The Wild Flowers of Skopelos


For those who love Skopelos and the wildflowers of Greece

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The Fabaceae

The Bean and Pea Family

10 Jan 2020

Tree Medic Medicago arborea

The Fabaceae family, also known as Leguminosae or simply as the pea and bean or legume family; it is the third largest plant family after the Orchid (Orchidaceae) and daisy (Asteraceae) families. The Fabaceae occur as trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants and are found on every continent except Antartica. The plants of the Fabaceae are particularly important in the Mediterranean ecosystem, where soils are often dry and poor in nitrogen.

The defining characteristic of the family is the fruit, which is always a pod, sometimes simple as for Lathyrus peas and Vicia species, coiled as for the medics or curious spiny pods of Onobrychis species. It is often the seed pods which help identifying a specific species.

The flowers of the largest subfamily are bilaterally symmetrical ( zygomorphic), the typical pea flower; they are often brightly coloured and said to resemble butterflies hence the name Papillonaceae.

The Fabaceae are economically important providing valuable highly nutritious foods which are rich in protein including lentils, peas and an assortment of beans, important in the Greek culinary tradition. Their use as foods goes back to ancient times with evidence of the cultivation of peas and lentils in Neolithic Greek settlements and it is probable that the seeds of wild peas were collected and eaten before this. In Santorini the seeds of Lathyrus clymenum, a plant which grows wild on Skopelos, are used to make the special  Santorini Fava. The plants are also valued as animal fodder, constituents of animal pastures and hay and are also used to fertilise the ground as green manure and in crop rotation.The flowers are attractive to bees and support honey production.

On Skopelos there are about 100 species of Fabaceae, ranging from the common white clover, Trifolium repens, which is distributed widely throughout the world; to the relatively rare Malcolmia macrocalyx ssp. macrocalyx found only on the islands of North and West Aegean. Some plants such as the narrow-leaf lupin (Lupinus angustifolia) may be grown in gardens,  but others, such as  hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) may act as troublesome agricultural weeds. Trees include the carob, with its edible pods, the Judas tree, with its  clusters of brilliant pink flowers and Colutea arborescens, with curious papery pods. The shrubs which explode with yellow blossoms in early summer are  mostly Fabaceae and a variety of herbaceous plants: clovers, medics, lotus and vetches all belong to this family as well as a variety of wild peas, including Pisum sativum, a predecessor of the modern pea, which can be found scrambling through the long grass.


Nitrogen fixation

Bacteria from the soil, known as rhizobia, infect the roots of the Fabaceae, where they multiply sometimes developing nodules.  The bacteria take up nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to nitrogenous compounds such as ammonia, which can be used by the plants to form amino acids and proteins - the process is referred to as nitrogen fixation. As well as using these compounds for there own growth and development, an excess of nitrogenous compounds are returned to the soil, improving its fertility and are taken up by surrounding plants. The plants and the bacteria are mutually beneficial, symbiotic; the plants gain nitrogen and the bacteria gain nourishment in the form of simple carbohydrates which the plant create by the process of photosynthesis.

Greek flower stamps

23 Oct 2019

1989 Issue of Greek Wildflower Stamps

Situated in the Eastern Mediterranean, at the junction of three continents; Europe, Asia and Africa; the special geological, climatic, evolutionary factors and varied soils of Greece have created a unique environment which is renowned for its rich and diverse flora. This small country has 6620 taxa (species and subspecies) of which 913 are endemic, that is they grown naturally in Greece and nowhere else in the world. The importance of this has been recognised and celebrated by Hellenic Post (ΕΛΤΑ), who over the years have produced several strikingly beautiful sets of stamps. The 1989 issue of presented seven stamps with eight species of Greek wildflowers, all of which can be found on Skopelos:

  1. 8 lepta,      Kυνορροδή,  dog rose,   Rosa canina.

  2. 10 lepta,    Μύρτος η κοινή, myrtle,  Myrtus communis.

  3. 20 lepta,    Μήκων η ποιάς, corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas.

  4. 30 lepta,    Ανεμώνη η Χαρίης, greek windflower, Anemone apennina.

  5. 60 lepta,    Ταπάξάκο και κιχώπιο, dandelion, Taraxacum megalorrhizon.   

  6. & chicory, Cichorium intybus.

  7. 70 lepta,    Μαλάχη η αγρία, common mallow, Malva sylvestris.

  8. 200 lepta,  Σίλυβο το μαριαωό,blessed milk thistle,  Silybum marianum.

1978 Issue of Greek Wildflower Stamps

Flowers of the field

So many species in one small acre. 

11 Aug 2019

As summer advances the field next to the cemetery wall, above the ring road becomes a dry barren looking patch and a donkey or mule may shelter from the fierce sun under the small almond tree.It is difficult to imagine the colourful transformations which the field undergoes as the seasons pass from one to the next.

Following the autumn rains a green sward develops, and throughout the winter the field is watered by cool rain, then as the earth is warmed by spring sunshine the grass is sprinkled by a succession  of radiant colours. First to appear amongst the green are the glowing golden corn marigolds (Glebionis segetum), soon to be joined by gaudy red poppies (Papaver dubium & P. rhoeas) and then by purple tassel hyacinths (Muscari comosum) and magenta Italian gladioli (Gladiolus italica). The colour scheme if created by man would be considered gaudy, but nature blends it beautifully, adding drifts of  lacy white hartwort (Tordilium apulum) and field rocket (Eruca vesicaria). A close look amongst the dominant species reveals other flowers in isolated groups; Silene gallica, with little peas, clovers, pink geraniums and many others. 

Along the margins of the field  pink mallow (Malva sylvestris) grows entangled by  sticky cleavers (Galium aparine); the corners are filled with yellow mustard flowers of bastard cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) and on the compacted area around the gate grows a fragrant patch of chamomile.

There are of course many types of grasses, including, not surprisingly oats, as in some years these are planted to provide fodder for animals. As summer progresses, the grasses take dominance over the wildflowers, ripening in the sun to create a golden meadow, which is scythed  to make hay in the traditional way. (See Oat Reports from Skopelos News.)

Most of the species found in the field occur widely throughout the open spaces of the island but some, the corn poppy and corn marigolds are much commoner in this site and it is likely they were introduced, in ancient times (Archaeophytres) with corn seed.

The roadside bank of the field is filled with the soft drooping fronds of honeywort (Cerinthe major) with their  small gold and brown flowers which resemble drops of honey. The stone wall supporting the field along the lane to the cemetery, shelters Arum italicum, Umbilicus horizontals and moisture loving buttercups. The view from the lane gives a different perspective on the field, where the flowers can be seen outlined against the sky.

Golden corn marigolds and gaudy red poppies                                  Magenta italian gladioli



Common mallow and bastard cabbage                                       So many species in one small acre

Sunshine Yellow

20 June 2019

Yellow is perceived as the colour of sunshine. It is associated with joy, happiness, intellect and energy. Marcia Jones. Understanding Colour.

As the multitudes of many-coloured spring flowers begin to fade, Skopelos evolves into its yellow phase. It starts with the emergence of St John’s wort (Hypericum empetrifolium) with its bright shiny flowers, along the roadside and this is followed by a magnificent display of yellow flowered spiny shrubs on the hillsides; dominated by spanish broom (Spartium junceum); with its long terminal spines, spiny broom (Calicotome villosa), with evil thorns  and the prickly bushes Anthyllis hermaniae and Genista acanthoclada. Bladder senna (Colutea arborescence) with its curious seed pods and tree medic (Medicago arborea) with its interesting spiral fruits also playing their part in the display. All these plants are Mediterranean specialists, modified to tolerate the harsh climate. The function of the spines and thorns is to protect them from browsing by thorns, although they do nibble on young shoots.

Only two new flowers added, both yellow bushes, but more already on website, follow links in text.

Calicotome villosa
Hairy thorny broomYellow_Orange/Pages/Calicotome_villosa.html
Hippocrepis emerus
Scorpoion sennaYellow_Orange/Pages/Hippocrepis_emerus.html

The Lighthouse Walk

3 June 2019

The walk to the lighthouse, is on the rocky northern shore of the island at Gorouni point, is from the perspective of Skopelos flora, best done in May. Beginning  just above Perivoliou Beach the walk starts in the shade of Aleppo pine forest, here there is little in the way of interesting understory but if you are lucky you may spot the purple bird’s nest orchid (Limodorum abortivum) which has a special relationship with the trees. As the forest begins to thin out, the colourful wild flowers begin, with red poppies, white Tordilium apulum and cistus,  also known as rock roses in both pink and white,.

The dirt road continues in brilliant sunshine, with the pathway lined by the brilliant yellow spanish broom, filling  the air with its delightful perfume. The delicate flowers of the yellow rock rose (Fumana thymifolia), another plant belonging to the cistus family, can be seen at the base of rocky outcrops and at least 3 or 4 different species of clover may be spotted along the trail.

Along the walk you will see old kalivia, one with a beautiful red rambling rose; the views are spectacular, at first one sees Alonissos and on a clear day Kiria Panagia beyond but as you approach the lighthouse, Skiathos comes into view.

As you make your way, a variety of different floral habitats can be observed, with phrygana along the coast, dominated by hedgehog bushes of Sarcopoterium spinosum; mature pine forest inland with macchia in between ; this is interspersed with bushes of cistus, arbutus and pistachia, with their new spring growth; with bushes of cistus, arbutus and pistachia, with their new spring growth; there are also areas of Mediterranean dry grassland, with its own array of grasses and wildflowers; blue, but sometimes pink, vipers buglos, more red poppies, yellow corn marigolds and with the occasional blessed milk thistle (Silybum marianum).

The area around the lighthouse with its abundance of wildflowers could be regarded as the lighthouse keepers garden. There are palest blue tall elegant Echium italicum, pink pyramidal orchids, star clover and the yellow dandelion-like asteracea with thistle-like leaves (Sonchus oleraceous); there is an ancient fig tree which has divided into three trunks and in their shade a fragrant honeysuckle grows. On the flat ground are green mats scattered with simple pinkish-white flowers of one-flowered clover (Trifolium uniflora) interwoven with burr medic, which has small yellow flowers and curious fruiting bodies.

The garden is an ideal spot for a picnic, after a little refreshment and returning along the original pathway you may notice one or two less obvious plants; the branched yellow flax (Linum corymbosum)  with tiny yellow flowers, which almost disappears in the surrounding vegetation; the inconspicuous cudweed (Filago eriocephalus) which thrives in the drying mud of the dirt road or the purple thistle Tyrimnus leucographus, which has spiny leaves but soft stem and prickle-free heads.

You may of course not wish to search out wildflowers, but I expect you, will enjoy the walk.

For Guided Walks Go To Skopelos Walks with Heather Parsons at:

The new flowers added are all clovers, there are now 6 of 19 clovers recorded for Skopelos, of 90 different species of Trifolium present in Greece.

Trifolium arvense
Hare’s foot clover cloverWhite/Pages/Trifolium_arvense.html
Trifolium campestre 
Hop trefoilYellow_Orange/Pages/Trifolium_campestre.html
Trifolium repens
White cloverWhite/Pages/Trifolium_repens.html
Trifolium stellatum
Star cloverPink/Pages/Trifolium_stellatum.html
Trifolium tomentosum
Wooly cloverPink/Pages/Trifolium_tomentosum.html

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Now more than 300 flowers and trees

The Wildflowers of Skopelos is for those who love the island of Skopelos and the wildflowers of Greece.

There are now over 300 flowers and trees and also information on the island, its floral landscape, geology, climate, and ecological habitats.

New flowers all belonging to Fabaceae family:

Lathyrus digitatus
Grass vetchlingPink/Pages/Lathyrus_digitatus.html
Lotus angustissimus 
Slender bird’s-foot trefoilYellow_Orange/Pages/Lotus_angustissimus.html
Lotus cystoides 
Bird’s-foot trefoilYellow_Orange/Pages/Lotus_cystoides.html
Lotus ornithopodiodes 
Bird’s-foot trefoilYellow_Orange/Pages/Lotus_ornithopodioides.html
Medicago arabica
Spotted medicYellow_Orange/Pages/Medicago_arabica.html

Medicago orbicularis
Blackdisc medicYellow_Orange/Pages/Medicago_orbicularis.html
Medicago polymorpha
Toothed medicYellow_Orange/Pages/Medicago_polymorpha.html
Medicago rugosa 
Wrinkled medicYellow_Orange/Pages/Medicago_rugosa.html
Melilotus indica 
Indian sweetcloverYellow_Orange/Pages/Melilotus_indicus.html
Melilotus officinalis 
Onobrychis aeqidentata
Equal-toothed sanfoinPink/Pages/Onobrychis_aequidenta.html
Onobrychis caput-galli
Cockscomb sanfoinPink/Pages/Onobrychis_caput-galli.html
Ononis pusilla