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Autumn Bulbs Of The Peloponnese


By AndrewR


We usually think of bulbs as flowering in the spring but some have evolved to bloom in autumn as soon as the rains arrive after a hot, dry summer. This is especially true in southwest Greece, an area I visited last month. Some of these will flower in the autumn for us, some in very early spring (as conditions in the UK delay their display) while some are almost impossible for us as they do not get a sufficient baking in our summers.

Although a little early for them, we did find a few anemone coronaria in flower by the coast, both blue and white forms (but no reds)

Arisarum vulgare, or Friar’s Cowl, is a common plant of shady places, often mistaken for an arum

Or how about the even more sinister biarum tenuifolium?

There were several colchicums, all with pinky-mauve flowers.
This is colchicum parlatoris with plain flowers

Colchicum bivonae has tessellations on the petals

And the tiny colchicum pusilum

There are several autumn-flowering crocuses in this area.
Crocus cancellatus is a very variable species – in the Greek form, the style is much longer than the anthers

Crocus hadriaticus has white petals with yellow throats and three-lobed orange stigma

Crocus boryi has multiple filaments and yellow staining on the outside of the base of the petals too

My favourite is crocus goulinyi; the inner petals are often a slightly lighter mauve than the outer ones

Crocus laevigatus has white petals with purple feathering on the outside

There were two cyclamen in bloom
In cyclamen hederifolium, the leaves emerge after flowering starts; this generally grows in shade

Cyclamen graecum grows in full sun and presents flowers and leaves at the same time. This one has particularly dark leaves.

There is an autumn-flowering snowdrop, galanthus reginae-olgae which requires a very hot summer to flower early in Britain.

This usually has green markings but we also found an albino form which would have a galanthophile paying huge sums to buy

There are also two autumn-flowering narcissi from this area, the sweetly scented narcissus tazzetta

and narcissus serotinus

Sternbergias generally need to be grown under glass in Britain as they do not like our wet winters. Sternbergia lutea is the one most often grown at home

Sternbergia sicula is very similar but has narrower leaves and more pointed petals

Sternbergia colchiciflora is much smaller and grows in the mountains

The most spectacular flower was the sea squill, urginea maritima, reaching five feet. It grows by the coast but is not hardy in the UK; it reminds me of the foxtail lily, eremurus

Late October is a good time to visit Greece; the weather is warm without being unpleasantly hot, most visitors have left so the place is quiet, and the display of autumn bulbs after rain is stunning.

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Great trip Andrew and nice pictures. The Peloponnes is (another) one of those places that I would love to visit but probably never will. I parlicularly liked the leaf form of C. graecum. Thanks for the blog.

14 Nov, 2010


Hi Andrew
That was a very interesting blog. My husband Barry and I visit Greece and Turkey often. We have been to Crete a couple of times in October and hope to go island hopping in the spring. I will take a closer look at what is in flower after reading your blog.

14 Nov, 2010


What beautiful flowers, and brilliant pics too. It's amazing how they vary so much. Cleverly they colour themselves to attract bees ect. but not satisfied with such beautiful colour their shapes are so nice too. I'm thinking of the Anemone, it doesn't need to have such a beautifully shaped petal......does it ?

14 Nov, 2010


lovely blog, beautiful flowers, i can hardly believe these amazing flowers grow wild. sounds a great idea to visit after the visitors have gone ~ how did you know where to look for these little gems?

14 Nov, 2010


lovely blog and the greek ilands are so lovely .... some of the best places there are ..but i wud say that being half greek lol

14 Nov, 2010


Makes my mouth water,my sort of plants

14 Nov, 2010


Bulbaholic - the leaves of cyclamen graecum are infintiely variable, every plant seems to have different ones. If it were easy to grow here, it would be a best seller but it needs a good summer baking in dry conditions but without drying out completely. I took so many photos of leaves, I could write a blog on just them!

Linda - if you are looking at flowers, I can recommend the book 'Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean' by Marjorie Blamey and Christopher Grey-Wilson. Not exactly pocket-sized but easily carried in a small backpack and very thorough.

Stickitoffee - I went on a specialist holiday. We were a small group (just six of us) plus the tour leader, a trained botanist, who also did the driving. He had organised the trip and ran it last year so he knew where the flowers were most likely to be (although one site was ploughed up for building a warehouse this year). The trip was run by a company called Naturetrek who specialise in bird, butterfly,flower and wildlife holidays. They are not cheap but well worth every penny.

What you get to see at this time of year is very dependant on the weather as it needs the rain to bring these bulbs into growth but they are not in flower for long. Last year, the trip ran a few days later and many of the flowers were going over; this year, a trip to Crete the previous week had not seen much as the rain was late arriving.

14 Nov, 2010


thats very useful, thank you andrew; we went on a holiday to the italian dolomites and went on a wild flower walk but sadly most of the flowers had finished!! i dont think they were specialists.

14 Nov, 2010


Wonderful - I enjoyed seeing your 'finds' Andrew. Thanks for sharing your holiday with us. :-))

14 Nov, 2010


Very interesting with some excellent photographs, I would say your holiday was worth every penny Andrew.

14 Nov, 2010

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