Before the arrival of people, Corsica and Sardinia were home to a range of endemic large mammals. Although these are now sadly gone, there are still a huge range of native plants, many endemic to the island, although they are usually closely related to those in Italy or other parts of southern Europe, especially those around the coast. At higher elevations are found plants more widespread across Europe and into Asia across the temperate and alpine zones. Many are spring flowering, but other flower all year or only in the autumn, so I got some reasonable photos. I will cover them over the next few posts, but I will start with the bulbs and others.
The Pink Snowflake, Acis rosea, is restricted to small areas of Corsica and Sardinia, where it grows in rocky, sandy areas. The flowers are produced before the thread-like leaves in the autumn. There are many other species of Acis around the Mediterranean, some with very restricted ranges. Acis are related to snowdrops, Galanthus, and the various Summer Snowflakes, Leucojum. Fresh flowers are tinged pink, but the ones we found were bleached white.
Corsican Autumn Crocus
Also restricted to Corsica and Sardinia, Colchicum corsicum is classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. There are well over a hundred species of Colchicum, and even more local varieties, ranging around the Mediterranean into western Asia and down the east African coast into South Africa. Most of them flower in the autumn, by which time the leaves that appear in spring have withered away.
Another autumn flowering bulb, Autumn Squill Prospero (Scilla) autumnale is more widespread than the previous plants, with a range extending around the Mediterranean. Like many bulbs, it is adapted to climates with a pronounced summer drought, and its leaves grow over the winter months, disappearing in spring.
One of the commonest of hardy cyclamen to be seen in cultivation, Cyclamen hederifolium was in flower all over the island when we visited. This is one of the more widespread Cyclamen species, and is quite adaptable, although it grows best in woodland. There are over 20 other species, with the large florist’s cyclamen being a form of C.persicum, a species from higher elevations in Turkey south into Jordan.
Autumn Lady’s Tresses
Finally, 2014 seems to have been a good year for Autumn Lady’s Tresses, Spiranthes spiralis. This is one of the few scented hardy orchids, and has a range as far north as Northen England and as far east as the western Himalaya. As with most of the other bulbous or tuberous plants around the Mediterranean, its leaves appear over the winter months after flowering, and disappear in the spring.
Next time, I will cover the herbaceous plants we found.
(photos are mine)