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Wild Flowers in Greece: Nisyros

by Ann Kenady

For the full text of this article see The Mediterranean Garden No 56, April 2009

Arisarum vulgare

Arum sp

Aroids abounded: Arisarum vulgare poked brown and white striped hoods out of the rocks while Arum dioscoroides and Dracunculus vulgaris were showy enough in leaf.

Aristolochia hirta

There, too, we found Aristolochia hirta twining its brown pitcher-shaped blooms among the rocks near a cistern. This is a plant I’ve long admired - my attempts to grow it at home have always ended in ruin, yet here it was, tough as nails among the rocks.

Echium angustifolium

Traipsing through groves of olive and mastic trees, we enjoyed colorful sweeps of annual wildflowers: red and orange poppies, lacy white (and edible) Tordylium, yellow Calendula, Anthemis, Smyrnium and Chrysanthemum, pink clover and blue and purple Echium angustifolium formed a vibrant patchwork of color everywhere.

Erodium sp

Ferula communis

We were excited to find giant fennel, Ferula communis, in bloom, its giant stalks squeezing out of tiny crevices and ruined walls. This plant has a pithy, woody stem traditionally used to make torches and, in Greek mythology, Prometheus used such a torch to smuggle fire to the huddled masses.

Gagea graeca

Allium neopolitanum

The delicate white Gagea graeca and Allium neopolitanum were also in bloom.

Mandragora autumnalis

Mandragora autumnalis

The squat profile of the mandrake, Mandragora autumnalis, was common among the rocks and always delightful to see; sometimes still sporting violet flowers and elsewhere showing off large, shiny yellow fruit.

Muscari comosum

The tassel hyacinth, Muscari comosum, punctuated the greenery with intense purple-blue topknots, every bit the perfect sidekick for navelwort.

Orchis anatolica

Orchis paplionacea

I was thrilled to add pale pink Neotinea maculata (dense-flowered orchid), purple Orchis anatolica (Anatolian orchid) and pink Orchis paplionacea (butterfly orchid) to my botanical life list - another notch in the old Orchidaceae belt.


Among the crevices were several species of navel-wort, Umbillicus horizontalis and U. rupestris among them, with their spikes of pinkish flowers and cartoonish belly-button leaves.
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