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Flower of the month | October | Sternbergia

Sternbergia sicula (or more precisely Sternbergia lutea subsp. sicula) is not found in the West of Crete but is the most common Sternbergia in the rest of the island.

Sternbergia lutea subsp. sicula

A large Sternbergia lutea subsp. sicula

It grows in open stony places, olive groves and phrygana and flowers in the autumn.

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Flower of the month | September | Origanum dictamnus

Autumn is a tough season for a “Flower of the month” feature. After the long dry summer Crete doesn’t have much of a variety of flowers and I already covered the most common ones in 2013 and 2012.

But there is one famous plant still flowering in autumn: Cretan dittany or Diktamos has been famous since antiquity for its almost magical healing properties. It is an endemic of Crete and grows in cliffs at altitudes ranging from sea level to the mountains.

It also grows quite well in pots (as long as goats can’t get to it) which is where the detail of the specimen below was photographed.

Origanum dictamnus

Origanum dictamnus

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Flower of the month | August | Campanula jacquinii

There is not much flowering in Crete at the peak of the summer so I needed to go high up in the mountains to find a suitable candidate (thyme and sea daffodils which would be far more common were already mentioned in previous ‘Flower of the month’ so no luck there).

Campanula jacquinii is a rare cliff dwelling endemic of Crete which can look quite spectacular when you find a large population, like below in a cliff at around 1300m, somewhere above Gournes (a high pasture above Kares) in Apokorona.

Campanula jacquinii

Campanula jacquinii growing in a cliff

Campanula jacquinii

Campanula jacquinii

Campanula jacquinii is not as are as Campanula aizoides but you’ll still need some luck and dedication if you want to find it.

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Flower of the month | July | Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum is another pincushion mountain flower with an impossibly long Latin name. It’s also one of the most beautiful flowering plant that you can see in Crete in summer.
An endemic of Crete, Acantholimon androsaceum is not exactly rare but you won’t find it below 1500m.

Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum

The plants remain beautiful after the flowers fall off because they retain diaphanous calyces with dark reddish-brown stripes.

Calyces of Acantholimon androsaceum

Calyces of Acantholimon androsaceum

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Flower of the month | June | Astragalus angustifolius

Whilst the vegetation is drying out in the lower parts of Crete, flowers are starting to come out in the mountains.  Astragalus angustifolius is an impressive ‘hedgehog’ plant that forms large spiky cushions.

Astragalus angustifolius in the White Mountains

Astragalus angustifolius in the White Mountains

It is found in all the mountains of Crete from around 1500m and all the way to the highest summits

Close-up of Astragalus angustifolius

Close-up of Astragalus angustifolius

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Flower of the month | May | Paeonia clusii

Paeonia clusii or Cretan peony is one of the most spectacular flowers of Crete. Endemic to Crete and Karpathos, it flowers in April and May. It’s not especially rare but there aren’t many places where you can find it either.

Paeonia clusii (Cretan white peony)

Paeonia clusii in a forest above Anopolis (at an altitude of about 1300m)

They tend to grow at medium altitude (500 to 1600m).

Paeonia clusii (Cretan white peony)

Paeonia clusii (Cretan white peony)

A good place to see them is in the gorge of Samaria where they grow quite abundantly below Agios Nikolaos. Unfortunately because this is quite a low altitude (around 500m) they tend to flower in April before the gorge of Samaria opens to the public.

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Finally!

I just received the news today that the Minoan gallery of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion will open on the 6th of May.

The Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc – 2nd millennium BC

Having seen the other galleries when they re-opened after renovations that lasted 7 years I think that it will have been well worth the long wait.
I’ll probably wait a little longer and go there after the tourist season is over.

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Late snow

We have had some cold weather and rain in the last couple of days. Not so good for the first tourists of the 2014 season but it’s really good to have some late rain.

We even had some fresh snow on the mountains (see the photos below) which is quite unusual for the middle of April.

Summits of Volakies and Gingilos

The summits of Volakies and Gingilos

The summit of Melindaou

The summit of Melindaou

Melindaou and lower slopes to the East

Melindaou and lower slopes to the East

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Flower of the month | April | Tulipa saxatilis

As the weather warms up spring flowers start appearing higher up in the hills. One of the most impressive displays (if you can catch it at just the right time) is the flowering of Tulipa saxatilis (also known as Tulipa bakeri) on the plateau of Omalos.

Tulipa saxatilis on the plateau of Omalos

Tulipa saxatilis on the plateau of Omalos

In a good year these showy flowers can spread across entire fields.

Tulipa saxatilis growing together with Anemone coronaria

Tulipa saxatilis growing together with Anemone coronaria

The best time to see them will generally be around the middle of April but it will vary from year to year and you might have to go to Omalos several times to catch them at their very best.

 

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