Showing posts from March, 2017

The Sweet Smell of Rain

Ah, the sweet, rich smell of rain. That distinctive scent wafting up our nostrils comes from a naturally occurring plant oil that is absorbed by soil and rocks during dry periods. When rain falls, the oil is released into the air along with an organic compound called geosmin that's produced by the bacteria in wet soil. It’s this combination that creates that clean, earthy, “just-rained smell”. Rain itself has no odour. Even acid rain looks and smells just like the normal kind.

We’ve had rather a lot of rain recently but before we go down and see what effect it has had on our stream I noticed this little patch of ground when we emerged onto the track last week. It is regularly cultivated later in the spring but let’s have a look and see what’s taken hold before the rotavator moves in. Plenty of Wood Sorrell here at our feet and some stands of White Mustard in front of the Date Palms but just check out these little pink flowers. These are Small Herb Robert and they are certainly attr…

Tales of the Riverbank

If we just push our way through these giant canes we should find the…splash! I’ve found the water; my right foot has at any rate. I’ve also found a rather interesting character wandering over this rock here. An eight legged arachnid but not a spider. She is one of the hard backed ticks (like books, they come in hard back and soft back) and I think that she’s a Brown Dog Tick. Although they prefer dogs as hosts (and we have plenty of hunting dogs in this area) they will take blood from any mammal including us. As she can host bacteria that would result in us catching Mediterranean spotted fever she is best avoided – like the plague as it were. I think we’ll press on.
This looks like a nice spot to sit and rest for a while with a little waterfall gurgling beside us. I don’t see any ticks about and fortunately they are not particularly numerous so let’s probe about in the leaf litter and see who’s at home. Ah, a tiny, bright red, harmless bug. Very small, very colourful and very…

To St. John’s Ford

Here we are below the Milonas waterfall and the cataract is still tumbling down through the rocks sounding like a symphony of swirling streams. A veritable jungle of giant cane and oleander surround us and up among the rocks small flowers like this Algerian Iris are taking advantage of every crack and crevice that holds a modicum of soil.  Not only is it a ridiculously pretty little flower but its rhizomes - the underground stems - contain some useful compounds (Kaempferol and 8-Methoxyeriodictyol if you're into phytochemistry), both of which are important in the fight against diabetes and a wide range of cancers[1].

It looks as though machetes will be needed to get through this next bit so I think we’ll take a detour up over the bank. With the temperatures now in the upper twenties Celsius and wall-to-wall sunshine the insects are anticipating next week’s spring equinox. The hairy Tropinota Beetles are all over the place and this one is gorging himself on a Cretan Cistus. Some ins…

The Milonas Waterfall of Crete

We seem to have emerged from the woods unscathed and the waterfall now lies directly ahead of us. We’ve had to take quite a detour to get around those imposing cliffs but it should be quite a gentle stroll today (famous last words) with plenty of opportunities to look about us. Let’s start with a few flowers that are heralding the arrival of spring later this month. In the shade of the rocks among the pine litter we have the white nodding heads of the Cretan Sowbread which is a type of Cyclamen; the yellow Fumana, a type of rock rose which we saw budding a few weeks back, is now in full flower; and our first orchid of the season: The Fan Lipped Orchid. 
Many flowers have lovely scents to attract insect pollinators which we greatly appreciate but some, like this tree spurge here, have a pungent odour which we find somewhat off-putting. Some people have likened it to a decomposing corpse. Fortunately I have never had the experience of smelling a three day dead body so I can neither confi…