Plant of the Month

November 2017

Spiranthes spiralis (L.) Chevall.



Spiranthes spiralis is an orchid, which, unlike all other orchids in our country that bloom in spring, blooms in the fall (September to November). It its name derives from the spiral arrangement of its flowers. The flowering stem grows right next to a rosette, whose life lasts for a vegetative period and then dries. From the base of the dried rosette grows the flowering stem, which carries up to 30 small whitewashed flowers. The lower flowers blossom earlier than those found at the top of the inflorescence. Pollination occurs with insects that are attracted by nectar. The species spreads in Europe, North Africa and Asia. In Greece, it is scattered on both the mainland and the islands, and we usually find it in meadows and sparse shrubs and forests. Like all orchids in our country, Spiranthes spiralis is protected by national legislation (PD 67/1981) and the CITES Convention.


D. Kontakos

October 2017

Silene orphanidis Boiss.



Silene orphanidis Boiss is a rare local endemic that occurs only in places around the top of Mount Athos and at an altitude ranging from 1700 to 2000 m. It is found in rocky slopes and slopes of limestone rocks in semi-shaded places, near and above the tree limit, with a very small population of 60 to 100 individuals. The conservation status of the species, which is listed in Annex II of the Directive 92/43/EC, was assessed as Favourable based on the latest national report (2007-2012), while according to the IUCN Red List, the species has been classified as Endangered (EN). The species is not in direct threat due to the special conditions prevailing on Mount Athos. The small size of its population could be considered as a potential risk.

P. Dimopoulos, S. Charalambidis

September 2017

Crocus cancellatus subp. mazziaricus



Crocus cancellatus subps. mazziaricus is a geophyte with distribution almost in all Greece, except Crete and the islands of Northeast Aegean, the Balkans and northwest Turkey. It is the first Crocus species that flowers in autumn, with a flowering season from September to November. This species can be found from sea level up to 1500 meters in phrygana, forest edges and rocky locations.

In mythology Crocus was a young man. The god Hermes killed him during a game of discus by mistake and he turned his dead body into the flower he is today. In Iliad, Homer describes the colour of the rising sun by comparing him with the colour of Crocus.

S. Oikonomidis

August 2017

Origanum microphyllum (Benth.) Vogel



Origanum microphyllum (Cretan marjoram) is a perennial aromatic shrub, endemic to the island of Crete. It occurs in the wider area of Lefka Ori and Dikti massifs, in a notable altitude range, from almost sea level up to 1800 m. The typical habitat of the species is open stony and rocky sites, but also phrygana and forest clearings. Origanum microphyllum is flowering from June to August, which is the period where parts of the plant are collected, as they are used in the preparation of therapeutic brews, often together with the Cretan mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca subsp. syriaca). Its very special and intense aroma is attributed to the presence of monoterpenoids (rather than phenolic compounds) in the composition of the essential oil. In sites where Origanum microphyllum grows together with the common oregano (Origanum vulgarum subsp. hirtum), the hybrid Origanum x minoanum can be also found.

A. Kaltsis

July 2017

Teucrium montbretii Benth.



Perennial with woody base, leaves broadly ovate to suborbicular, white tomentose to both sides. Flowering shoots up to 15 cm, slender, brittle, tomentose-villous. Flowers with pink to reddish-purple corollas, forming dense and narrow spikes. It grows in vertical limestone cliffs up to 500 m and flowers from May to July (occasionally later). T. montbretii is a variable species divided into 5 subspecies, distributed in Greece (Dodecanese Islands), S. Anatolia, W. Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. T. montbretii subsp. heliotropifolium is probably endemic to Karpathos and Saria, while the rest of the records from the Dodecanese Islands seem to belong to T. montbretii subsp. pamphylicum.

I. Bazos