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Salsify, Goat's Beard (Tragopogon porrifolous, Tragopogon sinuatus) Crete

Flowering Meadow, Crete

Mullein, Aaron's Rod (Verbascum macrurum), Crete

Sea Stock (Matthiola sinuata), Crete

Orchid (Orchidaceae), Crete

Field of Crown or Poppy Anemones (Anemone coronaria), Spring, Crete

Sea Squill (Urginea maritima), Crete

Common Poppy, Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Crete

Spiny Broom (Calicotome villosa), Crete

Giant Fennel (Ferula communis), Crete

Traditional May Day Wreath, Crete

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Nature and Environment
Wild Flowers

Almond flowering in Spring, Crete

Wild Flowers of Crete

Wild Flowers, Trees and Shrubs on Crete

Spring Flowers, Crete
Spring Flowers, Crete

Crete has around 2000 species of plants. A large percentage of these are endemic, with 10% growing only on Crete and nowhere else in the world.

100 species of Crete's endemic plants grow only in a specific area of Crete, the Lefka Ori mountain range (White Mountains) in the Chania area.

An additional 38 species are confined to only 2 places in the world - Crete and the Karpathos.

The Red Data Book of Rare and Threatened Plants of Greece includes 67 plants which grow on Crete, of these, 30 grow in the Lefka Ori. Some plants in Chania are very highly endangered - two of these species are recorded in the catalogue of 50 most threatened Mediterranean island plants.

Rethymnon, Chania, Heraklion and Lassithi all contain a huge variety of plant species with many rarities.

The nature of Crete's plant life with the many species which are endemic to Crete is explained by its relative isolation as it broke away from mainland Greece over 5 million years ago and its mountainous nature which creates many isolated habitats untouched by modern life and development.

In its 8,336 square kilometres of surface area, 260 kilometres from east to west and between 12 to 60km from north to south, the diversity of habitats on Crete create individual eco-systems in which particular plants flourish.

The vegetation zones/areas are divided as follows:
  • Coastal or littoral area at an altitude of 0-20 metres
  • Lowland at an altitude of 20-300 metres
  • Semi or sub-mountainous 300-800 metres
  • Mountainous 800-1800 metres
  • Sub Alpine 1800-2200
  • Alpine +2200 metres

Sea Daffodil (Pancratrum maritimum), Lafonissi, Crete
Sea Daffodil (Pancratrum maritimum), Lafonissi, Crete
Almond Blossom, Crete
Almond Blossom, Crete

wild flowers such as Sea Lily (Pancratium maritimum), Tamarisk (Tamarix cretica), Cretan Theophrastus Palm (Phoenix theophrastii) are found near the sea.

Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), Oleander (Nerium oleander), Camomile (Chamomilla recutita), Spearmint (Mentha spicata), Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Cretan Ebony (Ebenus cretica) on the plains.

Dragon Arum, Great Dragon (Dracunculus vulgaris), Crete
Dragon Arum, Great Dragon (Dracunculus vulgaris), Crete
Orchid (Orchidaceae), Crete
Orchid (Orchidaceae), Crete
Monkey Orchid (Orchidaceae), Crete
Monkey Orchid (Orchidaceae), Crete

At a higher altitude, Holm Oak (Quercus coccifera), Thyme (Thymus capitatus), Broom/Crop (Spartium junceum), Cretan Cyclamen (Cyclamen creticum), Iris (Iris cretica), Tulip (Tulipa orphanidea), Ligaria (Vitex agnus-castus) and many species of orchids - endemic Dactylorhiza romana, Ophrys lutea, Ophrys tenthredinifera, Ophrys cretica, Barlia robertiana.

Yellow Mustard Violet (Erysimum creticum), Wild Violet (Viola cretica), Crocus (Crocus oreocreticus), Cretan Sfentami (Acer sempervirens) grow in the mountains.

Cretan Dittany (Origanum dictamnus) in gorges/ravines.

Ladania (Cistus incanus-creticus), Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas).

Semi-mountainous areas - Cretan Tulip (Tulipa cretica), Arbutus (Arbutus unedo), Styrax (Styrax officinalis), Drakontia (Dracunculus vulgaris).

The gorges of southern Chania contain many rare and endemic plants. The Samaria Gorge alone contains over 400 different plant species, with 1/5 being endemic. In Rethymnon, the foothills of Kedros, near Spili are well known for orchids, with some 25 species growing here. Crete has many rare orchids.

Cretan Iris (Iris cretensis), Crete
Cretan Iris (Iris cretensis), Crete
Crown or Poppy Anemone (Anemone coronaria), Crete
Crown or Poppy Anemone (Anemone coronaria), Crete

Every season has its own unique display of colourful, scented, aromatic wild flowers and herbs.

Allium (Liliaceae), Crete
Allium (Liliaceae), Crete
Crown or Poppy Anemone (Anemone coronaria), Crete
Crown or Poppy Anemone (Anemone coronaria), Crete

In February/March, Crown or Poppy Anemones (Anemone coronaria) carpet hillsides, olive groves and roadsides with their brilliant red, pink, white, lilac and purple flowers. Almond trees begin to blossom with their white-pink flowers and Cherry trees with their white blossom come into flower, providing a brilliant display of white and pink blossoms across hillsides, fields, roadside verges througout Crete.

Lupinus Pilosus (Leguminosae), Crete
Lupinus Pilosus (Leguminosae), Crete
Cistus creticus (Cistus incanus ssp. creticus), Crete
Cistus creticus (Cistus incanus ssp. creticus), Crete

A little later, in March/April, Lupins (Lupinus pilosus) with their large purple flowerheads, are seen in olive groves, stony fields and roadside ditches, bringing an intense display of colour. Common Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) begin flowering. The Yellow Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum) begins flowering in April and continues through to August with its orange/yellow coloured flowers.

Cretan Sowbread (Cyclamen creticum), Crete
Cretan Sowbread (Cyclamen creticum), Crete
Phlomis cretica, Crete
Phlomis cretica, Crete

In April/May, Crete has an abundance of wild flowers including fragrant herbs such as Sage, Thyme, Rosemary. A walk or drive through the countryside is filled with the scent of these aromatic plants. The flowers of the Thyme plants are particularly important for the bees who produce excellent tasting honey from them. You will see Thymian Honey for sale all around Crete.

Herbs such as Oregano (Origanum vulgare) grow abundantly during the Summer months.

Rare species include:

  • Silene succulenta (Silene succulenta)
  • White Peony (Paeonia clustii) Found only in the White Mountains in the Samaria Gorge and above Anapolis and in the Dikti Mountains.
  • Cretan Hooded Cephalanthera (Cephalanthera cucullata)
  • Scabioza minoana ssp. asterusica (Scabioza minoana ssp. asterusica) grows only on Mount Kofinas in the Asterousia Mountains in South Crete.
  • Androcymbium rechingeri (Androcymbium rechingeri) A rare plant of sandy beaches
  • Bupleurum kakiscalae (Bupleurum kakiscalae) grows at the entrance to the Samaria Gorge
Several wild tulips: Cretan Tulip (Tulipa cretica); Tulipa doerfleri is recorded only on one mountain plateau in central Crete; Tulipa goulimyi grows on Crete only at the Gramvousa Peninsula

Orchidaceae: Mesara ophrys (Ophrys mesaritica) grows in the Mesara area of southern Crete; Sitia ophrys (Ophrys sitiaca) grows in eastern Crete; Epipactis cretica

Edible and medicinal plants and herbs are still used extensively by Cretan people old and young. Women, men and often several generations of a family together can be seen gathering wild plants and herbs in the countryside, around towns and villages and in the mountains during all seasons of the year.

During Winter and Spring fresh greens are gathered for boiling and serving with olive oil and lemon. In Summer and Autumn, herbs for cooking and drying are gathered.

Crete has many plants and herbs which have been used for centuries for their medicinal and therapeutic properties. While some of them are not used so much now for medicinal purpose, older Cretans with the knowledge of these ancient remedies still employ them in everyday life. Artichoke, Balm, Basil, Camomile, Cherry, Lemon and Mullein are just a few of the widely used plants and trees.

For more information visit our Crete Food and Drink feature (online soon).

Flowers and trees still feature extensively in Cretan folklore and mythology. On the 1st May every year, May Day (Πρωτομαγιά), there is a national holiday in Greece and Crete, when it is a tradition for families to go out into the countryside to pick flowers and make them into a wreath which is then hung on the outside of your house until 24th June. It is believed to ward off evil spirits and to bring good luck. Cars, buses, fishing boats and taxis are also adorned with flower wreaths on this day. It is no doubt connected with ancient Spring and fertility celebrations.

Trees feature in Greek mythology. There is a very famous Plane tree (Platanus) at Gortyn (Γόρτυνα) in southern Crete. This sacred Plane tree is evergreen, one of only 50 known evergreen Plane trees on Crete, as most Plane trees are deciduous.

Zeus is believed, while in the form of a white bull, to have abducted the princess, Europa, and carried her across the sea from Lebanon to Crete. Here at Gortyn, under this Plane tree she conceived 3 children, the mythic kings of Crete - Minos, Radamanthys and Sarpedon.

Deciduous Planes are very common around Crete. Many towns and village on Crete are named Platanias, Platanes or Platanos, named after these beautiful Plane Trees which provide much wanted shade in many village squares.

Compositae with butterflies, Crete
Compositae with butterflies, Crete
Barbary Nut (Gynandriris sisyrinchium), Crete
Barbary Nut (Gynandriris sisyrinchium), Crete

Field of Crown or Poppy Anemones (Anemone coronaria), Spring, Crete
Field of Crown or Poppy Anemones (Anemone coronaria), Spring, Crete
Trifolium uniflorum (Leguminosae), Crete
Trifolium uniflorum (Leguminosae), Crete

Click here to view the Wild Flowers Photo Gallery

Click here for Guided Tours


Books can be purchased online by clicking on the links below :

Wild Flower Books for Greece

Wild Flower Books for Crete

Useful Links

Crete Natural History Museum

Map of Wild Flowers, Trees and Shrubs of Crete



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