A guide to Hvar's wildflowers - Spring edition

A beautiful overview of Hvar's rich springtime flower offerings by Marion Podolski.

Brilliant poppies on Hvar in springtime. Brilliant poppies on Hvar in springtime. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Marion reports:

I’ve been inspired this spring to get outside and learn more about Hvar’s plantlife. I see local folks using flowers and leaves in  drinks, in cooking, as insect repellants, balms and of course to flavour various rakijas! At the same time, we’ve also been watching a wonderful Croatian TV series called Lovac na bilje, which is to say, The Plant Hunter.  Each week, we watched Anton Rudan hike through glorious countryside, chatting to local experts and telling us about some of the special plants there and how they can be used. Fascinating stuff!

The sun colours flowers and art colours life!

The sun colours flowers and art colours life!

So for the last few weeks I’ve been diligently taking photos of as many flowers as I could find among the paths and byways, sometimes in fields or by the beach. And as part of my explorations, I’ve even had a go at painting some of them! My next step, of course, is to identify each one, and tag my photos with an official name in Latin, English and Croatian. As you’d expect, I’m finding that it’s easy enough to take photos, but much harder to track down the names!!

Unidentified pink flowers at Asseria

Unidentified pink flowers at Asseria - subsequently identified as blue lettuce (Lactuca perennis, modra salata)

To start with, I’d photograph the flowers with a narrow depth of field, so the flower is sharply in focus, but the surrounding is nicely blurred. It really does make the flowers stand out beautifully. However… that essentially gives me no information at all about the rest of the plant which could have been really useful!

No information on leaves!

How to identify? No visible leaves!

To help ID the flowers, I have a couple of books of plants of the Adriatic coast and islands (in Croatian), plus two iPad apps on wildflowers of Europe/UK, and online resources such as Wikipedia and Plantea.hr. What I’m learning, of course, is the infinite variety of plantlife, and the fact that the ones I’ve photographed don’t always look like the standard references! For example – a flower might be listed under a different colour, or be a radically different shape from that shown, as with this delicate candelabra which turns out to be a variant of a grape hyacinth!

Tassel hyacinth

Tassel hyacinth

It’s been a surprise to me how many of these wildflowers, that are basically scattered everywhere, turn out to have very familiar names – chicory, salsify, vetch, sage, borage, mallow, campion, sorrel, pyrethrum, and so on. Native Mediterranean plants, but long ago introduced further north for their medicinal and culinary properties. Now I know chicory root has been used as a coffee substitute for years, but I had no idea that it has such a lovely blue flower!

So here’s my reference table of the flowers, at least the ones I’ve identified so far.  Disclaimer… while I have a reasonable confidence in most of the names for these plants, some are tentative and I’d be happy to hear from anyone who has a rather better grounding in botany! Click on the images for a bigger picture, and links go to wikipedia or plantea to find out more.

Allium roseum
Rosy garlic
Ružičasti luk
White and pink versions exist. The pink flowers are a tasty garnish for salads.
Analgallis arvensis
Blue pimpernel
Poljska Krivičica
Anchusa arvenensis / officinalis
Could not find an exact match for the hairy red buds, but appears to be a type of bugloss.
Anthyllis vulneraria L. subsp praepropera
Pink kidney vetch / woundwort
More usually yellow? Any plant with -wort as its English name indicates medicinal use.
Antirrhinum majus
Arum italicum
Italian lords-and-ladies
Veliki kozlac
Photographed in a Kastela vineyard
Bituminaria bitumenosa
Arabian pea or pitch trefoil
Borage officinalis
Borage or starflower
Calendula arvensis
Field marigold
Neven (calendula officinalis)
Pretty green beetle in the flower!
Carduus pycnocephalus
Italian (plumeless) thistle
Sitnoglavičasti stričak
Cichorium intybus
Root is used in cooking and as substitute for coffee.


Two varieties – pretty in pink and in white.
Colutea arborescens
Bladdernut tree or bladder senna
Drvolika pucalina
More a shrub than a tree
Convolvulus althaeoides
Mallow bindweed
Finodlakavi slak
Cynoglossum creticum
Blue hound’s tongue
Grčki pasji jazik
Diplotaxis tenuifolia
Perennial wall-rocket
Uskolisni dvoredac
Dorycnium hirsutium
(Hairy) canary clover
Čupava bjeloglavica
Love the name!
Euphorbia characias
Mediterranean spurge
Velika mlječika
Euphorbia helioscopia
Mlječika suncogled
fumaria-officinalis-fumitoryFuminaria officinalis
Glebionis coronaria
Crown daisy
Croatian name unknown
Helianthemum nummularium
Common rock-rose
Hippocrepus comosa
Horseshoe vetch
Croatian not known
Leopoldia comosa or Muscari comosum
Tassel hyacinth
Kitnjasta presličica
Two versions on the latin name. Related to grape hyacinth.
Lonicera implexa Aiton / caprifolium
Orlovi Nokti
Lotus corniculatus
Bird’s Foot Trefoil
Malva sylvestris
Crni sljez
Photographed in Split
Melilotus officinalis
Yellow sweet clover
Žuti kokotac
Nigella damascena
Native to the Mediterranean, was already known in English cottage gardens in Tudor times.
Oxalis articulata
Pink sorrel
Native to S. America! Now widespread in Europe
Papaver argemone
Prickly poppy
Unusual, very tiny poppy seen in the hills.
Papaver rhoeas
Divlji mak
Common poppy, seen everywhere!
Pisum sativum
Punica granatum
Salvia officinalis
Makes a lovely cordial drink
Scrophularia nodosa
Čvorasti /Uskolisni strupnik
Sideritis romana
Sredozemni očist
Silene latifolia
White campion
Silene vulgaris
Bladder campion
Sonchus asper
Prickly sow-thistle
Oštri kostriš
Spartium junceum
Spanish broom
Tanacetum cinerariifolium
Tordylium apulium
Mediterranean hartwort
Apulijska orja šica
Tragopogon porrifolius
Purple or common salsify
Lukasta kozja brada
Vicia villosa Roth
Hairy vetch
Vlasastodlakava grahorica

“Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colours flowers, so does art colour life.”

~ John Lubbock (1834-1913) The Pleasures of Life

© Marion Podolski

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from Marion's blog Go Hvar, Ramblings about a far island. Visit the blog for all kinds of information about Hvar, from artistic to epicurean!

Many thanks to Norman Woolons of Dol for identifying the pink flower from a match in his orchard.

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