The flowers of the Greek islands
Rich in history, culture, good food and lots of beaches, the Greek islands are besieged every year by millions of tourists looking for sun, sea, good food and a holiday worthy of the name.
For us, which in addition to the long days of sea and sun, we also love exploring the territory in search of novelty, new greek flowers, discovering a true open-air botanical garden was an immense joy.
Dozens of flowers and species of which we had only spoken, told or perhaps seen photos on books, finally appeared before our eyes with their incredible colors.
But what are the flowers that can be admired starting from the capital Athens, where you can admire incredible boungavillea walls and then, leave for the other islands, walking and exploring better the hinterland of some Greek islands?
Here are some …
The common caper (capparis spinosa) is a typical plant of the Mediterranean areas and for this it will be easy to find it also in Southern Italy as well as in the South of Spain and some areas of North Africa.
About 350 species belong to its genus.
Campsis radicans belonging to the bignoniaceae family is a characteristic spring flower with a typical trumpet shape.
Unlike the other “sighted” during our walks, this was located in the center a few steps from the sea, rather than in less inhabited hill areas.
Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis: this hibiscus, of Chinese origin, is well suited to growing both in the garden and at home. Traveling among the Greek islands you will discover different varieties of colors and species of the hibiscus that, we know, finds in this type of climate its ideal residence.
Russellia equisetiformis or the firecracker plant: when we talked about it in this article, we did not imagine it would happen in front of us after a few months. Instead here it is.
If you meet the crocodile thistle-bullet, pay attention to its thorns!
We came across this plant in a completely abandoned area, so it’s easy to think that it can grow without human help.
Ipomea purpurea: not always visible even when you walk because it hides among the trees and its violet flowers can escape the sight of the passing bye.
Plumeria Rubra: in Rhodes, for example, this flower is present in large quantities. You will never go under a tree, look out on a balcony or see something that does not have this flower from afar. The plumeria is really everywhere and fills the trees with its color.
Lantana camara: colorful little flower, present mainly in Greek gardens. Easy to grow, it fills up every little space available throughout the summer.
The plumbago is another flower typical of southern areas of Europe. Thanks to its color is a very decorative plant and, if well pruned, able to become lush and productive over time.
Catharanthus Roseus: Madagascar periwinkle. In some areas this flower grows wild and even in the mid-1900s it was used as a remedy for diabetes!
Bungavillea spectabilis: it is a perennial creeper of Brazilian origin that, over time, has been modified by the man who has created many hybrids of as many colors and varieties. In the already colorful Greek islands (but we have seen many in Athens too), they are encountered in large quantities and with incredible colors …
Update July 13, 2019
About a year after the publication of this article, we returned to Greece and, to our surprise, even with a “baggage” of 7 new flowers to be included in this article!
We did not think that these islands rich in sea, beautiful people and good food, had so much to offer even from the botanical point of view ..
A sign that Greece is not only good for men, but also for flowers and plants …
and there will be a reason …
Albizia Julibrissin or Acacia of Constantinople: although it has as origins countries like Iran, Azerbaijan, China and Korea, this plant adapts very well to regions with torrid climate.
It was introduced in Europe in 1749 by Filippo degli Albizzi.
Brugmansia suaveolens or angel trumpet: fortune wanted a tree of this wonderful flower to be right in the small garden in front of the Kos hotel where I stayed a few days.
Originally from Brazil, it was thought extinct.
Instead … here it is! In all its beauty.
Caesalpina Giliesii or poinciana: originally from Uruguay and Argentina, this plant also tolerates drought very well.
In Greece it was on the roadside, in a flowerbed among the trees.
I don’t know if it had spontaneously grown but seemed quite at ease.
Grevillea rosmarinifolia: native to Australia, this plant can give very long blooms and, obviously, it adapts well to warmer climates. It was one of the last flowers (from Kos) I came across during the trip.
Nerium oleander, Oleander: I know, there was no need to come to Greece to discover the oleander, but while we were there …
Mediterranean flower like few others, with its colors and that perfume unique in the world.
Peruvian thevetia or yellow oleander from Peru: another plant of South American origin that adapts very well to Greek climates. Cultivated as an ornamental for its colorful flowers and its thick vegetation, we often met it along the sidewalks outside the built-up areas.
Yucca gloriosa: succulent plant, in Greece you will almost certainly find it near the beaches.
Be careful because its long green leaves are very sharp! You risk biting yourself 😉
Yellow Horned Poppy or yellow poppy of sand (Glacium flavum Crantz): Thanks to a signal by Claudio, who photographed this flower in Mykonos, adding colors to our list …Typical of the Mediterranean area, it is easy to find it not only along the coastal areas but also on the edge of the coastal dunes …
Update July 16th, 2021
After a long break, we returned to Greece and, to our surprise, found more new flowers to add to the list. This botanical garden surrounded by the blue sea and illuminated by the sun for 300 days a year, has still given us many surprises!
Arum Italicum or light cigaro: it was hidden among the trees on top of the hill in Kastelorizo where, presumably, about thirty years ago the soldiers of “Mediterraneo”, the legendary film by Gabriele Salvatores, had created the base to guard this divine island.
Euphorbia milii, also called the “crown of Christ” due to the red spots on the petals that would lead to the drops of blood shed by Jesus during the crucifixion, is a flower that would hardly survive with temperatures below 10 ° C. Here he paints a flowerbed along the streets of Lardos, in the southern part of Rhodes.
Jacobaea Leucophylla: it was one of the very first flowers / plants we came across this year: From the seemingly anonymous gray hedge that surrounded the hotel entrance, these delicate yellow flowers sprouted. Beauty!
Kalankhoe Tetraphylla: Another flowerbed full of succulents, other colors and more beautiful plants that could not survive in different climates.
Onopordum Illyricum: This plant is definitely our favorite for 2021.
It is not the most beautiful but the one that appears everywhere, both in bloom and completely dry. It is located on the rocks, where only the goats climb or among the dusty paths and desolate and abandoned areas. You will find it where you can breathe authentic Greece, where goats pass, where donkeys bray or where men observe the sea.
Tradescantia pallida: in a vase among the houses of Kastellorizo this splendid little plant appeared, with all its intense purple! Certainly could not lack so much color in a corner of Greece already so colorful
Tulbaghia violacea: a small and delicate flower in a corner of our hotel in Lindos, Rhodes
Callistemon: we had already met this flower between the Spanish islands in a warm spring a few years ago, but it is with great pleasure that we admire it hidden in the shade of the trees, together with a very typical flower of Greece: the lantana.
Update June 17, 2022
Forgive the image quality, but this maculata Aloe was inside a private garden of a Greek hotel and I certainly didn’t want to step on the well-tended grass to take a better close-up photo. This should be enough to recognize the plant and the excellent result of its mid-June flowering.
Photographed near the small square of Lachania, a very white village in the hills south of Rhodes, the capobrotus edulis is a very special flower with really interesting properties.
The Hottentot fig also has interesting medicinal properties.
The verbascum sinuatum also appeared to us as we walked among the barren and arid lands of the Greek islands. It is typical of the coastal areas of southern Europe.
As for the Thymbra capitata, the same goes for the flower above. It is a plant with very colorful purple flowers, some of which are already dry in mid-June. We have found many spontaneous plants at the edges of roads and in uncultivated fields, especially on rocky soils.
Update 6 September 2022
Returning from a very short trip to the Cyclades, we add other flowers that we have seen among the Greek islands ..
We spotted this flower on the side of the streets of Mykonos going down to the new port. It is very similar to others that we had already seen on other islands … It is typically Mediterranean. There is no doubt!
Verbena bonariensis is a colorful plant among the vases of the Naxos chora, also called Buenos Aires verbena
Rose hibiscus Sinensis
Here we go to the classic but, from the unmistakable hibiscus, we move on to its variant: the rose hibiscus of an intense yellow. This flower was also in a large vase in the narrow streets of the Naxos chora. Protected by the shadow of the white houses of the Greek island, it has developed very green leaves and a beautiful flower