Mediterranean Garden Society

A Spring Walk in ‘Spili Bumps’, Spili, Rethymno

Text and photos by Valerie Whittington

The photograph at the top of this page shows Orchis Italica

For several years now we have visited Gious Kambos (Spili Bumps) to see the orchids and the endemic tulips (Tulipa doerfleri) which grow here in profusion.

Gious Kambos

This small but special plateau is usually full of flowers at this time of year. The name means the Plain of Eos, who was the goddess of the Dawn in Greek mythology. It is a lovely unspoiled pocket of western Crete with stunning scenery on the drive up.

Saturday was an enjoyable day when a group of local members visited the plateau. It is always a bit of a risk as the flowers rarely bloom at the same time each year. This year we have had a particularly wet winter and the island has suffered from a recent cyclone which has caused a great deal of damage to the infrastructure, including deep ruts in the track on parts of the plateau.

Sweeps of naked man orchids, Orchis Italica greeted us

More naked men

Although a few Anacamptis pyramidalis intermingled with Orchis Italica the latter dominated this visit. It was interesting that, although there were fewer different varieties of orchids this year, those that were there were in their hundreds. It was an amazing sight I have never seen so many growing together.

Orchis laxiflora

Anacamptis (syn.Orchis) boryi

A rare and threatened species, the Orchis boryi when seen herein the past have been mostly lone specimens. This year together with Orchis laxiflora they filled large areas, speckling the grass with purple. It is quite challenging to identify the difference between the two. Anacamptis boryi has an open lower petal with distinctive speckles, the lower petal of Orchis laxiflora appears to fold and hang down.

The delicate creamy yellow Orchis Pauciflora stood proudly on higher ground often amongst rocks.

Orchis pauciflora

It always amazes visitors that the small, delightful wild tulips(Tulipa doerfleri), declared as a protected species in 1981, grow nowhere else in the world. Here they were impressively widespread over a number of fields. Several were also growing happily by the roadside.

Tulipa doerfleri

Very few bee orchids were spotted on this visit. The photograph below was the only one I saw on our walk.

Bee orchid – Ophrys scolopax or woodcock orchid

The only negative was the weather. Although bright, the wind was bitterly cold and most of us wore coats and scarves and wished for gloves and balaclavas!

Orchis laxiflora

The walk was followed by a meal in a small, local, traditional taverna accompanied by a very warm welcome which compensated for the cold up on the Bumps.

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