Cretan Flora


Sea daffodil
(7 votes)

The white sand lily (scient. Pancratium maritimum), also known as sea daffodil, amaryllis, lily of Knossos, beach saffron or beach crocus is a charming plant that overwhelms the dunes of Crete from August to October. Unfortunately, in recent years its population has been limited to a few beaches, due to the shrinking of its habitats. Thus, the lily is today protected by Greek and international legislation.

Pancratium maritimum is a bulbous perennial with a long neck and glaucous, broadly linear leaves, evergreen, but the leaves often die back during hot summers. Scape to 40 cm. Flowers 3–15 in an umbel, up to 15 cm long, white. Corona two-thirds as long as the tepals. The flowers have a pleasing, exotic and very subtle lily scent, which only becomes apparent during still, windless summer nights that allow the delicate fragrance to become perceptible. Flowering is from August to October.

The plant is pollinated by a hawk-moth named Agrius convolvuli. These insects visits the flower when the speed of the wind is under 2 m/s. When it's higher than that the moths does not visit the Pancratium. Even if the species is pollinated in an artificial way during windy weather the pollination is not effective. Another specific of the sand lily is that it is not receptive to its own pollen and the plant can recognize it. This flower can be only cross-pollinated.

Its tiny black and light seeds look like small pieces of charcoal. The seeds are carried away by the wind or floating in the sea, which transports them to other distant beaches. On these beaches they will bloom after 4-5 years. At the same time, the plant can be multiplied by the bulbs.

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