Cyclamen Society Field Study: Rhodes & Karpathos, Greece 1991

The first of a series of Field Studies thoughout the 1990’s. The overall intention was
to fill in as much detail as possible about the distribution, habitat preferences and
natural variation of C. rhodium and its subspecies.

This study concentrated on C. rhodium on Rhodes, but also took the
opportunity to observe and make detailed observation records for 
C. persicum and C. maritimum. 

The island of Karpathos was also visited and surveyed as
populations of C. creticum, a species which had until
recent observation on Karpathos had thought to
have been endemic to Crete.

A report of this field study was published in the
Cyclamen Society Journal Vol. 15 No. 2, December 1991.

Abridged field notes referenced by site number follow this table.
Giving brief locational information and habitat data which may aid cultivation.

If plant images are available they may be viewed by clicking on the purple CSE plant number.

CSE Plant No.Site No.SpeciesSubspeciesCSE Plant No.Site No.SpeciesSubspecies
9100191/01C. rhodiumrhodium9138891/19C. persicum
91002A91/02C. rhodiumrhodium9138991/19C. persicum
91002B91/02C. rhodiumrhodium9139091/19C. persicum
9100391/02C. rhodiumrhodium9139191/19C. persicum
9100491/03C. rhodiumrhodium9139291/19C. persicum
9108791/04C. rhodiumrhodium9143891/23C. rhodiumrhodium
9108891/04C. rhodiumrhodium9145591/27C. rhodiumrhodium
9108991/04C. rhodiumrhodium9145691/27C. rhodiumrhodium
9109091/04C. rhodiumrhodium9145791/27C. rhodiumrhodium
9109191/04C. rhodiumrhodium9145891/27C. rhodiumrhodium
9109291/04C. rhodiumrhodium9146091/14C. maritimum
9109391/04C. rhodiumrhodium9146191/14C. maritimum
9109491/04C. rhodiumrhodium9146291/14C. maritimum
9109591/04C. rhodiumrhodium9146391/14C. maritimum
9109691/04C. rhodiumrhodium9146491/14C. maritimum
9111891/05C. rhodiumrhodium9146591/14C. maritimum
9119791/06C. rhodiumrhodium9146691/14C. maritimum
9120391/06C. rhodiumrhodium9146791/14C. maritimum
9120491/06C. rhodiumrhodium9146891/14C. maritimum
9125691/08C. rhodiumrhodium9146991/14C. maritimum
9130991/12C. persicum9147091/14C. maritimum
9131091/12C. persicum9153191/32C. creticum
9131191/12C. persicum9153291/32C. creticum
9131291/12C. persicum9153391/32C. creticum
9131391/14C. maritimum9153491/32C. creticum
9131491/14C. maritimum9153591/32C. creticum
9131591/14C. maritimum9153691/32C. creticum
9131691/14C. maritimum9153791/32C. creticum
9131791/14C. maritimum9153891/32C. creticum
9131891/14C. maritimum9153991/32C. creticum
9131991/14C. maritimum9154191/32C. creticum
9132091/14C. maritimum9154291/32C. creticum
9132191/14C. maritimum9154391/32C. creticum
9132291/14C. maritimum9154491/32C. creticum
9132391/14C. maritimum9154591/32C. creticum
9132491/14C. maritimum9154691/32C. creticum
9132591/14C. maritimum9154791/32C. creticum
9132691/14C. maritimum9154891/32C. creticum
9132791/17C. rhodiumrhodium9154991/32C. creticum
9138291/19C. rhodiumrhodium9160491/33C. persicum
9138391/19C. rhodiumrhodium9160591/33C. persicum
9138491/19C. rhodiumrhodium9160691/33C. persicum

CSE Sites in Rhodes & Karpathos Greece, 1991

If site images are available they may be viewed by clicking on the purple site number.

Rhodes, Greece


Eastern slopes of Mt Profitas Elias above Elousa.
Altitude: 350m. Pinus brutia woodland with an understorey dominated by Pyrus sp. Light shade. Aspect: North-northeast, slope 1:3. Soil: largely decomposing leaf litter lying over a gritty clay. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium present in many scattered patches where the understorey and scrub were thin or absent. Especially abundant around dry watercourses.
Other plants of note: Paeonia rhodium, Asphodelus microcarpus, Salvia triloba, Dracunculus vulgaris Bellevalia sp., and Anenome sp..


North facing slopes on the road from the heights of Mt Profitas Elias towards Embonas.
Altitude: 450m. Pinus brutia woodland, open, perhaps half shade, with scattered Quercus and Thuja. Aspect: West-northwest, slope variable but overall 1:1. Soil: largely decomposing leaf litter lying over a gritty clay. Large limestone boulders outcropping. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium was abundant throughout the area, a stream ran beside the woodland area, several plants were growing within the stream in up to 7cm of water, others in completely saturated soil. Water in the stream must have been highly calcareous as tufa was being deposited. Some plants of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium at the roadside were growing through the asphalted road surface up to 20cm from the edge.
Other plants of note: Shrubs included Paeonia rhodium. Herbs & bulbs included Ophrys speghodes, Allium ?neopolitanum, Asphodelus microcarpus, Iris unguicularis, Dracunculus vulgaris, Arisarum vulgare, Muscari comosum and species of Lilium, and Bellevalia.


On the road from Elousa through Archipolis to Epta Piges.
Altitude: 70m. Pinus brutia woodland with a closed canopy. Aspect: Southeast, slope 1:1. Soil: A gritty calcareous clay with pockets of deep pine needle leaf mould. Concrete irrigation channels provided an unusual microhabitat. There were scattered groups of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium throughout the area on both undisturbed soil and in places where works had produced extensive disturbance, many seedlings not yet of flowering size were noted. Of especial interest was the occurrence of a substancial group of flowering and juvenile tubers in a shallow (3-7cm) layer of pure pine needle humus over a concrete slab of the irrigation channel.
Other plants of note: Asphodelus microcarpus, Arum maculatum, Arisarum vulgare and Orobanche sp..


On the road from Embonas to Amartos and Sianna.
Altitude: 500m. Pinus and Thuja woodland, probably planted, certainly managed, canopy some 80% closed. Aspect: North-northwest, overall slope 1:2. Soil: A thick (30cm) humus layer over sandy clay or the native, fine grained, ferruginous sandstone. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium was extremely abundant at this site and present in high densities (40-70%). Stands of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium were scattered throughout the woodland, right to the road edge where several were growing through the asphalt, but were especially well developed at the base of large rocks where the soil frequently had a substantial layer of humus. Where the density of the phanerogamic and cryptogamic vegetation allowed, abundant seedlings were established.
Other plants of note: Ophrys lutea, O. sphegodes, Anenome blanda, A. coronaria, Allium subhirsutum, Muscari sp., and Aristolochia sp


On the road from Kolimbia to Archipolis, between Epta Piges and Archipolis.
Altitude: 150m. In Pinus brutia woodland with a canopy approx 75% closed. Aspect: North-northeast, slope overall 1:2. Soil: Highly disturbed owing to forestry and/or irrigation works, clay with no development of a surface layer of litter and humus. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium extensively scattered through the area in both relatively open situations, those free of herbaceous vegetation as well as shrubs, and in deep shade below evergreen shrubs. Two stands noted in deep shade. Throughout this site leaves of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium were extensively eaten, often leaving only the main veins. No animals were found on the plants but inspection suggested that the predators were insects, not molluscs. Overall, C. rhodium ssp. rhodium was far more abundant at this site in the highly disturbed areas than in the putatively ‘natural’ woodlands. This is probably because the woodland areas were heavily, up to 90%, vegetated. Evidence of fire in the disturbed areas suggested that this might be an additional factor producing more open conditions and so favouring C. rhodium ssp. rhodium.
Other plants of note: Extensive shrub layer of varied species, including Nerium oleander. Extensive and varied herb layer but with no especially interesting species.


On the road to Mt Profitas Elias from Elousa.
Altitude: 400m. Pinus brutia woodlands with the canopy 50% closed. Aspect: Northeast, slope 1:1.5. Soil: A humus layer of varying thickness over clay topping the underlying limestone. Thick understorey of varied shrubs, with dense herb layer in more open areas. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium occurred largely in more open areas. However, tubers without flowers extended into shade where they bore larger than normal leaves with paler, simpler marbling. Seedlings were abundant where other vegetation was sparse or absent – one group of 49 in an area of about 0.25 sq. m. was noted. Throughout the site steep, even vertical slopes could be found largely uncolonised by phanerogamic vegetation. Here, C. rhodium ssp. rhodium was more abundant – often covering 50% of the soil surface. The most dense stands were often at the base of a steep mini slope where soil had accumulated to some depth.


At the summit of the ridge between Psinthos and Petaloudes.
Altitude: 450m. This site covered a very large area of varied vegetation ranging from Pinus woodland, through tall scrub dominated by Arbutus to low scrub composed of a wide range of species. Aspect: The main slope had a south aspect, but the site extended to the other side of a steep valley with a north aspect. The angle of the slope varied from nil to 1:1. Soil: Undisturbed humus over clay topping a calcareous conglomerate. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium was widely scattered over an area of several hectares, usually in Pinus woodland or at the base of solitary pine trees emerging from the widespread scrub. While stands frequently comprised only one or two plants there were places where dense stands of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium covered up to 80% of the soil surface and were regenerating vigorously. In these places there was usually little phanergamic vegetation and C. rhodium ssp. rhodium emerged from a layer of needle litter surrounded only by sacttered seedlings of Sonchus, Galium, Geranium robertianum Arum maculatum and Trifolium. On the steep (1:1.5) north facing slope across the valley, C. rhodium ssp. rhodium grew in rock crevices.


On the road from Petaloudes through Epano Kalamonas and Kato Kalamonas.
Altitude: 300m. An area of dense Arbutus scrub, 100% canopy. Aspect: North, slope 1:1 – 1:2. Soil: deep humus layer (up to 45cm) over fine clay topping conglomerate. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium scattered sparsely but evenly throughout, approx 20% of soil cover.
All three Arbutus taxa present plus occasional varied other shrubs. Herb layer typically extremely sparse comprising Geranium robertianum, Arisarum vulgare, Malva sylvestris, grasses and Styrax seedlings.


Rodini Park, Rhodes Town.
Altitude: 70m. C. persicum first noted as an edging plant in ornamental beds filled with Hedera, Acanthus and Pittosporum tobira below large specimens of Nerium oleander and a tree layer of Thuja, Platanus and Eucalyptus. C. persicum was seeding extensively onto the paths and in the beds.
The whole area lay in the shallow valley of a stream flowing along the edge of the park. Some 500m upstream (altitude 70m) C. persicum was found again in an area of open grassland with scattered specimens of Quercus. C. persicum was most often found at the base of trees and of limestone or conglomerate boulders (or in cracks etc. in such boulders) and where scrub, largely of Pistacea lentiscus and Cercis siliquastrum suppressed the growth of grass.
Plants were setting seed and some seedlings were apparent around practically all mature plants. A further 300m upstream, in an area of fairly flat land a little way from the stream, a single, large colony of C. persicum was found below Quercus. Isolated from other putatively wild C. persicum at this site, this colony was the largest single stand (estimated at 600 plants) and was regenerating well (over 100 seedlings were counted).


Monte Smith, Rhodes Town.
Altitude: 3-150m. An area of steeply sloping scrub in which the major shrubs were windswept Pinus & Thuja. Aspect: West – Northwest. slope 1:0.5. Soil: A fine, water retentive clay over coarse, shelly calcareous conglomerate. C. maritimum grew in three types of microclimate:
1. Pockets & crevices in conglomerate.
2. Amidst dense shrubby & herbaceous vegetation in full sun.
3. On virtually bare soil covered with needle litter in deep shade below Pinus & Thuja.
Other plants of note: included Asphodelus, Allium, Galium, Hypericum, Arum, Crocus, Anthyllis, Papaver, Erodium, Ballota, Convolvulus and Cytinus hypocistis.


On the road from Gennadio to Vatio.
Altitude: 75m. Below Pinus with 100% canopy. Aspect: east facing slope (1:3) and below Thuja with 100% canopy on south facing slope (1:1). Soil: On both slopes a layer of decaying needles (undecayed needles up to 2.5cm thick) over clay topping a calacreous sandstone. On south facing slope, shrub layer of Cistus, Genista acanthoclada, Sarcopoterium spinosum and Salvia triloba with a few herbs. Some lichens including Cladonia chlorophaea and C.foliacea. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium scattered and sparse. Below the road on the east facing slope, better stands of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium amidst Ficus, Quercus, Styrax, Pistacea and Salvia bordering on olive grove.


North-western slopes of Mt Akramitis near Monolithos.
Altitude: 375m. An area of cleared Pinus woodland some 60m wide running parallel to the road, now an area of herbaceous vegetation. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium also found in the woodland still standing. Aspect: Completely open area on gentle (1:2 – 1:3) northwest facing slope. Evidence of fairly recent (?6-12months) fire. Soil: A gritty clay with patches of pine needle leaf mould topping a calcareous conglomerate/breccia. The area of cleared woodland extended beyond the site studied, past the chapel and viewpoint shown on maps to an altitude of 500m.
Cleared area bore a rich herb flora with some shrubs. Including: Gynandriris sisyrinchium, Anenome coronaria, Orobanche ?amethystina, Asphodelus microcarpus, Bellevalia, etc. In the adjoining woodland individual plants of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium occurred very sparsely amongst a shrub layer of Pistacea, Arbutus, and Quercus coccifera.


On the road from Trianda (Ialissos) to Filerimos, about 1km below Filerimos.
Altitude: 140m. Lightly shaded Pinus woodland with canopy 70% closed, populations close to the road would receive some 50% shade. Aspect: East, slope 1:1. Soil: coarse acid humus over pockets of clay, topping an acid sandstone. Needle litter and shade were too great for a vigorous herbaceous flora. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium present in scattered groups, most of which contained young seedlings.
Varied shrub layer, Gladiolus illyricus and one plant of C. persicum.


On the slopes below the car park at the Filerimos monastery.
Altitude: 225-270m. In light woodland below Thuja and Quercus macrolepis with occasional Platanus orientalis with the canopy 70% closed. Aspect: North, slope variable, some 1:3 overall. Soil: A thick humic layer over clay and rock fragments. Sparse but widespread shrub growth. Herbaceous layer sparse but scattered plants of Iris, Arum, Bellavalia, Geranium robertianum, Stachys, Galium aparine and Dracunculus. The principal interest of this site was the prescence of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium and C. persicum. In the upper part of the woodlands, C. persicum grew alone, often in deeply shaded positions where very large leaves were noted. In the higher parts C.persicum tended to grow in deeper soil and leaf litter at the base of large rocks and mini cliffs. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium  and C. persicum grew intermingled in the more open woodland some half way between the car park and the first zig-zag of the approach road. C.persicum did not disappear completely in the area studied. There did appear however, to be a general decrease in C. persicum and increase in C. rhodium ssp. rhodium as altitude decreased.


On Katavia to Mesanegros road, near Mesanegros.
Altitude: 210m. Mixed Pistacea and Arbutus scrub with scattered Cistus, Sarcopoterium spinosum and Salvia triloba. Aspect: East, slope variable. A small stand of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium in 80% shade.


On road from Mesanegros to Arnitha, on northwest facing slopes of Mt. Koukouliari.
Altitude: 120m. Sparse Pinus woodland with a dense shrub layer. Aspect: Northwest, slope 1:2. Soil: A thick layer of leaf litter and humus. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium sporadic along the roadside principally along the better illuminated uphill verge but in dense shade which would not receive direct light before 14.00hrs in spring and would then have only dappled sunlight. Few left in flower, although an estimated 97% had coiled seed pods and seedlings were frequent.
Varied shrub layer including Paeonia rhodium. Especially interesting herbs included Ophrys sphegodes and O. fuciflora.


On road from Profilia to Istrios, near Profilia.
Altitude: 380m. A valley completely burned out probably within the previous year. Appeared to have been sparsely wooded with Pinus. Aspect: West, slope 1:4 overall. Soil: burnt over a gritty sandstone. No mature vegetation remained. Both Pistacea lentiscus and Myrtus communis were regenerating from burned stumps and amongst these shoots a few C. rhodium ssp. rhodium were surviving. A few tubers also survived in the angle of a small watercourse (a little water was still flowing). Abundant seedlings of Cistus, some Vicia and a few bulbs of Muscari were present.


On the road from Kalathos to Masari, not far from the main coast road travelling north, up a small track beyond the bridge over the river.
Altitude: 50m. Mixed Pinus and Thujawoodland. Aspect: North-northeast and south-southwest (both sides of the river, southern side only observed through binoculars), slope overall 1:1. Soil: Fine clay in pockets between rocks, humus layer in some places (north of river). Mixed scrub noted north of the river. C. rhodium ssp. rhodium sparse in shade on northern bank, apparently in more open situations on southern bank.


Below Moni Kamirou beside the road.
Altitude: 80m. Two stands were noted, one in dense Pistacea scrub below Pinus on level ground, the second on a steep (1:1) bank bordering an olive grove. Aspect: Northeast for both stands. Evidence of very good germination of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium.


Above Paradision, near the top of the road.
Altitude: 25m. A narrow, densely shrubby valley leading off an abandoned citrus and olive grove. Aspect: On a slope facing northeast at an overall gradient of 1:1. Mixed shrubs gave deep shade. Several plants of C. rhodium ssp. rhodium just hanging on at the lowest point, flourishing higher up the valley.

Karpathos, Greece


On the road from Spoa to Apella and Kira Panagia. Altitude: 410m. An area of severely burnt Pinus woodland with little shrub or herbaceous vegetation remaining. Aspect: North-northeast, slope overall 1:1 but Cyclamen creticum tending to favour the gentler slopes, 1:2. Soil: Deep stony and well drained, over limestone with a thin layer of needle litter suggesting that fire had occurred within 12 months A few stumps of shrubs were sprouting and Cistus seedlings were common. Various herbaceous plant seedlings. C. creticum was widely and fairly evenly scattered, seldom occurring in large clumps, over an area of some 30m x 50m. C. creticum represented about 10% of ground cover. At this site and 91/31, C. creticum was remarkably uniform in flower and leaf.


Above the main cemetery to the east of Karpathos town.
Altitude: 20-50m. A series of abandoned terraced fields in an abandoned limestone quarry. Aspect: Northeast, slope, some vertical ‘cliffs’ and terrace dry walls with the base of the quarry some 1:5. Also the North-northwest facing slope above the quarry with a slope of 1:8 but with dry walls.
Cyclamen persicum was growing in two habitats:
1) Holes and crevices in ‘cliffs’, boulders and dry walls.
2) Amongst and around scrub in scree type rock beds.
Cyclamen persicum was normally found in places with a north or west aspect although one south facing dry wall supported a good population. Deep flat soils were generally too densely vegetated to support Cyclamen persicum. C. persicum represented about 25% of ground cover. The population was of especial interest as a consequence of its wide range of flower colours and the many plants with petaloid stamens.
Scrub was principally composed of Phlomis, Sarcopoterium, Pistacia and Thuja.