The Wild Flowers of Skopelos


For those who love Skopelos and the wildflowers of Greece

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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.

Cistus - rock roses


The flowers, which  resemble fine tissue paper often bloom and fade within a single day

5 July 2023

With their beautiful pink or white flowers, plants of the cistus genus,  rock roses, are widespread on Skopelos, brightening the spring and early summer. The are seen along the roadside, scattered in the pine forest and often as a single species  dominating a wide area, usually following a forest fire.

The plants of the Cistus genus have evolved a number of strategies take advantage of the Mediterranean environment, with its hot dry summers and cool wet winters. The plants have an amazing capacity to thrive on dry stoney ground.

The flowers, which  resemble fine tissue paper often bloom and fade within a single day, but in contrast to the delicate flowers, the plants are tough and wiry with leathery leaves. The leaves are dimorphic, in winter they are broad and flat but in summer become smaller, narrower and crinkly, thus reducing their surface area  and restricting water loss.

The cistuses are known to be pyrophytic, fire loving, meaning they have adapted to a fire prone environment. The volatile oils positively encourage fire and although the plants succumb to the flames, the action of heat on seeds promote germination so that new cistus plants can grow rapidly on bare soil and free from competition of other species.

There are three species belonging to the cistus genus on Skopelos: pink cretan rock rose  (C.creticus), white sage-leaved rock rose (C. salvifolius) and white narrow leaved rockrose (C.monspeliensis).

An interesting association with cistus species are the curious little red & white plants of Cytinus ruber and yellow plants of Cytinus hypocistis, both are parasitic on the roots.

C.monspeliesis C.salvifolius
Cytinus ruber         

The bushes are highly fragrant, producing a sticky exudate, labdanum, a substance rich in aromatic, essential oils. The volatile oils protect the plants from high temperatures and strong sunlight. Labdanum has been highly valued by man since ancient times and has been recognised for its spiritual and medicinal properties. It is an important ingredient in many perfumes and is present in a number of high end beauty products. Historically it was collected from the beards of goats which had been grazing on cistus. The sticky residue clinging to hairs was combed out. It was until recently collected using a special tool, consisting of ribbons of leather, which were dragged through the bushes.

Cistus was recognised from ancient times as a effective remedy for a range of disorders and it was believed that the Olympian gods held councils to decided on the uses of various herbs; they designated cistus as a herb for treatment for the wounds of battle.

Cistuses have been adopted throughout the world as decorative garden plants; they are not just beautiful and fragrant but also useful.

Cistus creticus
Pink cistusPink/Pages/Cistus_creticus.html
Cistus monspeliensis 
Cistus salviifolius
Sage-leaved rock roseWhite/Pages/Cistus_salviifolius.html
Cytinus ruber

Skopelos Spring

Η άνοιξη

16 April 2023

Behold my friends, the spring is come;

the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun,

and we shall soon see the results of their love!

Sitting Bull.

In march, the first month of Greek spring, the island of Skopelos truly lives up to its name The Green and Blue Island. Although some days are cool and misty, when the sun shines, the sea and sky become intensely deep clear blue. 

Euphorbia characias cover hillsides and fill the air with their musky scent and alexanders (Smyrmium olusastrum), prized by the Skopelitians as a constituent of horta fill the valleys.

The black skeletal limbs of fruit trees burst forth with white and pale pink blossom, enticing bees which pollinate their flowers allowing the development of valuable fruits, pears, plums, apricots and apples. the branches of Judas trees, grey and dead looking in winter, suddenly put forth their bright purple flowers in preparation for Easter.

The lush green grassland of fields and olive groves are sprinkled with the beautiful anemones,from palest pink to deepest magenta are in March joined by the bright yellow dandelion flowers (Leontodon species) , creating an brilliant colour contrast. On flat areas grazes by goats in summer a multitude of plants emerge dominated at this time of year by daisy flowers, both true daisies (Bellis perennis) intermixed with greek camomile (Anthemis chia); their flowers are very similar but leaves very different.

Many of the flowers at this time are small,delicate early spring specialists: chickweed (Stellaria media), tiny foget-me-nots  and germander speedwell (Veronica persica) and purple violets (Viola alba subspecies dehnhartii)  but other flowers which become more abundant in later months also begin to put in an appearance, with a few pink flowers opening on the cistus and common mallow, a few early flowering salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) and even an occasional red poppy.

The little purple grape hyacinths (Muscari neglectum) are abundant in olive groves and even on the upper reaches of Panormos beach. Small yellow orchids can be seen amongst the short grass of well kept olive groves, well camouflaged amongst the short grass and difficult to recognise at first but once one has been spotted, many more become apparent. Also in this environment groups of wild lupins.

One of the most delightful sights in March are the  drifts of the small, dainty, pinkish-purple stocks, (Malcolmia macrocalyx). They are often found emerging from limestone, creating a brilliant contrast to red stained rocks. This is a range restricted species found growing naturally only in the North and Western Aegean Islands.

In contrast to the small delicate spring flowers, more robust, architectuaral plants begin to emerge at this time of year, including that most Greek of flowers, the ashodel (Asphodelus ramosus) creating a spectacle against the backdrop of olive groves on the Skopelos hills.

The Greek word for Spring anοixi, άνοιξη, derives from the ancient word for opening and on Skopelos this is demonstrated by the wildflowers emerging from winter dormancy, beginning in March and reaching a crescendo in May.

These are just a few of the flowers you may encounter in early spring on Skopelos:

Ajuga orientalis
eastern buglePurple_mauve/Pages/Ajuga_orientalis.html
Lamium amplexicaule
henbit deadnettlePurple_mauve/Pages/Lamium_amplexicaule.html
Malcomia macrocalyxPurple_mauve/Pages/Malcomia_macrocalyx.html
Myosotis ramosissimus
Early forget-me-notBlue/Pages/Myosotis_ramosissimus.html

Muscari neglectum
Grape hyacinthPurple_mauve/Pages/Muscari_neglectum.html
Ophrys lutea
Yellow orchidOrchids/Pages/Ophrys_lutea.htmlOrchids/Pages/Ophrys_lutea.htmlshapeimage_19_link_0
Veronica persica
germander speedwellBlue/Pages/Veronica_persica.html
Viola alba

Click on flower to go to page.

See also April

blog12 April 2022


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