• Christopher Mounsey

May's plant highlights

Updated: May 8, 2020

Spring is in full flow and it's a great time for species all round. The emergence of more flowers means more butterflies too.

Here's a round up of plants to look out for in May.

Convolvulus elegantissimus Mill.

A slender, winding annual or short-lived perennial with silvery-sericeous leaves (the upper divided into linear segments) and uniformly rose-pink corolla. It has an eastern Mediterranean distribution and is widespread in Greece. Often found in open, rocky habitats on limestone hills between 860 and 1200 m.

Crocus veluchensis Herb.

Rather common on at altitudes between 1400 and 2100 m, flowering by patches of melting snow. The flowers are more or less uniformly pale lilac, lacking a distinct yellow throat. The corm is surrounded by thin, reticulate-fibrous tunics. This species is widespread in mountains of the Greek mainland, extending into Albania, fYR* of Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Dactylorhiza sambucina (L.) Soó

An orchid with shallowly lobed root tubers, usually unspotted leaves and rather long bracts. Red and yellow color forms are often found in mixed populations. It flowers earlier than similar species and is widespread in Europe, in Greece generally in damp mountain meadows between c. 1100 and 2000 m.

Oxytropis purpurea (Bald.) Markgr.

This rare species with characteristically rose-pink flowers occurs in limestone mountains of northern Greece, Albania and the fYR* of Macedonia. Plants from Mt Olympos were described in 1930 as Oxytropis olympica, but oddly it turned out that this name had been used two years earlier for a different species from Mt Olympus, Washington (NW USA).

Phelypaea coccinea (M. Bieb.) Poir.

The large, solitary flowers are perhaps the reddest in the region. This rare species is a parasite growing on the roots of Centaurea salonitana and perhaps other species as well. There are only two known European localities, one in Greek Prespa and another in the Vardar river valley, fYR* of Macedonia. It is widespread in SW Asia, but rare and very scattered.

Pseudofumaria alba (Mill.) Lidén

A rare species occurring in a few localities in the western Balkan Peninsula from a gorge of the Venetikos river near Grevena, northwards to W Serbia. In Prespa it is found in shady crevices of limestone cliffs just above the lakes of Great and Lesser Prespa. Greek plants belong to subsp. leiosperma (Conrad) Lidén which has smooth, shiny seeds.

Ranunculus millefoliatus Vahl

This is a small buttercup, generally 15-20 cm tall, with a cluster of root tubers, finely dissected leaves and simple or sparingly branched stems; the flowers have appressed sepals. It is widespread on the Greek mainland and elsewhere in mountains of the Mediterranean region. It is one of c. 20 species of yellow-flowered Ranunculus in the Prespa area.

Thanks to Prof. Arne Strid for the text and all photos

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