The Wild Flowers of Skopelos


For those who love Skopelos and the wildflowers of Greece

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Now more than 350 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.

Endemic plants of the Sporades

Ενδημικά φυτά των Σποράδων

26 Feb2024

“Unless you know something or quite a lot  about these plants, you cannot take intelligent steps towards protecting them.” Kit Tan.

Plants which grow naturally in one specific area and no other part of the world are called endemics,; they are regarded as an important contributor to floral richness.. The area to which a plant is endemic may cover a large area, such as the Mediterranean basin, or small as in a single mountain top, an island or even a single small islet. Greece with its high mountains and scattered islands is renowned for its species richness and its high proportion of endemics,  13% of approximately 5,800 species occur only within the borders of Greece. Of course plants are not always confined within specific borders, so the concept of range restricted endemics has been defined as plants restricted to 5000 square km and highly range restricted species to 100 square km.

On Skopelos the dominant tree of the forest, Aleppo pine (Pinus halpensis, χαλεπίου πεύκης) is a Mediterranean endemic, as are most  of the sclerotic shrubs of the maquis including the Arbutus ( strawberry trees), Pistacia ( lentisk & turpentine trees) and oak species.

The 23 islands of the Northern Sporades chain supports 41 endemic species and subspecies, an estimated 3.4% of total flora.

Greek endemics growing on Skopelos include Centaurea raphanina ssp. mixta, Silene fabaria ssp. fabaria, Stachys cretica and the delightful autumn flowering Cyclamen graecum ssp. graecum.

The enchanting virginia stock, Malcolmia macrocalyx ssp. macrocalyx exists only on the Sporades and neighbouring Evia with the similar but distinct subspecies scyria only on Skyros; Scutellaria sporadum, with its curious spoon shaped fruits, as its species name suggests is found only on the Sporades.

The rare and beautiful Campanula incurva has been included in WWF’s  The Red Data Book of Rare and Threatened Plants Of Greece. It is found in scattered populations only on the islands of Skopelos, Ikaria, and Evia and in the foothills of Mount Olympos and Mount Pelion.

The rupestris group of Campanulae have attractive blue bell shaped flowers on long stems radiating from a rosette of lyrate leaves. They were extensively studied by Prof. Dimitrios Phitos in the 1960s when he demonstrated subtle differences between the specimens found within the geographical area including the Peloponnese, Evia, the Sporades and the Athos peninsula. He identified the species C. Sciathos, which occurs only on Skiathos, C. scopelia, which is found on Skopelos, Alonissos & Kyra Panagia and C. rechingeri which grows only on small island of Piperi and on a limestone cliff on the Cycladic island of Andros.*

Also of interest in the campanula family are the endemic C. Boreosporadum formerly known as Symphyandra sporadum, which exists only in the eponymous archipelago on Skopelos, Alonissos, Kra Panagia, Gioura and Piperi but there is a closely related species on Samothraki.

Some of these narrow range endemics are found only on the Sporades, but others on islands of Evia or the Cyclades, the proximal mainland area of Pelion or even on the lower slopes of Olympos and with closely related taxa on the Peloponnese. These distribution patterns reflect the complex geological evolution of the area.

The identification of endemics is not simply of interest to botanists but is important in consideration of maintaining biological diversity.. Although range restricted plants and particularly those which occupy a small area are very vulnerable to threats from habitat loss, alien species invasion and climate change ad a result of anthropic activity, a world with high levels of biodiversity is more likely to survive.

At the 3rd Global Botanic Gardens Congress in 2007, the botanist Kit Tan announced that work is currently in progress to create a comprehensive record of all Greek endemic plants.

She stated “Unless you know something or quite a lot  about these plants, you cannot take intelligent steps towards protecting them.”

*The existence of these plants as distinct but closely related species has recently been confirmed by modern genetic studies.  Livery et al. Evolution ofCampanula sect. Quinqueloculares. 2020.

An Autumn Walk in the Forest

Μια Φθινοπορινή στο Βόλτα στο Δάσος

6 Nov 2023

The forest walk starts where the signpost indicates the footpath to Sendoukia, but takes the track opposite leading gradually up into the cool shade of the aleppo pine forest. To the right of the pathway the extent and density of the deep green forest can be appreciated and in gaps between the trees one can glimpse the deep blue Aεgean Sea with Alonissos beyond.

The best time from the botanical perspective is the autumn. At this time purple heather blooms on the edge of the track, tiny pink cyclamen (Cyclamen graecum) flowers emerge from the cracks in the rocks, and isolated flowers of Skopelos saphron crocus (Crocus cancellatus), with their pale lilac petals and bright purple stigmas and stamens or ladies tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) with spiral stems and pure white flower, the only orchid to flower in autumn.

Beneath the forest canopy is a rich understory of strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) with clusters of creamy white flowers and yellow or red fruits on the same bushes; smoke trees (Cotinus coccygria) with leaves turning red; prickly ivy (Smilax aspera) scrambling over everything with long strands of white flowers draped over prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus).


Where the track divides, a sign points to Palioklima to the right, but the forest walk follows the left fork, which leads up towards Mount Delphi. Eventually  the track terminates in the vicinity of an ancient farmstead. A row of conifers stands guard over an area of flat land, which is overshadowed by steep cliffs with pine trees clinging to a near vertical rocky face.

A single flower with pale violet and white chequered petals foretells of the amazing sight of the myriad blooms of colchicum (Colchicum binovae) scattered amongst the grass on the flat field before the derelict farmhouse. Where the land begins to slope upwards at the edge of the field there is an array of pink cyclamen in large clumps contrasting with the smooth white rocky outcrops.

The ruined farmhouse is overshadowed by two tall lime trees (Tilia platyphyllos), the flowers would have been to make tea. There are walnut and almond trees and crops would have been grown on the level field. An old outdoor oven, seating area and flag floor for dancing remain as well as the farmhouse with outhouses for animals. There must have once been a thriving farm in this beautiful but remote part of Skopelos.

For a guided walk in the forest of Skopelos contact Heather Parsons

via her website:

Skopelos Walks.

Exotic plants of Skopelos

Εξωτικά φυτά της Σκοπέλου

An exotic plant species is one which has been introduced that is non-native.

12 Sept 2023

A wildflower is one which has not been planted but grows in the wild without having been seeded or planted by man. An alien plants is one introduced into an area where they do not occur naturally from elsewhere in the world as a result of human activity. If  non-native plants spread of their own accord, and if the environment is suitable, they become naturalised. and if the environment is suitable. Vigorous aliens may out-compete native species and become invasive.

Botanists divide alien plants into two groups, those introduced in ancient times, which are referred to as archaeophytes and those introduced more recently as neophytes. The dividing line between the two  is 1492, the date when Columbus discovered America. Archaeophytes can be considered as natives.

Surprisingly, some plants and flowers, both wild and cultivated which are considered to be typically  Greek are actually exotics.

Since prehistoric times, plants have been introduced to Greece  deliberately for food, for ornament or as raw materials for construction and crafts and sometimes accidentally. The greater the movement of people, the greater the risk of introducing alien invaders.

A prominent plant on Skopelos is the giant cane Arundo donax, which was probably introduced in prehistoric times, spreading along with civilisation from the Indus Valley in what is now Iraq.

Some important constituents of the Greek diet were introduced, cucumbers are archeaophytes from the indian subcontinent while tomatoes, peppers and, of course, potatoes are neophytes from America. The pomegranate which featured prominently in Hellenic  culture and mythology, is surprisingly an ancient introduction, also the almond, lemon and orange trees.

Some of the plants considered to wildflowers of skopelos are introductions. The wild pea plants Pisum sativum, the forerunner of the cultivated pea, found among the grassland along the roadsides, was probably introduced in prehistoric times as part of the neolithic package spreading along with primitive grains from the fertile crescent of western Asia. Although its origin is uncertain the corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, may also have been introduced along with prehistoric cereal crops, but the  long headed poppy, Papaver dubium is certainly a Skopelos native.

Beautiful white irises which naturalise freely in the Skopelitian countryside, had their origin in the Arabian peninsula, it was culitivated since at least 1400 BCE. The pretty but invasive Sour Sorrel, (Oxalis pes-caprae), a South African native is prominent in winter months, it  was introduced into the Mediterranean at the end of 18th Century.

The precise origin of hollyhock (Alcea rosea) is unknown, but it was probably first cultivated in Turkey, but as it spreads easily by seed, it has naturalised throughout the Mediterranean. In Skopelos it is found in the wild close to habitation and was probably introduced as a garden plant.

White mulberry Morus alba, now planted mainly as a shade treee is the food tree of the silk worm,  it was imported from China in the 6th century leading to the development of the silk industry.

Snap dragons (Antirrhinum majus), popular with children which spread from the Western Mediterranean are archaeophytes. Lantana (Lantana camara), and the Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa) from Central and South America both neophytes are grown in gardens and spread like weeds along the streets.

Prickly pears, Opuntia ficus-indica, native to central and south America is said that they were brought back to Lisbon by Christopher Columbus. It is ideally suited to the Mediterranean climate and can become invasive.

Of special importance are the magnificent Bouganvilleas,* with their vividly coloured papery bracts;  which adorn and enhances many of by-ways of the towns Skpelos and Glossa. The plant is named after Louise Antoine Bouganville, the Admiral of La Boudeuse, who led the first French circumnavigation of the world. He was accompanied by a botanist Philibert Commerson, who was the first to describe the plant, which was descovered on the west coast of Brazil. It was not Commerson who collected the first specimen, however, but the herbalist Jeanne Baret, who accompanied him. She had disguised herself as a man to ensure her safety on the ship but her true identity was discovered after 2 years on board. In order to protect Baret from punishment, Commerson offered to name the plant  Bouganvillea braziliensis,* ensuring the admirals name would be remembered forever in the annals of botanical history.  

Although exotic plants may be considered to have enriched the gardens of Greece,

care must be taken as alien plants can threaten native biological diversity.

“The native Greek flora is not only exceptionally rich but is an essential element of the Greek landscape.” 2 Perhaps we should aim at using more native plants in our Greek gardens..

Alcea rosea
Arundo donax
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Morus alba
white mulberryTrees_%26_shrubs/Pages/Morus_alba.html
Opuntia ficus-indica
prickly pearYellow_Orange__1./Pages/Opuntia_ficus-indica.html

* There is no page on Bouganvillea (now called Bouganvillea spectabilis) as it cannot be considered wild.

!. Zenetos et. al. Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species - Greece. Sept. 2020.

2. Jaqueline Tyrwitt. Apendix I The use of Greek Plants in a Greek Landscape. Making a Garden on a Greek Hillside

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See also April

blog12 April 2022


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