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The Holm oaks of Kinidaros

The Holm oak (Quercus ilex) is the tree species that characterises the Mediterranean climate zone; and it was originally widespread in the whole Mediterranean region. Today, the Holm oak, which is sensitive to fire and grazing, has disappeared or become rare in most regions. In all likelihood, extensive Holm oak forests also used to grow at higher altitudes on Naxos. However, very little of this remains today. Individual trees can be found here and there on Mount Kóronos, near Sífones and around Skepóni, but the only place where a larger number of trees grows is the steep western side of Mount Zeus. And then there is the small, remarkable grove at Kinídaros.

The acorns of the Holm oak have small fruit cups with close-fitting scales. The leaves of mature trees are narrow and elongated with straight edges. They are densely hairy from below to reduce evaporation. In contrast, the young trees have broader, toothed leaves. In the grove in Kinídaros, the holm oak is rejuvenating and there are quite a few young specimens. This is possible here as the area is protected from grazing by a fence. In contrast to the widespread and hardy Kermes oak, the Holm oak is not able to develop a small-leaved dwarf form that is resistant to browsing. There are no young trees at all in the Holm oak forest in the escarpment of Mount Zeus: any regeneration is completely prevented by the goats. Thus its sensitivity to grazing and fire is the reason why the Holm oak has become so rare on Naxos today. The grove at Kinídaros is proof that holm oak forests, as they originally grew in the higher altitudes of Naxos, could regrow in places if grazing by goats would be prevented effectively.

View of the small village of Kinídaros; the Holm oak grove can be seen on the hill to the right.

an especially impressive individual

This tree must be several hundred years old.

The Holm oak has narrow, entire leaves.

The acorns have small cups with close-fitting scales.

These acorns have already burst open on the tree and are beginning to germinate.

The neighbouring tree is also very beautiful.

A little further on, on the way to the chapel of Ágios Nikólaos, quite a few Holm oaks grow in a small grove.

Here, too, the oaks stand on beautiful rocks.

The most remarkable thing about this grove is that the Holm oak is rejuvenating here: The grove is protected from grazing by a fence, and there are quite a few seedlings and small oaks have grow below the large trees. In contrast to this in the heavily grazed holm oak grove in the escarpment of Mount Zeus there is no young growth at all.

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