Explore Cretan

Flora

Splashes of Colors

Since Crete drifted away from the rest body of Greece
a unique flora has evolved with a large number of endemic plants.

Ancient Olive Trees | Sacred Trees | The Cretan Date Palm | Protected Junipers

Cretan Species

Date Palm

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Protected Species

Junipers

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Dendrolatry Remnants

Sacred Trees

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Crete has a rich biodiversity and the best moment to witness this is in the spring when the flora is at its best. Over 1.700 species have been recorded up to date in Crete, many of which are endemic. Some remote areas of the island, especially the White Mountains and the surrounding islets are home to many stenoendemic species and subspecies, i.e. plants that are only distributed in this limited area.

Every year these rare species attract botanists from all over the world. They come to study wild flowers, including impressive native Cretan orchids. Moreover, endemic tulips grow on the White Mountains, on the Dikti range, on the Gramvousa peninsula and in the small botanical paradise of Gious Kampos in Rethymnon.

Crete is also famous for its aromatic plants and herbs that grow everywhere on the island. Many of them have been used since ancient times for their therapeutic properties and they are currently cultivated in many places of the island.

Great Britain, whose area is 40 times larger than the island of Crete, encompasses almost the same number of species of plants. This is indicative for the variety of species available on the island.

Monumental Trees
Either due to their enormous size or following legends, some trees in Crete have been declared natural monuments. Among the most famous of them are the evergreen plane-tree of Ancient Gortys, under which Zeus and Europe mated and, thus, Minos was born. Many of the monumental trees have been officially designated as monuments of nature by the Greek state. One of them is the oversized hawthorn of Ancient Zominthos. Some other trees have been associated with the struggles...
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Tulips
The tulips of Crete are very impressive, although almost nobody knows that there are several tulip species. These are the Tulipa cretica throughout Crete, the red Tulipa doerfleri in plateau Gious Kambos, the Tulipa goulimyi in Chania, Tulipa saxatilis subsp. bakeri in Omalos Plateau and the mountainouss Tulipa saxatilis.  
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Cretan Mount Tea (Malotira)

Malotira (Sideritis syriaca), also known as Cretan Mountain tea is a herbaceous plant or shrub, 10-50cm long, which is met at ranges over 900m in West Crete (over 900m). The species is endemic to Crete and the name syriaca (instead of cretica) probably comes from a confusion of the botanist who gave the name.

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Sea daffodil

The white sand lily (scient. Pancratium maritimum), also known as sea daffodil, amaryllis, lily of Knossos, saffron or 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 considered as endangered species and is protected by Greek and international legislation.

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Cretan Cyclamen

The cretan cyclamen belongs to the family of Primoulides. In many places of Greece, cyclamens are also called "hiropsomο" (i.e. bread for pig), because their roots are eaten by pigs. They grow in the middle of autumn between rock fissures or in the rubble.

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White sage-leaved rock-rose (Cistus salvifolius)

The white sage-leaved rock-rose (Cistus salvifolius) is one of the most beautiful white flowers of Crete. It is met in all counties of the island at medium altitudes up to almost 900 meters and always in phyllitic acidic grounds. It is not as well known as its related purple cousin (Cistus creticus) because it does not produce the famous laudanum.

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Lupinus varius

During spring, many places throughout the island of Crete are adorned with the purple - blue flowers of the wild lupines (Lupinus varius) which is one of the most beautiful and characteristic plants of the entire Mediterranean area. Lupins, known as loubinia in Crete are annual plants with hairy leaves with a shape of a hand palm consisting of 9-11 leaves usually.

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Aristolochia cretica

One of the most impressive spring plants of Crete is Aristolocheia (Aristolochia cretica). It is a perennial plant that creeps on the ground and has flowers that are truly impressive and have a shape resembling a saxophone or boot. This plant is typically found on dry rocky soils of Crete and Carpathos. In Crete it is found all over the island, but especially in Lassithi prefecture (east Crete).

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Giant fennel

Artikas or the giant fennel (Ferula communis) has a prominent place in Greek mythology as this plant was used by Prometheus to bring people the fire from the gods. The reason is that the interior thick trunk of artikas consists of a soft foam-like flammable material and its burning lasts, making it a natural torch.

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Colchicum

In autumn the land of Crete before the first rainfalls fall is adorned with various flowers that bloom literally in the summer dry land, signaling the resurrection of the earth that will follow. The family of Colchicum blooms in the fall and decorates the dry land. The Colchicum plants growing in Crete are all poisonous and this is the main reason they are not endangered with extinction.

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