ORCHIDS OF RHODES ISLAND
Text – photos by Giorgos Pastrikos
Till recently in our country only a few people knew that species of orchids grow here as well. Most (non specialists) believed that this odd and magnificent flowers exist in tropical zone only. I verified that when in 1993 I acted out a photographic exhibition of the native orchid species here in Rhodes. The visitors were standing speechless with their beauty, while it was hard for them to believe that there is such an unknown natural wealth in the island. The visitors that happened to have their origins at agrarian families knew some of them, but had never thought that these plants were orchid species. They knew them with the local popular names of the specific plant.
The number of the existing species of the family in Europe – three hundred to three hundred fifty (300 – 350) species – is very small, if someone compares it to the number of the ones they live in the tropicals. This family consists of over thirty thousand (30.000) species and may be the denser of all plant families.
In Greece there are about one hundred thirty (130) species (depending to taxonomy), which is a very big number according to the size of the area. In Rhodes fifty two (52) species occur in nature. To make this more obvious, it is worthy to mention that in Great Britain, along with Ireland – countries with multiple extension – only forty two (42) species grow.
The family of orchid-like (ORCIDACEA) is a quite young family if compared with the evolution of other plants. It may be the youngest of all. While there are fossils of other plants from other families aged from sixty to one hundred million years (60 – 100.000.000), the oldest orchids’ fossils are hardly aged at fifteen million years (15.000.000) old.
From the very early, orchids attracted the people’s interest – specialists or not – a fact that is justified because apart from the beauty and the odd forms of their flowers, they show some kind of “behavior” that is not known for any other plant family.
Many species – mainly the ones that belong to the genus Ophrys – they pup the male insects (wasps, bees etc), by representing (on structure, on coloration, on texture and on fragrances) their females specimens, forcing them to attempt a sexual attack on them. The only thing that these male insects hack is to transport their pollen from flower to flower fertilizing them, since orchids cannot be self fertilized. It is impressive that every single species of orchid has – almost exclusively – its own specific species of insect-pollinator!
Some of them “pretend” that their spur is full of nectar, some other instantly “capture” insects with the help of their specialized organs, while others offer their flowers for nesting purposes.
Orchids are also known to be related to fungi, as well as to insects. The orchids are directly depended upon fungi due to their relatively “poor” roothold. Fungi live on their roots, giving the plants the essential nutrients, while orchids offer the necessary substratum for the growth of fungi at the same time.
From what was mentioned above, it is obvious that orchids are vulnerable (and thus almost all of them rear) to thoughtless human interferences. The insecticides that are used in modern agriculture decrease the numbers of pollinator insects. Land reclamations, forest fires and residential expansion misquote the commendation of the soil by destroying the required fungi. The fact that the first plant’ species that became extinct from a degraded area are orchid species is very characteristic!
Well humans from now on, must live aside the anthropocentric view of seeing things and must understand at last that every intervention to natural habitats should be driven by the campus of the protection of any life form on this planet. Besides this is the only necessary condition that will keep this very planet as a viable place!
The name of the family was given by the Swedish botanist-biologist – the establisher of modern botany – Carl Linnaeus. The very name is coming from the greek word orcheis (= testes), because of the similar appearance of the roots of the plants that belong to the genus Orchis, which was the first genus of the family that he described (see the diagram1).
terristic form, which gave the name to the genus.
On the island of Rhodes the family is represented by the following twelve (12) genera:
The flowers of the European orchids are tiny, with most of them hardly measuring about fifteen millimeters (15 mm), so special photographic equipment is required to shoot them. Macro lenses, ring flash, reflectors etc. All the photos were shot in situ (I would never cut a live plant!!!).
At the following photos eight (8) out of the fifty two (52) species of the plant that grow in Rhodes are presented:
Till recently it was thought to be an endemic species of Rhodes island. During the last years few plants of the species were found in Carpathos, Telos and Cyprus. Although in Rhodes it grows at quite many areas (mainly deserted olive groves and forest’s edges), it is always found in small numbers and particularly on the north side of the island.
It occurs at south Balkan peninsula, Asia Minor and Crimea. The plant prefers shaded forests and it is relatively rare in all the area of its distribution
On northwest it grows from the southern Albania and Corfu island to southeastern Greece in the mainland, central and eastern Aegean Sea and southwestern Asia Minor. It prefers sparse vegetation areas in forests and maquis.
It grows in all the Mediterranean area except Cyprus and Middle East. It is the most common orchid species of our country. It likes luminous sites within pine trees forests and maquis.
Orchis anatolica var. leucantha
As it is declared by the name of the species, it grows from western Iran to the islands of eastern Aegean Sea. It doesn’t grow on the mainland of Greece. The plant prefers sparse forests and one should find it on relatively high altitudes. In Rhodes it is found from three hundred meters (300 m) above the sea level (rarely lower) to twelve hundred meters (1.200 m). In the photo a very rare white variation is shown . The formal species has pale rose to dark fuchsia colored flowers.
It is an endemic Mediterranean species. It lives in the central Mediterranean area. Not found in the Iberian peninsula and Middle East. The species prefers sparse forests, areas with dry woods and meadows. Relatively rare species.
It is the only orchid species that grows in Greece and blooms in autumn. It is widely distributed all over Europe (except the very northern areas) and north Africa. Although it is widely distributed, it is rare and it is difficult to find colonies with more than five to ten (5 – 10) individual plants together. The flowers of the species are amongst the tinniest of the whole family and they measure five to seven millimeters (5 mm – 7 mm).
A robust species and one of the bigger orchids of Europe. It grows all over the Mediterranean region except the Middle East and the north Adriatic Sea. In some areas it is abundant. It is found mostly in sparse forests, meadows and dry lands.
I hope that as soon as possible my completed work on orchids will be published in an album entitled “Orchids of Rhodes Island”.
I think that a few words for the author and photographer of this article are essential to get to know one nature and microphotography lover:
Giorgos Pastrikos was born in Rhodes island on October 30, 1961, where he lives for good and all.
He has graduated from the Superior School of Tourist Occupations of Rhodes. After his army service he joined the family business that his father founded and has as an object the manufacturing and trading clothing. Nowadays he holds the position of the director of the business, which still has family character. The last four years he is also the owner of a music Bar within the Medieval town of Rhodes. Since 1987 he is married to Katerina Vasileiou, which is employed as a primary school teacher and he has two children.
Since 1986 started dabble at photography. He has also monitored many seminars related to techniques of photography and artistic seminars related to modern techniques as well, especially on photography matters. He has participated in collective photographic exhibitions in Rhodes, in Athens, in Salonica, in Venice and twice in Visby (Sweden), always with black and white photographs. He has exhibited one personal show with color photos entitled “Orchids of Rhodes island” in Rhodes on 1993.
His work has been published in a number of magazines like “Epsilon” (of the greek newspaper Elephtherotypia), “Nature”: the magazine of the Greek Society for the Protection of Nature, in albums about flora and on local and Athenian publications as well.
His activities about ecological matters started from his early stages and his initial “immature” period of seeking lasted till the latest 80’s. Then, blending the knowledge of photographic techniques and ecological restiveness, he decided to proceed on a pictorial recording of the flora of Rhodes island. Note that at that time only a few things were known to non-specialists about this issue.
Since then he has photographed hundreds of plant species. He has made a complete record of the family of ORCIDACEA of Rhodes island and he is close to the publication of a relative album. Among his primary aims is the publication of a second album about the special characteristics of Rhodes’ flora. He is also about to include in his work a pictorial guide of the flora of as many islands as possible from the Dodecanese complex.
He is the owner of a rich bibliography consisting of albums and scientific documents related to the flora and fauna of Greece, the Aegean islands and Creta.
Photos and text belong to the Author - no reproduction is allowed without his permission.