Hvar's Wildflower Treasures

Published in Environment

The wildflowers on Hvar are a year-round joy. Even in the depths of winter, there is hardly a week without colours brightening up the countryside, contrasting with the island's rocks and the variegated dark green of the woodlands. 

When they are not flowering, the wild plants die back or merge into the background, coming to life again to mark the seasons with their colourful contribution. There is no end to the pleasure of walking around the fields and woodlands, looking at the endless range of plants, many of them tiny, which contribute in turn to the natural splendour of the island. The varied shapes of the plants are part of the attraction, and each season has some specially interesting specimens. These are two examples from the spring season.

The tassel hyacinth

In spring from April to June the tassel hyacinths come into their own with their very fine purple heads.

 
The tassel hyacinth (leopoldia comosa or muscari comosum) is one of the species known as grape hyacinths, and is sometimes called tufted grape hyacinth, hairy muscari or edible muscari. It has fertile flowers which are brownish-green, bell-shaped, and held outwards on stalks which are roughly the same length as the flowers themselves, or slightly longer. At the top of the plant a tuft of bright purple sterile flowers on long stalks spreads upwards. It belongs to the Asteraceae family in the Asparagales order.

As one of the synonyms suggests, the tassel hyacinth is edible, and is used for food mainly in Italy and Greece. In Italy tassel hyacinth bulbs are called lampascioni or cipolline selvatiche (little wild onions), in Greece they are volvoi. I have not yet met anyone who eats tassel hyacinth bulbs in Dalmatia, probably because they are bitter tasting and most Dalmatians seem to be addicted to sugar nowadays. The bulbs are boiled and then preserved in oil or pickled, and are considered to be an appetite stimulant, as well as being diuretic. In Greece they are traditionally part of the speciality vegetarian foods eaten during Lent. Reading the descriptions of how they are prepared, it all sounds like tricky hard work, so I shall content myself, at least for the time being, with simply admiring the beautiful flowers when they spread over the fields in springtime.

The tragopogon

I was fascinated for years by the exquisite round feathery seedhead which would suddenly spread all around the countryside in springtime. Finding out what it was proved to be a challenge. People used to tell me that it was a type of dandelion, but that didn't seem to fit the bill. I had never seen the plant in flower. So far as I could see it consisted only of a stem with a slim head of spindles (seen to the front left of the picture below) which opened out to form the magnificent globe of the seedhead.

I was resigned to never finding out. After all, its beauty was not affected by my not knowing its name. And as I am very bad at remembering names anyway, perhaps it was not worth while searching. Then I made a chance visit to Marinka Radež's art atelier in Dol, and happened to see a painting in progress of the very plant. And not just the seedhead which had entranced me for all those years, but there was also a flower which I had not been aware of. It turned out that the flower only comes out for a short while during the day. Either I had not recognised it as being on the same plant, or I had always missed it. Marinka did not know what the plant was called, but I had enough clues to narrow my search, and finally tracked it down through an excellent website called the seedsite.

Tragopogon flower, April 2015. Photo Vivian Grisogono

So it was that I identified the mystery feathered spindly globe as a tragopogon. Definitely not a dandelion (taraxacum), although both belong to the Asterales order in the Asteraceae family. The tragopogon is also called salsify or goatsbeard. One member of the species, which consists of over 140 different types, the purple salsify or tragopogon porrifolius, is edible, mainly the root which apparently tastes like oysters, but also young shoots and leaves.

Tragopogon flower, April 2015. Photo Vivian Grisogono

© Vivian Grisogono 2013

You are here: Home environment articles Hvar's Wildflower Treasures

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Exclusive: Thinning indicates profound impact of humans and could affect satellites and GPS

    Humanity’s enormous emissions of greenhouse gases are shrinking the stratosphere, a new study has revealed.

    The thickness of the atmospheric layer has contracted by 400 metres since the 1980s, the researchers found, and will thin by about another kilometre by 2080 without major cuts in emissions. The changes have the potential to affect satellite operations, the GPS navigation system and radio communications.

    Continue reading...

  • DuPont and Daikin, manufacturers of ‘short chain’ PFAS, did not inform regulator about the FDA negative results of tests on animals

    Chemical giants DuPont and Daikin knew the dangers of a PFAS compound widely used in food packaging since 2010, but hid them from the public and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), company studies obtained by the Guardian reveal.

    The chemicals, called 6:2 FTOH, are now linked to a range of serious health issues, and Americans are still being exposed to them in greaseproof pizza boxes, carryout containers, fast-food wrappers, and paperboard packaging.

    Continue reading...

  • The New River Gorge in West Virginia offers stunning views, rock climbing and rafting but some worry it is unprepared for an influx of visitors

    The New River has spent millions of years carving a bucolic gorge in West Virginia. It is now home to one of the most biodiverse forests on the continent. And while humans have tracked prey along its jagged cliffs for thousands of years, now most people come to the gorge to find adventure.

    Related:How to plan your 2021 trip to a US national park

    Continue reading...

  • Great Eastern Brood set to emerge in the last two weeks of May and into early June, with hordes of bugs to push up from underground

    Brood X, otherwise known as the great cicada hatching of 2021, is drawing closer as soil temperatures in some parts of America move closer to 64F (18C) – the trigger, according to scientists, for trillions of the insects to push up to the surface and into the trees to mate.

    Related:If we want to save the planet, the future of food is insects

    Continue reading...

  • Nearly 59m hectares of forests have regrown since 2000, showing that regeneration in some places is paying off

    An area of forest the size of France has regrown around the world over the past 20 years, showing that regeneration in some places is paying off, a new analysis has found.

    Nearly 59m hectares of forests have regrown since 2000, the research found, providing the potential to soak up and store 5.9 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – more than the annual emissions of the entire US.

    Continue reading...

  • For miles around Walleys Quarry in Silverdale, people have reported waking up in the night struggling to breathe

    It may have been labelled the country’s smelliest village but it is much more than a bad stench from the local landfill making life miserable for the residents of Silverdale in Staffordshire, who have now started crowdfunding for potential legal action against the site.

    For miles around Walleys Quarry landfill near Newcastle-under-Lyme, people have reported waking up in the middle of the night struggling to breathe, with itchy eyes and sore throats. Those with asthma have had their medication increased, and some have reported nosebleeds.

    Continue reading...

  • Addressing the climate crisis will be the greatest undertaking in the history of humankind. We have to give it all we have

    Joe Biden wants to cut US emissions in half from their 2005 levels. However, since emissions have been slowly declining since then, this amounts to only a 37% drop from 2020 levels.

    That, in a nutshell, is the issue. Our leaders are adhering to a template that doesn’t meet the urgency of the moment. The US is not even the world’s largest emitter any more, and China – the biggest polluter – seeks to build more coal-fired power plants, failing to reach carbon neutrality until 2060. Unfortunately, that is a perfect illustration of just how disconnected we are from the gravity of the situation.

    Continue reading...

  • Licences given to arms firm Lockheed Martin said to go against government’s stance on exploiting seabed

    Deep-sea mining exploration licences granted by the British government are “riddled with inaccuracies”, and could even be unlawful, according to Greenpeace and Blue Marine Foundation, a conservation charity.

    The licences, granted a decade ago to UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of the US arms multinational Lockheed Martin, have only recently been disclosed by the company.

    Continue reading...

  • Sandy, Bedfordshire: The sedge warblers want to be seen and heard, but the grasshopper warbler cannot be pinned down

    A great tit has crowned the lime trees outside our house for three months or more, with its steady, seesaw song, rendered mnemonically and memorably as “tea-cher, tea-cher”. Over that period the bird has become – to some ears at least – a bare-branched bore.

    In the unfurling of May, its song became more sporadic – but in addition, a new voice had arrived, one that was even more repetitive, yet anything but monotonous. Obsessed and addicted, I hurried down to the riverside meadow, lured to listen for the eighth time within a fortnight.

    Continue reading...

  • They are benevolent vegetarian gods. They watch over, through shielded eyes,the very few animals that have a fringe.

    William Topaz McGonagall, the “worst poet in the history of the English language”, is responsible for some of my mother’s favourite words in the world to say. She delivers them in a decent-enough Scottish accent, and she does so whenever the opportunity presents itself: “On yonder hill there stood a coo / It’s no’ there noo / It must’a shif’ted”. When I hear this rhyme I picture a Scottish highland cow, its coat waving in the icy flaff.

    McGonagall, who has a certain genius for coos, unfortunately also felt moved to capture in rhyme disasters, “calamities” and freak accidents. He chose to pay tribute to the people who died in the 1879 Tay Bridge disaster thus:

    Beautiful railway bridge of the silv’ry Tay
    Alas! I am very sorry to say
    That ninety lives have been taken away
    On the last sabbath day of 1879
    Which will be remember’d for a very long time.”

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds