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Flora

Situated so close to the Akamas Peninsula, Pano Arodes is blessed with a wealth of beauty in the surrounding countryside, particularly in early spring after the winter rain, when everywhere turns green again after the parched golden browns of summer and early autumn.

There are too many beautiful flowers to mention all of them, but in spring there are masses of bulb flowers, poppies, marguerites, many kinds of orchids, anemones carpeting the ground, along with the almond and other blossoms.

This plant is one of the few to flower in the late summer before the Autumn rains. It grows from a very poisonous, large bulb which can be up to 20 cm wide and weigh a kilogram. Several bulbs may grow in a clump and are usually just beneath the surface of the soil. In the spring, each bulb produces a rosette of about ten leaves each up to a meter long. They are dark green in colour and leathery in texture. They die away by the autumn, when the bulb produces a tall, narrow raceme of flowers.

This species has been used as a medicinal plant since ancient times. It is noted in the Ebers Papyrus of the 16th century BC, one of the oldest medical texts of ancient Egypt. Pythagoras wrote about it in the 6th century BC. Hippocrates used it to treat jaundice, convulsions, and asthma. Theophrastus was also familiar with it. Its primary medicinal use was as a treatment for edema, then called dropsy, because of the diuretic properties of the cardiac glycosides. A solution of sea squill and vinegar was a common remedy for centuries. The plant is also used as a laxative and an expectorant.

The plant has also been used as a poison. It is very bitter, so most animals avoid it. Rats, however, eat it readily, and then succumb to the toxic scilliroside. This has made the plant a popular rodenticide for nearly as long as it has been in use as a medicine. The bulbs are dried and cut into chips, which can then be powdered and mixed with rat bait. The plant was introduced as an experimental agricultural crop in the 20th century primarily to develop high-toxicity varieties for use as rat poison. Interest continued to develop as rats became resistant to coumarin-based poisons. It has also been tested as an insecticide.

Pythagoras and Dioscorides hung the bulbs with sprouted leaves outside the door in spring as protection against evil spirits.

In Greek legend the asphodel is one of the most famous of the plants connected with the dead and the underworld. Homer describes it as covering the great meadow (ἀσφόδελος λειμών), the haunt of the dead. It was planted on graves, and is often connected with Persephone, who appears crowned with a garland of asphodels. Its general connection with death is due no doubt to the greyish colour of its leaves and its yellowish flowers, which suggest the gloom of the underworld and the pallor of death. The roots were eaten by the poorer Ancient Greeks; hence such food was thought good enough for the shades. The asphodel was also supposed to be a remedy for poisonous snake-bites and a specific against sorcery; it was fatal to mice, but preserved pigs from disease.

The asphodel is mentioned by several poets in connection with the mythology of death, and by association, the afterlife - specifically the Isles of the Blessed and Elysium - part of the ancient Greek concept of the afterlife.

  • Milton: "To embathe in nectared lavers strewed with asphodel."

  • Pope: "Happy souls who dwell in yellow meads of Asphodel,"

  • Tennyson: "Others in Elysian valleys dwell, resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel."

Asphodel (Asphodelus albus)
Sea Squill (Drimia maritima)
Wild Tulips
Autumn Crocus
Wild Cyclamen
A Poppy field
Pyramid Orchids

The Akamas is home to 35 endemic species that grow nowhere else. There are also the juniper and myrtle bushes, cypress and pine trees and a host of aromatic and medicinal plants.

Some useful books on the flora of Cyprus are:

  • Wild Flowers of Cyprus by George Sfikas, ISBN 960-226-266-4

  • The Endemic Plants of Cyprus Pub. Bank of Cyprus Group, ISBN 9963-42-067-2

  • Edible Wild Plants of the Cyprus Flora by Loucas Savvides, ISBN 9963-8390-1-0

  • Trees and Shrubs in Cyprus Pub. Foundation A.G. Leventis, ISBN 9963-560-50-4

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