Cretan Flora

Junipers

Junipers
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The jiunipers of Crete (Juniperus macrocarpa and Juniperus phoenicea) form some of the most important ecosystems in Greece, the "cedar" groves on the dunes of southern Crete. The ecological importance of the dunes is enormous for the biodiversity and the existence of rare animals and plants.

Due to the continuous degradation of these fragile ecosystems by the human presence, these areas have been included in protection programs, such as Junicoast. Areas with junipers, although located in isolated places, because of their unprecedented natural beauty, receive many visitors each summer. These visitors, unintentionally and without knowing it, sometimes cause severe damage to the plants. The most common acts are breaking woods for lighting fires, camping under the shade (and yet destroying young shoots) and cleaning of dead branches. However, the branches of the cedars seem dry, but are alive and grow extremely slowly (1cm / year).

The main areas of juniper woods in Crete are located in Kedrodasos and Elafonisi lagoon, in Falassarna, in Gavdos (Sarakiniko, Agios Ioannis, Lavrakas), Chrissi islet and Grammenos Cape in Paleochora. Other juniper forests in Greece are found in Milos, Naxos, Paros, Polyaegos and Rhodes.

The dominant juniper of the Cretan habitats is the common juniper (Juniperus macrocarpa). Smaller clusters of the Phoenician Juniper are also met (Juniperus phoenicea). The species Juniperus macrocarpa develops extremely slowly and is a perennial species. It is estimated that there are trees older than 300 years. Although seed production is a very large, only a small percentage of seeds are healthy, only a small percentage of healthy seeds are likely to grow, and only a small percentage of new shoots manages to survive on the first year. The regeneration of juniper woods in all areas of Crete is minimal or zero, except the wood of Lavrakas in Gavdos. The species Juniperus phoenicea is found mainly in areas with rocky ground on the limits of the dunes.

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