Flower of the month | August | Syderitis syriaca or Malotira

Sideritis syriaca is better known in Crete as ‘malotira’ and is the main ingredient of the famous Cretan mountain tea (which like raki or tsikoudia is supposed to cure most ills 🙂 ).

It is an endemic of the Cretan mountains and is particularly abundant in the White Mountains where it can cover entire hill sides.

A bush  of malotira in the White Mountains

A bush of malotira (sideritis syriaca) in the White Mountains

It’s name Sideritis syriaca should mean that it is from Syria. When Linnaeus described the plant in 1753 and called it S. syriaca, he even wrote “Habitat in Creta”, but presumably took the epithet from the pre-Linnaean name “Pilosella syriaca” of Bauhin, which he cited as a synonym.
Sideritis cretica, also described by Linnaeus in 1753, also with “habitat in Creta”, is endemic to the Canary Islands! Obviously Linnaeus who is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology was somewhat lacking in geographical skills.

 

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