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Northumberland Diary Discussion: 26 October 2009

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Started by: Mel Linney

Sternbergias in Crete.

Go to latest contribution by Margaret Thorne, 08 February 2010, 16:11. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Mel Linney 29 October 2009, 09:10top / bottom of page

Hello John,

I always enjoy reading your diary but particularly your most recent entry. Elaine and I are going over to Crete in May to enjoy the flowers at that time but it may mean another visit in the autumn.Having researched the island ahead of our visit it would seem that we are in for a treat. Congratulations on being awarded the Lyttel Trophy, very well deserved.

Contribution from John Richards 01 November 2009, 11:50top / bottom of page
Spring in Crete

Thank you Mel, very kind. I don't know if you have been to Crete in the spring before, but for most (Botanical) purposes your proposed visit is very late. The best time for most bulbs and orchids is the last fortnight in March, and even early April is too late for many lowland areas. Of course, there are still wonderful things to see in May, especially in the gorges (eschew the tourist-ridden Samaria and try Kotsifou, Zagros, Ag Irini, Imbros or Aradhena), and high in the mountains, for instance above Andron in the Psorilitis, or above Omalo (this is the best time to see Anchusa caespitosa). However, you will certainly have to work for your plants then, although it is the best time for real alpines (sadly there are no roads into the alpine zone though, so it means a lot of hot walking!).

Contribution from Margaret Young 07 November 2009, 15:00top / bottom of page

Another enjoyable Diary entry, John. Good to get your first hand reports and photos about the Sternbergias..... the ones we have in cultivation are as puzzling as ever.... but then we can say the same for a lot of plants! Keeps us all occupied, though, doesn't it?

Contribution from Margaret Thorne 08 February 2010, 16:11top / bottom of page

How interesting to come across John?s article about Cretan Sternbergias, albeit belatedly, so apologies for the delay in contributing to the topic.

David and I went to Crete from 23rd October ? 13th November 2007, to research a possible future AGS Tour. The quest for Sternbegias, particularly S.sicula and S.greuteriana was of particular interest to us. We, too, had with us John Fielding and Nicholas Turland?s wonderful book ?Flowers of Crete? which states that Sternbergia greuteriana ?is relatively common in eastern Crete but rare in the west and centre of the island?. We also took with us ?Flora of the Cretan area? (Turland, Chilton, Press) which has distribution maps for all three species. We spent most time in the west where we saw and photographed many Sternbergias in more than a dozen locations, and took some measurements. They had both rounded and pointed tepals, but usually distinct stripes on the narrow leaves and we could find no plants which we were convinced were anything other than the very variable Sternbergia sicula.

Our searches included a trip to Omalos because the only photograph of S.greuteriana in ?Flowers of Greece? is of plants in cultivation grown from seeds collected here. We did not find any Sternbergias at all at Omalos. At the end of our stay, we travelled to the eastern end of Crete and visited the area west of Sitia airport on 12th November. The distribution map for S.greuteriana in ?Flora of the Cretan area? shows it occurs here (but neither S.lutea nor S.sicula) and, as there is not much land in the distribution square, we thought we stood a chance of finding the plant in the limited time we had left. We spotted Sternbergias before we got out of the car, growing in damp sticky clay (not in our experience the preferred habitat for S.sicula).These are some of the photographs we took. The last one shows the habitat, and proximity of the bulldozer (with the airport fence beyond) to the Sternbergias we were photographing (in the foreground). Back home, some months later, we looked on Google Earth and discovered that the airport had been extended. As we learnt on our visit in November 2009, this was in anticipation of the Charter flights which are due to start landing at Sitia Airport in 2010.

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