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 Gortyn.
The plane was dedicated to Zeus and according to mythology, under this tree, Zeus mated with Europa after transferring her to Crete from Phiniki, Africa. In Gortyn Europa conceived her children; Minos, Sarpedon and Radamanthys, who later became the kings of Knossos, Malia and Phestos. 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 Gortyn. The plane tree in its current form seems relatively small because of the fact that the plane trees are constantly regenerating from their roots, seeming eternal, but actually being new trees.
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 boys, the three kings of Minoan Crete. Apart from Gortys, there are more evergreen plane trees, like the platans in Azogires, in Monastiraki in Amari, in Vori, in Vryses and in Fodele.