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Book Review

Wildflowers of Mainland Greece: Recommended Botanical Excursions in Mainland Greece Including the Peloponnese
by Johannes Flohe
Self-published, 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-049688-2. €29.80.

Reviewed by Fleur Pavlidis
Photographs by Johannes Flohe

Photographs to illustrate the feview published in The Mediterranean Garden No 86, October 2016.

Johannes Flohe, a now retired German school teacher, has maintained his passions for botany and plant photography over an entire lifetime. Greece was the destination of many of his plant-hunting trips and this book is the culmination of 14 visits to mainland Greece. With 777 illustrations it gives a fabulous display of the range of flowers to be found by the persistent plant hunter. Mr Flohe takes his reader (addressed throughout as Dear Reader) in the grip of his enthusiasm and leads her to the locations of the flowers he has searched out to satisfy his own eagerness for new plants and the perfect photograph.

Crocus goulimyi, photographed north of Areopoli,
Mani October 2009; endemic to S Peloponnese

Campanula asperuloides, photographed in the Langada
Gorge, Mt Tayetos July 2001, an endemic of the Peloponnese

Adonis cyllenea, photographed  on Mt Saitas
May 1999; endemic to N Peloponnese, (named for Mt Kyllini)

How I wish he had been born 40 years earlier (that is, in 1895!) so that I could have had the benefit of this book during my early years in Greece. Travelling the length and breadth of the mainland as we did then we naturally tripped over scores of wonderful wild flower sites, but it took me years to recognise what I was looking at; indeed, reading here what I could have seen I’ve felt a case of “been there, failed to see that” regret.

The major part of the book is divided into four sections covering the mountains of northern Greece, the mountains of central Greece, the Peloponnese, and north-west Greece. Mr Flohe describes his routes and the plants he has set out to find and if and where he finds them. We also learn about the terrain, the weather and good country hotels on the way. Naturally as a visitor rather than a resident the author could not investigate every nook and cranny of such a diverse country, but in his short chapters he gives the feel of the grandeur of the landscape along with the detail of the flowers which is the delight of plant-hunting in any country but particularly in Greece.

Fritillaria obliqua,  photographed in Dionisos,
Mt Pendeli, April 2000

Paeonia parnassica, photographed on Mt Parnassus
May 2009; endemic to Central Greece

Campanula incurva, photographed in Pelion, Western Greece, June 1994

Fortunately (from my point of view) in northern Greece he picks out our adopted village of Papingo as the most beautiful village of the Pindus Mountains and the best place to stay for forays into the towering peaks of Astrakas.

The first walks he describes on Mount Olympus are on the lower slopes and he identifies the many plants that can be found close to the coffee kiosk at Prionia which can be reached by car. At this point I stopped reading and started planning our trip… Mount Olympus is a big gap in our travelling; we failed to climb it in our youth and now regard it as too challenging, but the lower slopes sound good enough. Mind you, given Mr Flohe’s age when he was tramping up mountains I’m sure he would consider me a wimp for not aiming to get at least to the first refuge.

Apart from the main sections there are interesting notes on water and bog plants, particularly in the northern lake of Kerkini; flowers to be found on the beach; and the disappearance of wild flowers. As a German, Mr Flohe has witnessed the careless destruction of wild flower stands in his native country by the use of modern agricultural methods and along with all of us he is grateful that Greece has not seen such efficient and determined ‘modernisation’.

In an earlier life I think I would have been quite put out by the lack of categorisation in the ordering of the many photographs illustrating this book. To quote the author “... the pictures are not arranged according to family, genus and species….. the images are arranged so that their colours and locations are in harmony with each other…” Wow! It works for me though because in the age of computer searches the ordering of data has lost its purpose, just use the search and find whatever you want. So here I use the index.

Iris sintenisii, photographed  in Ganadio, Mt Smolikas, NW Greece, June 2007

Lilium rhodopaeum, photographed  in Livaditis, Xanthi,
endemic to the Rhodopi Mountains of Bulgaria and
NE Greece, June 1998

Stachys pangaea, photographed on Mt Pangeon,
Makedonia, N Greece, where it is endemic, on July 2011

Digitalis lanata or Grecian Foxglove, photographed on
Mt Falakron, Makedonia, N Greece June 2007

Not all the nearly eight hundred flowers pictured are mentioned in the text of course, but under each one is the general location and date of the photograph. One detail I do like is that all the orchids are gathered together after a short chapter describing them, as are the water and bog plants.

So this is an excellent book for novice and old hand alike, rather too heavy for the rucksack but ideal for the car glove compartment when next you set out on a Greek plant hunt.

Also written and published by Johannes Flohe: Crete – a unique paradise of flowers.
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