Many years ago, when we used to come to Greece during May-June or September for the usual infusion of sunshine and long taverna evenings, my ex-brother-in-law's dad Don, who was a keen naturalist and used to produce his own honey at his home in the Quantocks, used to come to Greece (usually Samos) during the month of April for a walking holiday. On his return he would always enthuse about the wild flowers on a Greek island's hillsides during springtime, at a time when I'd never seen for myself what he meant.
Well, having now lived here for well over six years; yesterday morning, which was a truly wonderful bright blue vividly sunlit warm March morning, I had occasion to stroll up the hillside to our neighbours' house to check on their plants while they're away and - as I climbed the hill - I thought of Don. This year the gorse is spectacular, better and brighter than I can ever remember, and its wonderfully delicious scent creeps into your nostrils as you pass and makes you feel euphoric with the sense of being alive on such a day when the senses are heightened by the natural world all around you. Purely as a layman, I wonder whether this part of Europe is perhaps the limit of the gorse's preferred territory. As the first swallows swooped above me I thought that the much colder winter than normal which we've experienced this past few months may be the reason for the gorse's ebullience this year. Perhaps it prefers the colder climes and has responded by putting on its best show for years. As I say, I'm only a layman in botanical terms, but it seems that way to me.
But the gorse, then the abundance of tiny and not-so-tiny blooms all around, nudged me to go get my camera and go out on a snapping expedition. The results are below. I've numbered the photos and named the species in some cases. The others I confess to ignorance about and would invite the reader to perhaps put me out of my misery by telling me the names of the main species in their respective photos.
I hope you like them...
(To get a really good look, click on any image. Then, when the image has opened, right click on in and select "View Image". The next version can be enlarged further, as your mouse should change into a tiny magnifying glass with a + sign in it)
1. The Gorse, of course!
3. Viper's Bugloss maybe?
4. Notice the little blue flower too. What else is there?
5. The first Margaritas which, by the end of April, will create the cheesecake effect across the hillsides in their sheer abundance
6. Daisy, Stitchwort? something else perhaps...
7. Common Vetch. Not very common though this far south. Up North on the island of Thassos it grows in abundance, due to the shorter Summer, more plentiful rainfall and cooler Spring.
8. Wild Lavatera, or Mallow. Lots along the roadsides here. It flowers well into the summer too if you watch out for it.
9. Piece of cake this one...
10. Oxalis pes-caprae, the one the children pick to suck the stems, which taste of lemon.
11. Another type of Poppy, dunno the exact name though...
12. Rock Roses
13. Another type of Rock Rose
14. Nice colour, but what's its name?
15. A shrub this one, the flowers of which are very small and I don't think they're out completely yet...
16. French Lavender. The bumble bees just love it and their buzz here was almost deafening. You can pick one out toward the right of the picture, though there are loads more in there somewhere...
18. No idea what this is called, it grows very low across the ground...
19. Very pretty tiny blue flowers on this. Any ideas?
20. The Wild Anemones come out first during December, but only the white, purple and blue ones. We have to wait until February for these darlings to burst into flower, but when they do...
And finally, not a flower at all, but the silk nests which the caterpillars weave in the fir trees at this time of year. The caterpillars eat their way along the branches, then go off in search of a wall to stick to whilst they turn into a chrysalis, from which they'll emerge as Gypsy Moths. It was from these babies that I got my very painful rash a few years ago, when they were so abundant it was scary. The hairs of the caterpillars can cause an allergic reaction on the skin. Something to do with histamines or whatever. Just hope you don't ever suffer from it. It's not fun!!!
Well, there you go. As hopefully illustrated above, the colour on a Southern Aegean hillside during spring is a wonder to behold and it's a shame more visitors don't come on bespoke holidays to stroll the hillsides and enjoy these things really.
Please do comment if you have any names for me!!!