly a Petrorhagia but which is uncertain.

Echinops spinossimus - found at low altitudes all over the island, the Spiny Globe Thistle always makes me feel that the autumn rains won’t be long and that it will soon be time to go out to photograph Sternbergia once again. Its name is taken from the Greek and refers, of course, to the spiky flower heads.

Eryngium campestre - related to the Sea Holly, this Eryngium is much less showy. It can be found in fields and open places all over the island.

Fire over Elounda - the fire broke out on the hillside overlooking Olous and raged for hours, despite the efforts of the fire brigade. At one time the whole mountain side was ablaze. We watched from the roof top, hoping that the wind would not spring up to fan the flames. Although the mountain looks devastated, often fire is a chance for regeneration and new growth and hopefully in a few years time, the hillside will be verdant once more.

Orobanche pubescens - this is most likely O. pubescens, one of the most common on the Orobanche on Crete.
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