Asphodel (Asphodelus aestivus) in front of a sunny meadow with White mustard (Cruciferae).

A colorful meadow on the south-west coast of Antiparos, dominated by Chrysanthemum coronariums.
The species has 2 varieties, yellow and white. The island of Despotiko in the background.

What is more beautiful than a meadow filled with swaying red poppies (Papaver rhoeas)?

Woodcock orchid is one of 19 orchid species in Europe belonging to the genus Ophrys.

Gladiolus italicus grows on cultivated soil. Common name is sword lily or gladiolus.

Several species in the genus Centaurea are good nectar producers. Butterflies often visit C. raphanina.

Τhe catchfly Silene colorata fits well on the sandy beaches of Cyclades.

Walking in flower meadows
in Paros & Antiparos

Text | Photos: Bjarne Emil Time

The Cyclades are a Greek archipelago in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Some of the islands are uninhabited. Others are wonderful holiday paradises. In ancient times, several of them were important religious and holy places.

The islands are peaks of a series of underwater mountains formed in the tertiary era, many millions of years ago, when large continental plates were squeezed together. Most of the year mild and humid air blows from the Mediterranean towards land but due to the high temperature, water vapor rarely becomes rainfall. It is not uncommon for the islands to experience several months of continuous drought. In those periods, only hardy trees and shrubs with a deep root system survive. In the spring, flowers in all colours of the rainbow fill the meadows and hillsides. In the summer the tourists enjoy the beaches and warm seawater. By then all the wildflowers are bloomed. According to Greek mythology, the island of Delos was the birthplace of Apollon, the god of light, art, music and healing. He never married, but was related to many women, perhaps also to Chloris, nymph who protected spring, flowers and new growth. Some years, she gave more power to growth than normal, especially after a cold and wet winter. It’s still happening.

Few countries in Europe have as rich a flora as Greece. Some distinctive (endemic) plants grow only on the islands. If you want to find these, take a stroll, and preferably on foot. Buy a walking guide and do not use sandals (for understandable reasons).
The most common coastal vegetation type on the islands is called “phrygana”. The landscape is dominated by aromatic and evergreen thorn bushes, usually not higher than 0,5 m. Between them grow different species of onion and annual plants.
On the island of Paros, you can walk on an ancient road from the Byzantine era, known as the Byzantine path. It runs between the towns of Lefkes, in the highlands, and Prodromos down below. In April/May this trip is like a hike in a botanical garden with a bustling insect life.
Both the terrain and the vegetation around, are characterized by farming for hundreds of years; but agriculture using terraces and stone walls has passed away. Small fields have long been left unused. Early displaced plants have thus had the opportunity to return and form new communities.

Antiparos, the neighbour island, offers lush beach meadows and farmland. Steep cliffs, scattered small bays and sandy beaches, dominate the west coast of the island. Only the hardiest plants survive. Short-lived, but rich coloured.

Early in the morning is the best time for walking. Even in the spring, sun heat can be annoying. In addition to the wildflowers, you can meet lizards and geckos that warm in the sunshine, and migrating birds on their way to their nesting areas further north.

Although most tourists who visit the Greek islands are peaceful, it is paradoxically the tourism industry that threatens nature most. Stable ecosystems get raged when new hotels and apartments are built. Increased bathing and boating put pressure on marine life, for example sea turtles get their bodies chopped in pieces by boat propellers.

Next time you visit Greece, walk carefully in their nature and remember the words of the Indian poet Arti Chopra:

There’s a poem in every flower, 
a sonnet in every tree, 
a tale in every lifetime
it’s just for you to see…

Bjarne Emil Time has been a biology lecturer for 35 years in high school in Norway. He spends a lot of time in nature photography and owns a summer place on Antiparos and visits this beautiful island as often as he can.