On the flora and vegitation of Syros

By George P. Sarlis



  1. The flora of Syros consists of 580 species, 60 subspecies, 1 variety and 1 form, ie a total of 642 taxa, belonging to 340 genera and 81 families. From previous investigations (KH Rechinger), 648 taxa (590 species and 58 subspecies) were known for the flora of Syros, of which 138 were not found, belonging to 37 families, while 5 were characterized as ornamental species.
  2. The island’s flora does not exhibit intense polymorphism and therefore does not include endemic species in the narrow sense, due to the lack of high mountains and the small isolation of Syros. But about 20 endemic species in the broad sense are mentioned on the island by KH. Rechinger, Zerlendi and Diapouli from which the following were found: Orobanche amethystea Thuill ssp. amethystea, Orobanche fuliginosa Reuter ex. Jordan, Chenopodium ficifolium Sm., Suaeda splendens Gren. & Cordon, Centaurea eriopoda Rech. and Fritillaria ehrhardii Boiss. & Orph.
  3. The most populous families are Fabaceae with 70 species and 4 subspecies (a total of 74 taxa), Poaceae with 57 species and 6 subspecies (total 63 taxa), Asteraceae with 41 species and 7 subspecies (a total of 48 taxa), Cichoriaceae with 30 species and 2 subspecies (total 32 taxa). Still from all the species of Syros flora 132 (20,56%) are characterized as aromatic and medicinal plants, 1 (0,16%) as pure aromatic, 65 (10,12%) as pure medicinal, 75 (11, 68%) as toxic, 8 (1.25%) as flavorant and 148 (23.05%) as apicultural. The large number of species of legumes (Fabaceae), grasses (Poaceae) and apicultural plants explains the developed animal farming and beekeeping of the island.
  4. The spatial analysis of the florid data has shown that the Mediterranean species have an obvious advantage in the number and percentage of participation in the flora of the island (76.79%). Furthermore, a part of the present-day flora of Syros includes a large number of species, mainly around where people live, which entered in later times.
  5. According to Raunkiaer, the bio-spectrum of Syros shows that therophytes dominate with a 51.41% participation, confirming the inclusion of the flora of the island within the limits of the Mediterranean climate. The analysis of the individual ecological forms revealed that the species of flora of Syros consisted of 334 (52,02%) annual, 29 (4,25%) biennial, 223 (34,74%) perennial, 50 (7,79%) shrubs and 6 (0.93%) kinds of trees.


The vegetation of Syros, from a plant-community point of view, is distinguished by the formations of coastal vegetation, evergreen hardy vegetation, brushes and weeds.

  1. Coastal vegetation, according to local ecological conditions, is distinguished by sand vegetation, brackish vegetation and vegetation of rocky coasts. The first 2 types of vegetation, due to anthropogenic effects, have been severely degraded, resulting in plant species that do not provide an image of well-formed sand or brackish plant communities. The vegetation of the rocky coasts, from the composition and ecology of the species constituting it, is part of the Crithmo-Limonion Molinier 34 (C: Crithmo-Limonietea Br.-Bl. 47, O: Crithmo-Limonietalia Molinier 34).
  2. The hardy evergreen vegetation, which has also been affected by anthropogenic factors, is found on the island mainly in the form of individual species or clusters, which in most cases have been penetrated by brushes. The characteristic species of maquis vegetation in Syros are the evergreen shrubs Juniperus phoenicea, Pistacia lentiscus, Quercus coccifera, Rubus ulmifolius, Ceratonia siliqua, Olea europaea var. sylvestris (wild olive tree), as well as the deciduous shrubs Anthyllis hermanniae, Calicotome villosa, Vitex agnus castus, Spartium junceum, Colutea arborescens, Genista acanthoclada, Pyrus spinosa (wild pear tree), and Asparagus acutifolius (horseradish). This maquis vegetation, according to the latest data, is a divided structure of Ceratonio-Rhamnion Oleoidis (Quezel & Barbero 1979, Papanicolaou & Sarlis 1991) (C: Quercetea ilicis, O: Pistacio-Rhamnetalia).
  3. Brushes, due to the Mediterranean climate, which favored their rapid spread, managed to occupy a large part of the island, especially the aforementioned areas, where maquis disappeared because of landscaping, overgrazing, wooding and other anthropogenic influences. Characteristic types of brushes found on Syros are Cistus incanus, C. salvifolius, Ballota acetabulosa, Phlomis fruticosa, Thymus capitatus (thyme), Sarcopoterium spinosum, Convolvulus oleifolius, Fumana thymifolia, Euphorbia acanthothamnos (phloem), Lavandula stoechas (wild lavender), Salvia verbenaca (sage), Micromeria juliana, Satureja thymbra and Teucrium polium, which form (from a plant-community point of view) plant communities of the union Coridothymion Oberd. 54 (C: Cisto-Micromerietea Oberd. 54, Ο: Cisto-Micromerietalia, Oberd. 54), as well as various phases thereof, such as the phase of Cistus incanus, Sarcopoterium spinosum, Thymus capitatus (Thyme ) and Phlomis fruticosa.
  4. Weeds, due to favorable conditions, are spreading extensively in Syros where they form a variety of plant communities. In terms of the biotope where they grow, we distinguish these weed plant communities into communities of crops, which are classified under Secalinetea Br.-Bl. 1951, and nitrophilous communities around the populated areas, which fall under the heading of Chenopodietea Br.-Bl. (1951) 1952. Moreover, weed communities of both types form inside the curbs along the roadways, rural roads and paths.

From the above mentioned, it is noted that the flora and vegetation of Syros have suffered severe deterioration over time. The intense anthropogenic effects in the past, fires, landscaping, overgrazing, wooding for domestic needs, modern unregulated building and construction on the island, unregulated summer tourism, marine and terrestrial pollution have left their traces visible. All the above, combined with the unfavorable ecological conditions, especially the strong winds and the small annual rainfall, caused the deterioration of the flora and vegetation of the island, the destruction of certain biotopes, the transformation of the woody plant communities into a dwarf and sparse form with intense erosion, which in many sloping areas reaches the point of revealing the rock matrix.

Plants suitable for planting in salty soils

Ecological form of development Scientific name Common name Characteristics
Perennial Arundo donax Cane Robust in the wind, suitable for wind breakers.
Bush Atriplex halimus sea orache (Mediterranean salty bush) Tolerant to dry locations.
Bush Baccharishallimifolia Eastern baccharis Tolerant to sea water droplets.
Perennial Carpobrotus acinaciformis Elands Sourfig Tolerant to sea water droplets.
Bush Cassia marylandica Wild senna Sensitive to the sea water droplets.
Bush Coronilla sp. κορονίλλα Suitable for stony inclined locations.
Tree Elaeagnus angustifolia Russian olive Tolerant to the winds.
Tree Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Suitable for tree rows and protection of cultivated areas sensitive to wind.
Annual herbaceous Kochia trichophylla Summer cypress Water demanding.
Perennial Mesembrianthemumsp. Ice plant Tolerant to sea water droplets.
Bush Myoporum leatum Mousehole tree Tolerant to sea water droplets.
Bush Nerium oleander oleander Suitable for maintenance of soils and tolerant to sea water droplets.
Tree Pinus halepensis Pine tree Suitable for rocky and unfertile ground.
Tree Pinus pinea Parasol pine Suitable for rocky and unfertile ground.
Bush Pistacia lentiscus Mastic tree Suitable for soil maintenance.
Bush Plumbago capensis Blue plumbago Suitable for dry and rough areas.
Bush Rhamnus alaternus Mediterranean buckthorn Tolerant to sea water droplets.
Tree Tamarix parviflora Salt cedars Tolerant to sea water droplets.
Bush Vitex agnus-castus Chaste tree Suitable for soil maintenance.
Tree Zizyphus vulgaris Indian jujube Very tolerant to dry locations.

Restoring the island’s vegetation requires long-term planning and high costs. For this reason, efforts should be made to prevent or at least curb further damage. Below are some points that, if adopted and implemented, will contribute not only to the protection and enhancement of the flora, vegetation and soil of Syros, but also to its ecological upgrading in general.

  1. Plant native species of pinus halepensis (pines) and Juniperus phoenicea in various places to create shrub communities, but not as to disturb the landscape. Set up, in coastal locations, Pinus pinea, Tamarix sp. as well as other species suitable for saline soils and resistant to sea water, in order to create protective blankets to preserve the coastal terrain (Table 7).
  2. Places of unfavorable ecological conditions can be replanted with dry bush species of the Syros flora, especially with brushes, most of which are beekeeping plants such as Thymus capitatus, Lavandula stoechas, Phlomis fruticosa, Teucrium divaricatum, T. polium, Genista acanthoclada, Sarcopoterium spinosum and Satureja thymbra. This will also enrich the areas suitable for bees benefiting the beekeeping on the island. Still various trees and shrubs suitable for coastal areas should be planted (Table 8).
  3. Establish local (municipal, community) nurseries for the production of abundant material for the replanting of the above-mentioned species of the Syros flora, especially those that propagate with roots and have a rich root system suitable for soil retention.
  4. Municipalities and Communities must create tree rows, small arboreta or small botanical gardens, depending on the available spaces, and preserve the existing ones.
  5. Create green places around schools, playgrounds, churches, preserved houses and other buildings, even protecting, preserving and harnessing sites of historical importance such as Chalandriani with the prehistoric necropolis, Kastri with the small acropolis of the Early Cycladic era, Platy Vouni, the bay of Grammata and the cave of Pherecides. Of course, water is the most serious limiting factor in plant growth on the island. That’s why any attempt at tree or shrub planting must have allowed for water and care for 2-3 years after planting. Thus, the above efforts should be carried out both by the inhabitants of the island (in gardens, courtyards, sidewalks) as well as by the local bodies (Municipalities, Communities, Schools, etc.), based on some well-planned program. Still under the dry conditions of the island, with the use of minimal water, especially in the first stage of planting, the following could and should be cultivated: Ficus carica (fig), Prunus amugdalus var. sativa (almond), Punica granatum (pomegranate), Vitis vinifera c.v. (vines), as well as aromatic, medicinal and flavoring species like Artemisia absinthium (capsicum), Capparis sp. Chamomilla recutita, Coriandrum sativum, Cumin cyminum, Foeniculum vulgare (anise), Jasminum grandiflorum (jasmine), Lavandula hybrida (lavender), Mentha spicata (mint), Myrtus communis (myrtle ), Ocimum basilicum (royal jelly), Origanum dictamnus (dittana), O. majorites (oregano), Pelargonium roseum, Pimpinella anisum, Ricinus communis, Rosmarinus officinalis ), Rubus sp (wad), Salvia s.p. (sage) and Styrax officinalis.
  6. Protect certain biotopes, especially beaches with sandy plant species, which will disappear completely, if the unregulated construction of hotels and tourist centers, sand removal and various abuses by the bathers continue.
  7. Protect the island’s wildlife and fauna. Syros has always been of particular importance to migratory birds as well as to birds that either lived permanently there or fled to seek out their food, lay their eggs, or spend the winter. The information of the founding on the island of a bird breeding facility finds us totally in agreement, as this is a positive step for the protection of the Syros birdlife.
  8. The free grazing of sheep and goats should be forbidden for at least 4-5 years, and afterwards grazing should be rationally managed to maintain and increase the productivity of the ecosystems of the island and to ensure their ecological balance.
  9. Establish and maintain restrictions on the construction and land parsing, in particular a well-thought distribution of land uses should be implemented in combination with the sustainable management of renewable natural resources with the consensus of all the inhabitants of the island.
  10. Protect the land, especially the marine space around the island and in the port of Ermoupolis, both from residential waste and from shipyard waste. Still, must prevent the establishment of an industry along the coasts of the harbor, which would contaminate the area even further with its waste. At this point, the establishment of a biological waste water treatment plant in the city could be proposed, the operation of which would be ensured by the use of solar and wind energy.

Finally, a variety of events, such as lectures, film screenings, exhibitions, seminars, public debates, etc., are proposed to raise awareness among the public and authorities on the protection and enhancement of the various ecosystems of the island. In addition, we propose inclusion of environmental education at all levels in school, the creation of school gardens, the use of youth in earthworks, according to the instructions of the appropriate authorities, the organization of an educational ecological summer camp, and the creation of a small modern Museum of Natural History training students and adults, as well as being a pole of attraction for Syros’ guests.

Source: Syros Letters vol. 26-27, 1994


Translated by Constantine Hatziadoniu

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