Ivy-Leaved Cyclamen

Best Autumn Botany Tours

Dominic CouzensBy Dominic Couzens
19th August 2020

Dominic is a Naturetrek tour leader and one of Britain's
best known and most prolific natural history writers.

Everybody knows that the flowering season is too short. We thrill to the first brave blooms at the end of winter, delight in the glut of floral madness in the summer and then, as autumn begins to bring down the shutters and shorten the days, it all seems to end so quickly. There is, though, a way to stretch out the botanical season, and that is to hop south towards the sweet warmth and rains of the Mediterranean autumn. In some places there is a completely new surge of flowering, equivalent to that of the spring. In others, the climate is so gentle that the season fades away only very slowly, and even quite late on there is still an impressive variety of flowers to see and enjoy. Here are a few of our favourite autumn tours with a strong botanical element.

Crete is justifiably famous for its extraordinary profusion of spring flowers, but in the autumn, after most of the holidaymakers have gone home, seasonal rains flush out another delightful flurry of flowering, involving such bulb plants as colchicums, narcissi, crocuses and scillas. In the middle of October these are out in profusion and, along with the loveliness of the autumnal tints and the ripening of berries on many of the shrubs, make Crete a compelling place to visit for the botanist. We stay in Chania, in the quiet western part of the island. We will visit gorges and forests for a wide range of flowers, shrubs and trees, some of which, such as Acersempervirens and Crataegus azarolus are among Crete’s 140 endemic species.

Greek Cyclamen

The autumn flora of Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula is one of the most famous in Europe, and even in November it is perfectly possible to find hundreds of species in flower. Some of these are traditional late-flowering types such as Asteraceae and Lamiaceae, but the Greek summers are so baking hot and dry that many plants hold off blooming until the rains bring relief in the autumn. These include a fabulous range of exciting crocuses, which will be a feature of our excursions in the mountains, valleys and forests of this gorgeous part of the eastern Mediterranean. There are also cyclamens, colchicums and even snowdrops. Indeed, the simultaneous flowering of cyclamen, snowdrop and crocus is unique in the whole of Europe! The ‘fingers’ of the southern Peloponnese, the peninsulas of Mani, Mystras and Malea, each have their own specific microclimate and associated flora, making this is an exciting tour at a glorious time of year.

Winter Daffodil

Cyprus is one of those Mediterranean sites that is blessed by an almost spring-like burst of flowering in the late autumn, especially of bulb plants. At the same time, it has an exciting array of endemics, and if you throw in some expected autumn sunshine and a smattering of unusual birds, what’s not to like? This is a two-centre tour, beginning at Paphos in the west, where the coast and rocky hillsides should hold exciting plants such as Cyclamen persicum, Narcissus obsoletus and Muscari parviflorum. Nearby a local reservoir is a good site for many plants, including Crocus veneris and Romulea tempskyana, as well as wintering Finsch’s Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler. Our second centre is Latchi, near the Baths of Aphrodite. The flora here is sensational and includes Taraxacum aphrogenes, Scilla autumnalis, Narcissus tazetta and many others. We will also visit the Troodos Mountains for endemics such as Cyclamen cyprium and Alyssum akamasicum, and a superb range of trees.

Narcissus tazetta
Bunchflower Daffodil