Greece may be a small country, but it is big on flora. It has the richest range of flora than any other European country, numbering more than 6,000 species. What is also surprising is that about 10 per cent are entirely unique. This means that they are only to be found in Greece and no-where else in the world!
Spetses contains a beautiful snapshot of many of these species and all year, evidence of this can be seen. Spring though, is when the island really comes alive. Every hillside, open space, courtyard and garden boasts a wide variety of plant life and colour is everywhere.
Two thirds of the island is covered in pine trees (mainly Aleppo Pine) belonging to the Anargyros Trust. In the hills, you can sometimes see small tins beneath the pines, collecting resin from cuts made in the trunk of the tree. This resin is used to make Retsina - the well known Greek wine. However, Retsina has lost popularity over recent years, with more upmarket Greek wines (made in vinyards from all over Greece) taking the market share.
On the sunny terraces in the hillsides, cereals, wild olives and almonds are cultivated and oranges, lemons, vines and loquats are grown in private courtyards and gardens. Spetses also has an abundance of fig trees, pistachios, oleander, myrtle, Carob and Chaste trees. A few imports from the past include Eucalyptus, Acacia and Melia, as well as Bougainvillea, Wisteria and Jacaranda.
There are far too many to list here, although it is important to note the wealth of aromatic herbs. These include thyme, marjoram, savory and rosemary (also Jerusalem Sage - although not used for cooking here).
As mentioned in the Geography section, it has been suggested that the island's abundance of aromatic herbs may have prompted the Venetians to name it Spetses, as spezie is the Italian word for spices.
Fauna describes the total number of animal species existing in one particular geographical area. These include vertibrates and invertibrates. Fauna in Greece has not been studied to the extent of other countries, but it is thought that there are approximately 50,000 species in total. About 25% of these are endemic to Greece.
An approximate breakdown of species would be as follows:
* Land and freshwater species - over 23,000
* Sea species - over 3,500
* Insects make up the rest of the species, including some that have been recorded, but not yet listed.
The main reasons for this biodiversity are:
* That Greece gave shelter to many of these (now endemic) species from Northern Europe, during the ice ages.
* The mild climate that permits insect activity during all of the year.
* Remote areas on the edges of peninsulas, where up to 45% of endemic species are found.
* The geographical position and the wide range of habitats and ecosystems existing in Greece, such as: wetlands; fertile shallows; old growth forests; caves; gorges; mountains and thousands of islands.
It goes without saying that urbanisation of particular areas means that certain species are on the edge of extinction or, have already become extinct.
There is no statistical evidence of species in Spetses available, but once again, as with flora, Spetses provides a healthy snapshot.