The Wild Flowers of Skopelos

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For those who love Skopelos and the wildflowers of Greece

 


Mustard, Cress and Vrouves

27 Dec 2020





At the dark time of year it is good to think of brighter times, bringing to mind the brilliant yellow of the fields in early summer, when they are filled with the flowers of mustard plants.


To most people the word mustard refers to a pungent yellow condiment, but to a botanist it is a group of plants belonging to the cabbage family, the Brassicaceae, although mustard is not a botanical term The plants are easily recognised, as they have divided, “mustard shaped” leaves and four petaled flowers, usually yellow.  The family may also be called crucifiers or Crusiferae as the flower petals are arranged in the form of a cross. They are however often difficult to differentiate one from the other when flowering, though they can be identified by their fruits.




Several mustard plants grow on Skopelos with tall black mustard, Brassica nigra, growing along the roadside; white mustard, Sinapis alba, in fields and olive grove and bastard cabbage, Rupestrum rugosa, filling the fields with yellow flowers. Smaller mustards thrive on dry stony ground: Bunias erucago and Biscutella didyma both  can be found in the vicinity Sendoukia and Cretan mustard, Brassica cretica survives clinging to the sea-cliffs. The plants can often be recognised by their curious seed pods.


The potency of mustard has been recognised since ancient times, when it was often used as medication, either in mixtues taken orally or as a local application. It is said that when Zarius met Alexander the Great prior to battle, Zarius gave Alexander a bag of sesame seed with one seed for every soldier in his army to indicating its huge size. Alexander returned a bag of mustard seeds, which, though fewer in number, illustrated how strong and ferocious his Greek soldiers were.

With its white flowers, water-cress (Nasturtium officinale), also belongs to the mustard family, it grows in the fresh water streams and can even be seen in the storm drain bordering the peripheral road.


Leaves of the brassicas are collected on Skopelos as horta and either cooked as boiled greens or eaten, when young, as picant salad leaves. All parts of the plants are edible and the flower buds are particularly prized and known as vrouves (βρούβες).


Some of the mustard plants growing on Skopelos:

Biscutella didyma
Buckler mustardYellow_Orange/Pages/Biscutella_didyma.html
Brassica nigra
Black mustardYellow_Orange/Pages/Brassica_nigra.html
Brassica cretica
Cretan mustardYellow_Orange/Pages/Brassica_cretica.html
Bunias erucago
Crested cabbageYellow_Orange/Pages/Bunias_erucago.html

Nasturtium officinale
WatercressWhite/Pages/Nasturtium_officinale.html
Rapistrum rugosum
bastard cabbageYellow_Orange/Pages/Rapistrum_rugosum.html
Sinapis alba
White mustardYellow_Orange/Pages/Sinapis_alba.html



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The Plant Families of Skopelos

8 Oct 2020




An individual flower shares its name with other plants which look the same, the species. A species is a group of plants which share the same characteristics and can breed with each other to produce offspring with the same traits; a genus is a group of plants which share similar attributes, they are not the same but are closely related. The scientific name has two parts, a species name which follows the genus name.


A common daisy is called Bellis perennis and a wood daisy  Bellis sylvestris.

Bellis is the genus name, perennis and sylvestris are species names.


Some genera are small and may contain only one species; the judas tree (Ceratonia siliqua), which is familiar on Skopelos as a beautiful tree with purple flowers and interesting seed pods, is the only species of the Ceratonia genus. Other genera have many species; the Silene genus has more than 900 species worldwide, with over 100 in Greece and at least ten different silenes on Skopelos.


There are hundreds of thousands of plant species in the world; a recent estimate totalled 391,000 and there are thousands of genera. These are further grouped into families, which have many similarities and genetic profiles; as with any living thing,  plants of the same family share the same ancestry. The scientific names of plant familes all end with -acae, e.g. Orchidaceae, the orchid family, which is the most populous family worldwide; followed by the daisy family (Asteraceae). Other important families on Skopelos include: the pea family (Fabaceae), the carrot or parsley family (Apiaceae) and the mint family (Lamiaceae).


For the amateur botanists amongst you, the relationship of some of the flowers found on Skopelos is shown in the


Plant Family Tree


and for a full list of families found on Skopelos go to the Family Index

or just enjoy looking at the flowers listed by colour.




For more on naming of flowers go to the About page.

 

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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.

*The Colours of Skopelos

30 Jan 2021

*The title of this blog has been borrowed from the ceramic workshop of the same name where Elizabeth McGhie makes beautiful pottery reflecting The Colours of Skopelos...


  1. *



With its extensive pine forest, the dominant colour of Skopelos is of course green and it is often referred to as the Green on Blue Island. In springtime, however,  the island is scattered with flowers of many colours, as if Iris, the messenger of the gods and  the goddess of the rainbow, had flown over the island and sprinkled it with drops coloured rain.

The main function of coloured flower petals is to attract pollinating insects; the petals act as banners, their colours ensuring that they stand out against the background of green, brown and grey. Although beautiful to the human eye, the flowers are seen very differently by insects their compound eyes perceive light from the blue-violet and ultra-violet end of the spectrum and some which look dull to us are bright to the insect eye. The coloured petals attract from a distance and markings on the petals, often invisible to humans, lead them to the pollen at the centre of the flower.

The colour of flowers is created by a combination of pigments and structure. The most common pigments are carotenoids and flavonoids. The carotenoids including carotene, produce yellow, orange and red colours of flowers and account  for the changing colours of autumn leaves. The flavonoids produce including anthocyanin which creates red, purple and blue. Purple is the favourite colour of honey bees and they visit flowers of this colour more often than any other.

The colour is not however exclusively due to pigments, but also to structure and recent studies have shown that microscopic grooves below the surface of the cells of many flowers, including those which are yellow or red,  reflect light producing a blue halo; this attracts the attention of bees. Similar structures can give blue colour to butterfly wings and birds feathers.


On Skopelos the commonest flower colour is yellow, this includes many of the daisy-dandelion family, (Asteracea), pea flowered shrubs, (Fabaceae) and  the buttercup family, (Ranunculaceae). In early summer, the whole island seems to explode with yellow flowers. Next in abundance are white flowers and these occur throughout the seasons, with beautiful white star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalus collinum) in early spring, many species of the carrot family ( Apiaceae) throughout the summer and ladies tresses (Spiranthus spiralis) in autumn.



The rarest flower colour is blue, as blue pigment is difficult for plants to produce; chicory (Cichorium intibus) which often flowers following rain in midsummer, is the only wild blue daisy.

Some flowers have more than one colour, scarlet pimpernel (Anagalis arvensis), is usually red but also occurs in deep blue. The marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa) occurs  as magenta, yellow or white; sometimes two colours appearing together on the same plant or even on the same flower.


There are few plant species with red flowers, but as anyone visiting Skopelos in late spring or early summer can observe there are many red poppies (Papaveraceae). The impressive brilliance of the poppy results from the very heavy concentration of red pigment in petals which are only 3 cells thick and the complex structure of surface cells which create a brilliant flash of reflected light attracting pollinators from afar.





As the the hot dry months begin, purple is the dominant colour with many of the aromatic herds having flowers in the  violet and purple and of course many of the summer flowering thistles have brilliant purple flower heads, which are often visited by beetles. or hoverflies.


Most visitors visit Skopelos in the hot summer months when Skopelos is dominated by the intense blue of the sea and sky, but to appreciate the true range of the colours of Skopelos, you must visit in spring, autumn and winter as well.




Chart reflecting the number of species of the wildflowers of Skopelos by colour



Plants in the website are arranged mainly by colour.

Click on a colour & follow the links

pink     red     orange/yellow    green    blue  purple/mauve   white