A Walk in Springtime: Flowers and Herbs

Mount Psilortis 'Snow Cockerel'

Having spent all week staring up at Mount Psiloritis, we were privileged to be lead up her lower slopes by a local guide: Ari. This picture clearly displays the 'snow cockerel', which materialises every spring as the snows on the mountain's peak melt. Traditionally, he doesn't crow until well into May. His early appearance is yet another alarm warning of climate change.

Our ascent began at about 8 am. We saw Wild Gladioli (Gladiolus imbricatus) on either side of the path as we climbed.

Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis cretica) has detachable sacs full of nectar. We were shown how sucking at the small opening releases a squirt of deliciously sweet liquid -  the food of the gods!

Wild Thyme (Thymus capitatus) made itself known to us half-way along our walk. Being particularly delectable to bees, this bloom flavours the Cretan honey.

Asphodels (Asphodelus aestivus) punctuated the mountain slopes. This ghostly, celestial flower is connected to death and the Underworld in Greek Mythology. Ari explained its proliferation: grazing animals won't go near it.

We saw Cyclamen clinging to the rocks, having rooted in minuscule crevices. A Cretan song celebrates this impressive ability: 'Cyclamen! Oh cyclamen! On the rock's crack. Where did you find the colour to bloom? Where did you find your body so that you walk?'

Outside a tiny, mountainside church – dedicated to St George – we saw Bee Orchids (Ophrys Apifera)

Like sentries on an ageless vigil - gigantic menhirs loomed from the steepening incline.

We reached our outing's apex at around 9.30 am. Ari led us through a frighteningly narrow fissure in the rock. After crawling for a few claustrophobic yards we were able to stand up inside a large cave. Stalactites oozed from the ceiling.

We emerged back into the Cretan sunshine as if reborn from the womb of the earth. Syllegontas Diktamo flourished at the mouth of the cave.

White lupins (Lupinus albus) are not supposed to appear in the Amari Valley. In his own backyard, Ari had made a near-miraculous discovery: both white and blue were in sociable abundance under one very special tree.