Plant of the Month

May 2018

Juniperus drupacea Labill

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Juniperus drupacea (Syrian juniper) is a mountainous, small or medium-sized tree (12-20 m), endemic for the eastern Mediterranean area (Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey). Unique natural populations for Europe are found only in Mt Parnonas and Mt Taygetos (SE Peloponnese), in limestone substrates and altitude 300-1,500 m. It forms pure or mixed forests with J. oxycedrus L., Abies cephalonica Loudon or Pinus nigra J.F. Arnold subsp. nigra. J. drupacea is a tree species protected by the national legislation (PD 67/1981), included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2006) and its forests constitute a priority habitat according to the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.

E. Daskalakou

April 2018

Ophrys helenae Renz

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Helen’s Bee Orchid (Ophrys helenae Renz) is the only Ophrys species that has no speculum on its flowers, while it is easily identified by its velvet cherry red lip, that usually has a yellowish boarder. Although the lip color and beauty are leading to the idea that the species name comes from Helen of Sparta of the antiquity, Jany Renz, who first found and described the species from Corfu in 1928, named it after his mother, Helen Renz. Ophrys helenae is a Balkan endemic, with a center of distribution in NW Greece, currently expanding its limits east and southwards. It blooms in April and May, and can be found among shrubs and forest openings, in full sun and/or semi-shaded sites.

M. Charitonidou

March 2018

Linum arboreum L.

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Linum arboreum is a genuine ornament on the rocks, a very attractive shrub with bright yellow flowers and relatively early spring flowering that will definitely attract your attention. It can reach 1 meter in height although it is usually lower and caespitose. Its leaves are glabrous and thick and its few-flowered compact inflorescences appear from March to May and occasionally from January. It is usually found in rock crevices and rocky slopes with macchie and phrygana vegetation, from sea level up to 900 meters although rarely it can be found up to 1900 meters. It is distributed in Crete, the southeastern Aegean islands (Astypalea, Kasos, Karpathos, Sharia, Rhodes, Symi, Halki) and the Marmaris peninsula on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor.

I. Bazos

Februrary 2018

Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn. subsp. glutinosa

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Deciduous tree commonly named alder that thrives in moist soils, reaching to a height of 20-30 m. Anthesis occurs from February to March and seed maturation on October. It grows in deep and moist, clay-sandy soils, often almost in the water, in streams or rivers, usually, at altitudes of 0-1500 m. It needs plenty of light, grows quickly at an early age, stabilizes the river banks very effectively and is very resistant to pruning and flooding. It mainly occurs in North and Central Greece but extends to the Northwest Peloponnese, and to some of the larger islands. It is distributed in most parts of Europe, North Africa, Anatolia and the Caucasus. The species is resistant to atmospheric pollution, capable of capturing atmospheric nitrogen with rootstocks. Alnus glutinosa is a taxon characteristic of the '91E0* priority habitat: Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior', which has its southern limit of spreading to Greece. Greece is also the southern part of the species distribution in Europe.

K. Koutsovoulou

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