Arisarum vulgare (also called Friar’s Cowl because of its shape resembling…a monk’s cowl) is small flower of the Arum family which can grow in large colonies.
It is not at all a showy flower, preferring to hide in moist, shady places, but if you come across it (easy as it is quite common) it’s well worth kneeling down and having a close look.
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.
A large Sternbergia lutea subsp. sicula
It grows in open stony places, olive groves and phrygana and flowers in the autumn.
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.
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 growing in a cliff
Campanula jacquinii is not as are as Campanula aizoides but you’ll still need some luck and dedication if you want to find it.
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.
The plants remain beautiful after the flowers fall off because they retain diaphanous calyces with dark reddish-brown stripes.
Calyces of Acantholimon androsaceum
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
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
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 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)
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.
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 – 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.
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.
The summits of Volakies and Gingilos
The summit of Melindaou
Melindaou and lower slopes to the East