Wildflowers of Cyprus: part three
The final installment of my floral tour of Cyprus. As you would expect of any mountainous island, the flora and timing of flowering varies enormously whether you are by the coast or in the mountains so, on our travels, some days we were in snow-covered landscapes. But mostly, the landscape was a wonderful carpet of spring flowers. The deep green ‘bush’ in this image is Lithodora hispidula.
We are more familiar with the dazzling blue Lithodora diffusa and L. hispidula has small flowers in pink and white. It is interesting because the flowers vary in colour as the flowers age, common among the Boraginaceae, but it is not as attractive as the commonly available species.
Other shrubs were more showy, like this Cistus creticus. Cistus are common Mediterranean shrubs and although the flowers don’t last long, with the petals dropping at noon, a fresh batch open every morning in spring and early summer. All cistus are worth garden space because the flowers are so attractive. their crumpled petals remind me of poppies and because the petals drop so quickly the plants never look scruffy. The leaves are usually attractive and often resinously fragrant.
Cistus salvifolius is a species I have grown before and has masses of smaller, white flowers. It is hardy in well-drained soil and it was good to see it in the wild.
I was surprised at how frequently I saw Ranunculus asiaticus, the progenitor of the common ‘florist’s’ ranunculus. It grew in open grass, in dry scrubland and beside streams. But I only ever saw pale yellow and white forms or a few tinged with pink. Here they are growing with pink cistus.
Back to civilisation and the Tomb of the Kings in Paphos for a break. A fascinating place with subterranean tombs viewed from above..
and below ground
Some plants are familiar, like this Limonium sinuatum growing by the sea.
Blue-flowered forms of the common scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)
And Tragopogon porrifolius (salsify). In this location there were masses of small plants, just 20cm high, rather than the usual, isolated, tall plants.
One plant I really admired was Lamium moschatum which is an annual, white deadnettle. What made it so attractive was that the upper leaves were splashed with pale pink and white areas, rather reminiscent of annual clary. I assume it is a winter-growing annual and that it dies in the heat of summer. It was found in partially shaded, moist areas and I thought it was a lovely plant. But them, I am odd.
I was also taken with Fagonia cretica. Fagonias are not very familiar to Northern European gardeners and I can’t think of any plants in the family (Zygophyllaceae) that we have in our gardens. But they are common throughout the Northern Hemisphere and Fagonias are common in the Med and I have seen them in the Canaries too. With their pretty flowers and tolerance of drought I am sure there must be potential for cultivation and domestication.
Equally exciting, in the Troodos hills, were patches of Moraea sisyrinchium. The moraeas are very confusing and I tend to think of them as the South African equivalent of iris. But then we have a moraea that grows in the Med and overlaps with iris and my brain can’t cope! Anyway, it is a lovely thing with gorgeous, if short-lived flowers.
And back to Paphos, common in pockets of soil in rocks was Ornithogalum pedicellare. This is found only in Cyprus and was very cute and attractive – especially to flies. It is like many ornithogalums, with slightly grey white flowers, greenish in bud. I am not surprised it is not in cultivation but, in these pockets of soil, it made mini gardens and was delightful.
And below the rocks, in the grass, grew Ferula communis with architectural stems of mustard yellow flowers. And this is in the centre of Paphos, a stone’s throw from the Basilica of Chrysopolitissa and the King’s Mall, a shopping centre that sells Cinnabons! Now what more do you want on a holiday!
An old column at the Basilica of Chrysopolitissa just round the corner
And back to gardening tomorrow
Lots of beautiful plants and the ferula is especially striking!
It was. I would have got closer to them but as I was walking across the grass a load told me that the area was full of snakes. I didn’t wait to find out if they were venomous or not and slowly backed away.
a local – not a load – sorry
Yes, I’d be inclined to avoid the snakes also.