- Flower of the month | June | Nerium oleander – Oleander
- Hope is in the air
- Flower of the month | May | Ebenus cretica – Cretan ebony
- Flower of the month | April | Cistus creticus
- In the news | Links to current news articles about Crete and Greece
- A new map of the White Mountains
- Flower of the month | March | Euphorbia dendroides
- Flower of the month | February | Oxalis pes-caprae
Daily photo of Crete
Oleander is a native plant of Crete and is very commonly found in watercourses, even when no water is flowing. The flowers in the wild are pink.
Oleander flowers from April to July with its peak around June. This is the time where gorges will fill with pink and dried water courses on hill sides bloom.
Oleander has also been cultivated for centuries and a wide range of colours and shapes can now be found and grown in gardens and alongside roads. With irrigation their flowering period is even longer.
Being highly poisonous goats pose no threat to them and they have become the flower of choice to plant along the National Road that runs along the North coast if Crete: it is beautiful, hardy and requires no maintenance other that occasional irrigation. The rather large bushes that it forms are also an effective sound barrier.
I was looking through part of Google Earth images to see if I could find a satellite view of Cretan roads lined up with oleander. Unfortunately in my neck of the woods the satellite imagery used at the moment was taken in January so no oleander flowers. I didn’t want to spend hours searching for summer images but if you find an area in Google Earth where long lines of flowering oleander are visible along roads please let me know where they are and I’ll add it to this post.
The 2013 tourist season is now well under way and all the signs are looking good. Despite Greece now being in its 5th year of recession (with catastrophic results for a significant part of the population) there was no social explosion last winter and therefore no (or only few) negative headlines in the international press to scare off potential visitors.
I don’t quite believe some of the headlines in the Greek press about a huge increase in foreign visitors and think that there is an element of propaganda in them designed to give people some hope after years of bad news. But the fact is that after a poor April (nothing out of the ordinary though, April is often a slack first month of the tourist season) things are picking up really nicely. Everyone I talked to (in Crete) is seeing an increase over last year’s bookings (and last year was no a bad year in the Chania region).
Additionally the fact that Ryanair is now using Chania airport as a hub is really good news for small businesses: the clients of Ryanair are overwhelmingly independent travellers who will spend money here and not leave most of it in the pockets of large tour operators.
This will hopefully counterbalance the rise in “All inclusive” resorts which do almost nothing for the local economy.
At the moment the optimism is cautious: punitive taxation, continuing rise in unemployment and lack of trust in the government (or any politicians for that matter) are nothing to feel good about. But any glimpse of hope will feel like a huge breath of fresh air to anyone who has been through the economic meltdown that Greece went through.
Despite its name Cretan ebony bears no relation to the tropical tree of the same name. Ebenus cretica is a Cretan endemic flower that can grow in large populations on some hillsides (for example on the way to Sougia) as well as in the cliffs of gorges.
It flowers from April to June.
Deciding what the flower of the month for April should be is quite hard as there is so much choice. April offers possibly the most variety in Cretan flowers, especially if you factor in all the orchids and ophrys.
For this year, I chose Cistus creticus or Pink Rockrose. It is quite a common flower so if you come to Crete in April or May you will most probably come across it.
If you touch the leaves you will notice that they are very sticky. This resin is used in the production of Labdanum, an important perfume and herbal medicine ingredient.
The Greek map company Anavasi has recently published a new map of the White Mountains and the region of Sfakia.
Most people who walk in Crete will already know the 1:25.000 Anavasi maps of the area of Pachnes (Central White Mountains), Sfakia and Sougia. There is also one for the area of Psiloritis.
First published around 5 years ago they were the first proper walking maps to be published for Crete.
Last autumn they brought out a new map called Lefka Ori / Sfakia. It has the same 1:25.000 scale and more or less combines the two maps of Sfakia and the White Mountains so it is about twice as large. Essentially you get two maps for slightly more that the price of one of the former ones. What I find interesting is that the new map offers far more information in the White Mountains with most of the summits names now marked. You can compare a small portion of the two maps below. At the top the old map and below the new one (it’s a scan so lower quality than the top map).
A few more paths are also marked on the new map.
The new map has a few drawbacks though:
- it is far less solid than the original maps (which are slightly plastified and very strongly made) but at the price it won’t cost the earth to replace.
- I find the map colour scheme a little less readable than the old map but that’s probably a matter of taste.
- as it is about twice as large it won’t be as easy to handle in the field, especially on windy days.
But I can still highly recommend this new map for the extra information it contains.
You can find it in good bookshops in Crete (but beware, supply is not always reliable).
The new map has also recently become available on Amazon. Here are the direct links for Amazon.com (but beware, the price listed today is really high), Amazon.co.uk (currently the best deal) and Amazon.de .
Euphorbia dendroides or Tree spurge is at its most spectacular in March where whole hillsides can light up with the flowers of this large bush.
Oxalis-per-caprae or Bermuda buttercup is not a native Cretan flower but originates from South Africa. It is a highly invasive flower and is fast taking over large tracts of cultivated land.
Right now, in February, where few native plants are flowering it is definitely the most prevalent flower in many areas (and along many roadsides) so it earns its place as flower of the month.
Many bee keepers like Oxalis because it provides much needed pollen for their bees at a time when flowers are still scarce. On the other hand botanists tend to hate it because it threatens native flowers as it takes over more and more areas.
Five new short videos of Chania have just been published by the prefecture of Chania to promote the region.
Titled collectively “Chania: a journey to your senses” they present the town and surrounding area.
I am not sure about the choice of music in the first video or the use of some of the overdone Greek accent when locals speak English but it is refreshing to see the local government make some effort to creatively market this beautiful place.
There are not too many plants flowering in Crete in January (if you exclude the ubiquitous Oxalis) but the few there are include one of my favourites, the rare Androcymbium rechingeri. It grows mainly on the islet of Elafonisi and is another good reason for me to go and visit this wonderful place every January.