Crete hosts an extremely rare and endemic variety of plane trees (Platanus orientalis var. Cretica) with about 50 trees being reported throughout the island. The characteristic feature of this variety is that it is evergreen, unlike the common deciduous plane trees.
One of these trees is of great historical and mythological value and has survived the centuries, since the Minoan era. This is the plane of Gortyna, which still stands proudly in the back side of the current archaeological site of ancient Gortys.
The plane was dedicated to Zeus and according to mythology, under this tree, Zeus mated with Europa after transferring her to Crete from Africa. This is where she conceived her children; Minos, Sarpedon and Radamanthys. Since then, the plane did not lose its foliage again. The importance given to this tree is very clear by the depiction of Europa under the tree in the ancient coins of Gortys.
The cult of the tree has survived till today, as some believe that the tree has the magic ability to help women bearing boys, thus some people still gather some leaves from the tree. This habit dates back to the myth of Europa who gave birth to the three kings of Minoan Crete.
In Crete there are about 50 more planes of the same variety, with that of Gortys being the most famous as it is linked to the myth of Zeus and Europa. Besides Gortys, the planes of Azogires (Chania) and Monastiraki (Amari) are also quite famous. Other evergreen plane trees can be met in Vori, Vryses and Fodele.