Sunday, 11 September 2011

Botanicotourist enters the Phycocosmos

I'm about to leave Rhodes, a Greek Island in the very west of the Mediterranean Sea, after a couple of days at 'Exploring the Phycocosmos: a European Perspective'. This rather grand sounding event was the fifth European Phycological (you know, the study of seaweeds, phytoplankton and other algae) Congress.

I learnt all sorts of interesting things about algae - including some more about my favourite group, the freshwater red algae - but I'll spare you those details. Instead some naive botanical observations from my first visit to a Greek Island, albeit within site of Turkey.

This one was a surprise, to me (remember I haven't visited the Mediterranean much). It's called the Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum). Thanks to Lynda for this next lovely close-up

In the early autumn bleakness of the general vegetation this is quite a shock on the beach front, just above high tide level. As you can see, the leaves dry off before flowering (there are few 'pig face' plants crawling around their bases in the top picture).

Like the image at the top right of my blog, this flower is pollinated by a hawk-moth, but in this case not one with a 30 cm proboscis! I expect this means the flowers would produce a lovely perfume in the evening - might stroll by later...

Another plant fact about Rhodes Island is that there are 'more than 400 bee plants' on the island. This comes from the Melissokomiki Dodecanese bee keeping company brochure, so it must be right. I take it that 400 species are polinated by bees (and at least one by a hawk-moth).

In our conference satchel we all got a bunch of flowers, dried flowers. They are the flowering stems of Sideritis raeseri, Shepherd's or Mountain Tea. It's said to be good for the 'urinary system, trichoid vessels and heart'.

It's a plant also known to the Ancient Greek botanists Dioscorides and Theophrastus. In their time (according to Wikipedia) 'Sideritis' was used generally for plants that healed 'wounds caused by iron weapons during battles' and hence the name meaning 'he who has the iron' (Mr/Ms Wiki also gives an alternative derivation, from the shape of the outer floral part, the sepal, which is a little like the tip of a spear. Still, a plant with a bit of a history.

In my next botanicotourist picture is a row/avenue of Stone Pine (Pinus pinea), I think. The bark and canopy shape look about right and I'd expect it to grow well around here. Or are they, as Lynda has suggested, Pinus brutia (the Turkish Pine, made famous as the 'Lone Pine' from Gallipoli).  A lovely street tree in any case, and if Stone Pine, as species I've already admired at Kew Gardens.

And as an (?ex)Australian I notice the eucalypts of course. I didn't check this next one's identity but presume it's the River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), with some lovely cacti in the foreground...

This one I think is Tamarisk (Tamarix), sometimes called Salt Cedar. It's a troublesome weed in various countries, including Australia, but grown in China to combat salinity and soil erosion, I think (lot's of 'I think' in this post as I type hurriedly from my hotel room).

In the old town of Rhodes one of the most striking trees is Cupressus sempervirens, the Mediterranean Cypress. Also called Pencil Pine and Graveyard Cypress (in Australia it is commonly grown as the latter), this forms wonderful vertical lines against the grey stone of the castle and wall.

And this is a Plane Tree, as you and it can plainly see. With the far from plain Lynda next to it!


Bom said...

Is "botanioctourist" a term you've coined? Although I'm no botanist, I've done similar in the past. Taking pictures of plants in various vacation destinations.

Tim Entwisle said...

Yes my own term, to cover the fact that I'm on holidays and identifying plants in a touristy rather than scientific way. It covers any mistakes I make! It is fun, though, working out what the common plants are in any new place.