If you are holidaying or visiting the Greek island of Crete in the height of the summer and spend some time on its gorgeous beaches you may be lucky enough to spot a beautiful pure white flower growing in the hot sand. It is commonly known as the Sea Daffodil and has the Latin name of Pancratium maritimum.
Just one of the many wild flowers of Crete, this elegant white flower was the inspiration behind Minoan artists who depicted its beauty in the Palace of Knossos on Crete and illustrated it on frescos and pottery at ancient Thira.
It flowers in the months of July, August, September and October and is found all over the Greek Island of Crete on the beautiful sandy beaches.
We’ve seen it at the busy north coast resorts of Stalis and Malia just a stone’s throw away from the Minoan Palace of Malia and also further east at Istron, Kalo Horio. The busy beaches of Kalyves and Almerida in western Crete also have magnificent displays of the lovely flower.
It has a wonderful exotic and intoxicating fragrance and is known by several names including Krinos tis Thalassas, Sea Daffodil, Sea Lily, Pancratium Lily, Sand Lily and Lys de Mer.
The plant is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family and is a perennial bulbous plant. The Sea Daffodil has short compressed narrow bluish green leaves and bulbs which are buried deep into the sand on beaches. The bulbs are around four centimetres in diameter and the flowers grow to around 40 centimetres in height.
The funnel shaped flower is similar to the narcissus but is pure white throughout. Interestingly the fruits of the Sea Daffodil look like pieces of charcoal and are so light they float upon the sea dispersing along the shore.
It seems incredible that such an elegant and fragile looking flower can survive the hot and dry conditions of the sandy beaches frequented by sun bathers.
But thrive it does and looks and smells simply beautiful. The heady scent doubles in the depth of its fragrance as dusk falls attracting the hawk moth for pollination.
If you’re lucky you’ll see masses of these fragrant pure white beauties along many Crete beaches. Other times just one or two flowers seem to hide away under the shade of tamarisk trees. Don’t pick the Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum ) though as they are becoming rarer and rarer throughout some areas of the Mediterranean region due to intense tourism.
We can highly recommend the excellent and informative hand book named Wild Flowers of Crete expertly written and photographed by Vangelis Papiomitoglou.
The Sea Daffodil is just one of the many wild flowers of Crete featued in this fabulous little handbook. The text and images are a real boon to the explorer wanting to easily identify the many wild flowers of Crete. A crucial and affordable handbook for all nature lovers of the flora and fauna of Crete.
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