Plant of the Month

January 2018

Colchicum asteranthum Vassil. & K.M. Perss.

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Colchicum asteranthum was discovered relatively recently in 1999, and was described three years later. So far, it has been found only on Lerkio of Peloponnesus, where its distribution is limited to slopes with southwest to southeastern exposure. This very limited distribution makes Colchicum asteranthum one of the rarest species of the genus Colchicum in Greece.

It prefers areas of the mountain with terra rossa and without extensive tree cover, at an altitude of 950 to 1450 m. Its white or pink flowers open in the winter, during December and January, leaving a honey perfume.

The plant’s winter flowering poses the risk of reduced sexual reproduction due to the possible bad weather and the resulting lack of pollinators. However, there is the possibility of vegetative reproduction through roots that compensates for the losses. It has been estimated that there are several thousands of individuals on the mountain, but they appear in an area of very limited size. For this reason, C. asteranthum is included in the Red Data Book of Rare and Threatened Plants of Greece (2009), characterised as "Vulnerable".

K. Goula

December 2017

Colchicum atticum Spruner 

Colch atticum Poulis
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Colchicum atticum Spruner like a festive jewel, comes to brighten up the winter landscape, flowering from November up until February. A minute geophyte with white-purplish flowers, that protrudes just a few centimeters above ground, among the leaves that appear simultaneously with the anthesis. Although difficult to observe, it is quite low-demanding, appearing in open rocky places among phrygana, in sparse pine forests, as well as in olive groves. The residents of Athens can find it on Lycabettus hill, near the city centre. Its name derives from its first discovery in the region of Attica in mid-19th century. Since then, it has been found in Corinthia, Evvia, Lesvos, Samos, Kalymnos, Thasos, as well as in the Nestos area. Outside Greece, it spreads in S. Bulgaria and Turkey.

 

G. Poulis

 

 

November 2017

Spiranthes spiralis (L.) Chevall.

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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 Herb. subsp. mazziaricus (Herb.) B. Mathew

 

 

Crocus cancellatus subsp. 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