The best time to come to Crete to see a unique range of wild flowers with over 150 endemic species is spring, albeit this depends on which part of the island you visit. The flowering season gets under way in February, in the southeast coast March is the best month and, in the mountains, April continuing to June, anemones, orchids and rockroses, then broom and chrysanthemum. poppies, daisies, chamomile, iris, tulips  hyacinth and wild gladiola.


The orchids are an important component of the Cretan flora with nearly all species spring-flowering. Around 65 species and sub-species of orchid are found on the island and just under half of them belong to the 'Ophtys' genus. About 15 of these are endemic and include the rare Cretan hooded 'cephalanthera' which has been characterised as endangered.


Herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary are very common in Crete and they have been used for thousands of years for culinary and medical purposes. The essential oils, thorns and shape of the plants which go to make up phrygana protect them from grazing animals and at the same time offer protection to a multitude of herbaceous wild flowers which grow among them, in particular the aforementioned orchids.

The fragrances, especially in the spring and summer fill the air everywhere you go. With the heat of the air the aromatic oils of all these plants, circulate into the atmosphere from sea-level right up to the mountain peaks.
In shady areas white cyclamens can be found. Unfortunately cyclamens are now considered an endangered species. 

One of the most beautiful of summer flowers in Greece must be the 'Capparis spinosa' the caper. Flowering until September the caper covers the island this plants bud and be picked and soaked in brine for a day or two and then pickled like onions in spiced vinegar and water.


Dittany 'Origanum dictamus',  is another Cretan herb. It is said that the wild goats of Crete 'kri-kri', look for it and eat it when they injure themselves as it helps in the healing of their wounds. Dittany grows wild in steep cliffs and it is very good for stomach-ache when made into an infusion of tea.


The rich plant life of the island is never disappointed. The mountains of the island bear evidence of a complex geological structure. In general they are of limestone or dolomite and rest on older metamorphic rocks. They weather very slowly, particularly in the low rainfall areas. There are numerous endemic plants (about 10% of the total), the majority of which are found in the gorges and in the high mountains growing in the most inaccessible environments and therefore those richest in 'natural' vegetation. Of the 1,700 and more different species and subspecies found on Crete.


The mountain summits are generally of grey eroded crags standing above stony deserts of fragmented limestone flakes. The highest mountains are Ida, with Mt Psiloritis at 2456m in the centre of Crete, the White Mountains or Lefka Ori, with Mt Pahnes at 2452m in the west of Crete. And the Dikti Mountains with Afendi Christos at 2148m to the east of the island. Isolated Mt Kedhros(1776m). situated south of the Ida Mts, is of interest because of the rare endemic plants which grow here. Certain of the plants listed are rare or endangered, or thrive in habitats worthy of conservation.


The White Peony 'Paeonia clusii subsp. clusii' certainly belongs to the endemic species. The existence of a white-flowered peony on Crete was recorded in 1553. Paeonia plants and especially their roots have been known for their medicinal properties since antiquity. The name Paeonia (Paionia) commemorating 'Paeon' (the doctor of the ancient Greek gods) was given to the peony by the ancient Greeks'


You can only find it in very few places high in the mountains pine and cypress forest and macchie, also in dry stony river beds and among rocks. It grows at an altitude of 200-190 m. It has a very short flowering period makes it even more of a rarity. 


Dianthus juniperinus subsp. kavusicus is one of Crete's rarest plants, known from only three localities in the Kavousi area in the eastern part of the island. This photo was taken on 30th May 2008 by Nick Turland.


Anthemis samariensis (Asteraceae). This new species, a kind of chamomile, was discovered in Crete in June 2007. It grows on high-altitude limestone cliffs at the upper rim of the Samaria gorge, the largest of the Cretan gorges, and apparently nowhere else in the world. It is related to a large and complex group of species or subspecies widely distributed from Spain and Algeria to the Caucasus. This photo was taken at the upper rim of Samaria Gorge, Lefka Ori, W Crete on the 11th June 2008 by Nick Turland.


Athamanta macedonica on Lefka Ori. This rare species is even more rarely seen in flower. The plants live for several years then flower, set seed, and die.



  Androcymbium rechingeri
Burnt Candytuft Aethionema saxatile creticum 
Prickly Thrift Acantholimon androsaceum
  Anchusa cespitosa
  Anthemis samariensis
Cretan Arum Arum Creticum
  Bupleurum kakiskalae
Bellflower Campanula aizoides
  Campanula critical
  Campanula cretica
  Campanula jacquinii
  Campanula laciniata
  Campanula spatulata
Red valerian Centranthus sieberi
   Centaurea idaea
Clematis Clematis elisabethae-carolae
Crocus Crocus sieberi
  Crepis sibthorpiana
Cretan Cyclamen Cyclamen Creticum
  Euphorbia rechingeri
Cretan Sainfoin Ebenus cretica
  Galium incurvum
  Lomelosia sphaciotica
  Myosotis solange
  Nepeta sphaciotica
Dittany Origanum dictamnus
  Onobrychis sphaciotica
White Peony Paeonia clusii
Peony Paeonia parnassica
Cretan Wall Lettuce Petromarula pinnata
  Pimpinella tragium subsp. depressa
  Satureja alpina
  Scilla nana (Chionodoxa cretica)
Cretan Viper's Grass Scorzonera Cretica
  Sedum tristriatum
Cretan mountain tea Sideritis syriaca
  Staehelina petiolata
  Silene variegata
  Verbascum arcturus
  Viola fragrans

For more information & photographs go to:




With any forest's climatic condition you will always find a large number of fleshy fungi. The forests of Crete hold plenty of humidity during the autumn and winter months. There are approximately 70,000 known species of fungi and are of major importance to any forest. Some species live on dead trunks, others on branches and leaves performing the function of decomposing and recycling plant matter. Others are parasites found on tree trunks.

Please do not pick to eat any mushrooms unless you are 
or with an expert and remember -

"all species of mushrooms are edible, but most of them only once"!


Common Name  

Scientific Name  

Honey fungus   Armillaria  
Parasol mushroom   Macrolepiota procera  
Grey caps   Tricholoma terreum  
Goblet   Clitocybe cyathiformis  
  Helvella lacunosa  
  Oudemansiella melanotricha  
Rosy Woodwax Hygrophorus pudorinus  
  Hygrophorus chrysodon  
Brown toadstool   Galeria  
Bird’s nest fungi   Ramaria  
Wood Blewit   Lepista nuda  
Boletes   Boletus
Morels   Morchella conica  
  Morchella elata  




More nature pages
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