Flora of Crete

Poppies in Crete in springtime

The flora of Crete. When we speak to our mother of her childhood memories of Crete, flowers in springtime are one of her fondest reminiscences. With snow on the mountains and very cold temperatures in winter, spring is truly a magical time of renewal and bursting energy in the nature of Kriti.

One of the most striking images is that of the glowing red poppies contrasting against the bursting green grasses, and the white limestone rocks of the hillsides.

Spring time brings visitors from all over the world to enjoy the flora of Crete.

Cretan flora is identified by botanists as Mediterranean forest, woodlands and scrub.

The low elevations have sclerophyllous evergreen and semi-deciduous oak forests. With species such as kermes oak, carob, juniper and tree-spurge.

The mid elevations have mesophyllous pine forests with Brutia Pines pinus brutia. Holly Oak quercus coccifera woodlands are widely spread.

The highest elevations such as the Lefka Ori and Psiloritis mountain ranges support cypress woodlands, where the local evergreen Maple acer sempervirens grows, and thorny cushion shrublands.

In the last four years, four new species of plant have been discovered on Crete.

There are 55 unique ecotopes identified by the Natura 2000 program in Kriti. Of over 1600 species found on the island, around 160 are found nowhere else. The endemic plants are to be found high in the mountains and include a rare and endangered small tree named Cretan Zelkova.

Flora of Crete - poppies and lavender grow wild

The profusion of wild herbs of Crete have been gathered over centuries and used for teas, wellbeing and healing. The herb Dittany dictamo or in Cretan erondas is used for pain relief, especially of stomach aches and arthritis.

This herb has been known for centuries and was used by the Minoans and ancient Greeks. Hippocrates taught its therapeutic benefits and in modern times it is available in powder form and as an essential oil.

The hillsides of Kriti are fresh with lavender, rigani, thyme, sage and chamomile. Cretan mountain tea, an ironwort Sideritis syriaca is a very common drink in the village and may be proudly offered to visitors as tsai tou vounou.

Below we give just a taste of the abundant plants of Crete, with their photographs and species names to help the amateur botanists and lovers of nature to enjoy the discovery of the unique plants of Crete.

Trees and Scrub of Crete

Vai Palm Vai Palm Phoenix Theofrasti
Oleander Oleander Nerium oleander
Tamarisk Tamarisk Tamarix cretica
Myrtle by Jimenez Myrtle Myrtus communis
Carob tree Carob Tree Ceratonia siliqua
Plane Tree Plane Tree Platanus orientalis
Maple Tree Maple Tree Acer sempervirens
Masticha Plant Masticha Plant Pistacia lentiscus

Herbs of Crete

Dictamo In Greek 'Dictamo' in Cretan dialect 'Erondas' and in English 'Dittany of Crete'
Origanum dictamnus
Cretan Mountain Tea Cretan Mountain Tea Sideritis syriaca
Thyme Thyme Thymus capitatus
Chamomile by jstark Chamomile Chamomilla recutita
Sage Sage Salvia pomifera

Flowering Flora of Crete

Cretan Cyclamen

Cretan Cyclamen
Cyclamen creticum

Pancratium maritimum

Lily of the Sea
Pancratium maritimum

Orchis sitiaca by Andreas Loukakis, Crete

Sitia Orchid Orchis sitiaca

Photographer: Andreas Loukakis

Orchis heldreichii by Andreas Loukakis, Crete

Cretan Bee Orchid Orchis heldreichii

Photographer: Andreas Loukakis

Orchis anatolica by Andreas Loukakis, Crete

Anatolian Orchis Orchis anatolica

Photographer: Andreas Loukakis

Orchis quadripunctata by Andreas Loukakis, Crete

Four-spotted Orchis Orchis quadripunctata

Photographer: Andreas Loukakis

Orchis tridentata by Andreas Loukakis, Crete

Three-toothed Orchis Orchis tridentata

Photographer: Andreas Loukakis

Edenus cretica by Andreas Loukakis

Cretan Ebony (Cretan Silver Bush, Shrubby Sainfoil) Edenus cretica

Photographer: Andreas Loukakis

Klaas and José have spent many hours hiking and looking at the flora of Crete and Greece, so much so that they have put their results on their website: www.greekmountainflora.info which has a separate section for Cretan flora.

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