A trip to Cyprus

Papaver cyprium

Wet and windy weather reminded me that I had lots of photos from several years ago that I needed to sort through. This had never been a priority so has been left for years because the prospect of identifying some of the plants was daunting. I have now had a good stab at giving some names to the plants so off we go to Cyprus for a few days before I return to more practical subjects again next week. The photos are all from two trips in March and early April. Our first trip was so enjoyable we went the following spring. I won’t go into detail about Cyprus. Suffice it to say that on both occasions we stayed in Paphos, at the west of the island, partly because that is where Ryanair land their planes and partly because the archaeological ruins are all around. We hired a car so we went into the Troodos mountains but we did not cross the green zone into the Turkish-occupied north. This is not Tripadvisor but I have to say that Cyprus is a wonderful place for a holiday with lots of native flowers in spring.

Before I launch into the plants I must add the caveat that I am not absolutely sure of the names I give. I apologise for this and if you know better then please let me know. The names of the orchids, in particular, are sure to be wrong. I was getting desperate in the end, trying to identify the images and I am sure they are wrong, beyond the genera, especially the ophrys. I apologise for the images too. I had a long-standing issue with my camera which would not focus on what I wanted, after I lent my camera to someone who obviously knew how to change settings better than me. I have finally got it sorted but not before these trips. It was not helped by the fact that there are so many wild flowers, especially orchids, that I was like a fox in a hen run, rushing around with huge excitement. Whenever I saw a flash or pink, usually signifying a clump of Orchis italica, I pulled over in the car and rushed up or down banks looking for my quarry.

Paphos is divided into the old town, inland and Kato Paphos, near the harbour, where the Roman and Greek ruins are found, many of the mosaics only uncovered in the 1970s onwards. I found it extraordinary to be able to walk on ground that was used two thousand years ago and to admire mosaics created at the same time. It really is like stepping back in time.

Odeon at Kato Paphos
Mosaic of Narcissus at Kato Paphos

All around the town, growing from crevices in rocks and among boulders on the beach, grew Cyclamen persicum, the progenitor of our potplant cyclamen. I did not observe much variation in flower colour but the flowers were scented.

Another common plant was the common caper (Capparis spinosa). This spiny shrub is found throughout the Med and both the flower buds and the berries are pickled and eaten. But the flowers are very beautiful too, with a large boss of white filaments and pink stamens. I also discovered that the young shoots are also pickled and eaten when we were given them in a Greek restaurant. I can’t say they were especially delicious and it helped that I knew a bit about the plant so I could avoid the (still hard) spines on the shoots.

Spines are a feature of many native plants, along with resinous leaves, to reduce browsing. This centaurea, commonly called yellow star thistle, was pretty but needed sniffing with extreme care.

Centaurea solstitialis

Also common by the coast, growing in open areas and the edge of scrub, Gladiolus italicus provided welcome splashes of deep pink.

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that the plant I coveted more than any other was this vetch-relative Onobrychis venosa. The individual leaflets reminded me of the leaves of lithops with their brown and green mottling. The plants were low and spreading and the flowers are almost invisible against the sandy-coloured rock. I suppose it is subtle but I would love to try to grow it and thought it was beautiful.

Onobrychis venosa

More tomorrow

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One Comment on “A trip to Cyprus”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    January 14, 2023 at 9:09 am #

    An interesting outing – and some sun and heat!

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