For visitors from Central Europe, the island of Naxos seems in many places at first glance rather barren and dreary.
low dwarf shrub vegetation at Ágios Dimítris
The impression is deceptive, however, and will be revised quickly with a visit, for example, to river valleys like that of Potamiá, Kinídaros or Myrísis, or with a hiking tour through the Tragaía in the center of the island or the green valleys around the mountain villages Apíranthos, Kóronos or Komiakí. Here, grows a rich vegetation in the extensively used cultivated areas as well as in wild thickets and bushland.
valley with lush vegetation near Skepóni
abandoned gardens at Kóronos
Apart from the cultivated areas, most of the island of Naxos – mountain slopes and abandoned terraces and fields – is overgrown with low dwarf shrub vegetation (garrigue or phrygana). Especially in the eastern and southern part of the island large areas are covered by an open bushland of small trees and tall shrubs. In addition more or less natural low forest is found, both in the southern part of the island in sheltered valleys and in some places in the mountain valleys. Along several rivers of Northwest Naxos grow dense riparian forests, and many small springs on the mountain slopes are shaded with wild Plane trees.
phrygana at Kinídaros
small forest of Kermes Oak at the Stavró Keramotís
riparian forest at Skepóni
The island of Naxos shows a very significant biodiversity. In particular, in abandoned fields and terraces large numbers of plant species occur. The phrygana is usually rich in species as well: In between the dwarf shrubs grow many short-lived, annual herbs, flowers and grasses, or perennial plants that sprout in winter and survive the dry summer only in their underground parts.
phrygana with many annual species
Spectrum of distribution
So far, about a thousand plant species have been found on the island of Naxos. Most of them are species with a pan-Mediterranean distribution (40%), 16% of the species are restricted to the eastern Mediterranean. The distribution of many species also extends to the north, east or south, for instance to Central Europe, West Asia or Africa (17%). Fewer species occur only in the Aegean, the Cyclades, or even only on Naxos (7%, 4 species are endemic to Naxos). One fifth of the species are cosmopolitan (20%), many of them imported species and weeds connected to agriculture.
Greece has not only a comparatively very rich flora, but also a high proportion of endemic species (species that occur only in a very limited area). In Crete, for example, about 10% of the plants are endemic, an exceptionally high number. It is interesting that most endemic species are plants of open vegetation whereas very few are typical forest species. This indicates that in the recent geological past as well as today forest on the island was rather rare while open plant formations were very common.