Now warmer days are here, there’s no better time to explore Crete’s wonderful flora. This island’s gorgeous, often unique flowers have always beguiled nature lovers. But you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate these natural wonders of the landscape. April and May sees the greatest profusion of wild flowers in bloom, but March also offers a glimpse of some of Crete’s finest species. You just need to know where to look, and what to look out for.
The cheerful common daisy (Bellis perennis) popped up weeks ago, defying the chill north wind and telling us spring was around the corner. A shyer beauty – perhaps the most loved wild flower of Crete – the orchid – has already made its first dazzling appearance. With more than 60 species of orchid on Crete, some of the most beautiful like the rare endemic Ophrys mesaritica, (originally found on the Messara Plain), are blooming now. Last month the first anemones appeared, and with temperatures rising their delicate lilac, pink, purple, and deep red blooms are splashing the hillsides with colour.
Crete is home to some 2000 species of plants, of which about 10 percent grow nowhere else in the world, and the reason why Greece’s largest island is a flower lover’s paradise is because of the island’s physical isolation. It broke away physically from the mainland of southern Europe over 5 million years ago, and its isolation and mountainous terrain created many unique eco-systems – environments where particular plant species evolved and flourished.
It’s important to remember that nature’s beauty is fragile in Crete. The Red Data Book of Rare and Threatened Plants of Greece (the result of the most detailed recent research on the subject) lists 67 endangered plants growing on Crete, so tread carefully on your explorations! For those wishing to know more about Crete’s wonderful wild flowers there’s a lovingly produced Facebook page Flowers of Crete.
With thanks to writer and administrator of Flowers of Crete, Julia Jones, for her assistance in the research for this article. All images copyright Julia Jones.