December 1, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

A flower that grows only on the Acropolis of Athens

Among the rocky rocks of the Athens Acropolis you can find a small plant with soft pink flowers – Micromeria acropolitana.

Its height is only five to thirty centimeters (up to 12 inches), so you can walk past it and not even notice it. Meanwhile, this modest flower, loved by both the Greeks and botanists, has an interesting history. This unassuming but beautiful plant is completely unique because it grows only on the Acropolis – the ancient Athenian hill where the Parthenon, the most iconic structure in the history of Western civilization, is located.

The flower blooms in May all over the Acropolis hill

Micromeria acropolitana blooms every year from May to June, when its beautiful flowers appear and dot the rocks of the Acropolis with hints of pink. The plant is believed to live on an ancient hill, which from time immemorial served as the center of political, spiritual and social life of the ancient Athenians.

Discovery of Micromeria acropolitanus on the Acropolis
The plant was discovered in the summer of 1906 by two French botanists, René C.J.E. Mayer and Marcel G.K. Petitmengin, and included in their work “In Acropoli Athenarum”.

Micromeria acropolitana was first scientifically classified just two years later by the Austrian botanist Eugen von Halaxy, who described it as “Micromeria athenae” and then changed its modern name to “Micromeria acropolitana” in his text “Conspectus Florae Graecae”.

Oddly enough, the plant died out soon after its discovery, but in 2006, a hundred years later, it reappeared on the Acropolis. In 1981, at a time when the plant was considered extinct, it was included in the official catalog of protected plants of Greece by presidential decree.

Greek biologist Grigoris Tsounis, together with his son Lambros, was the first to rediscover this supposedly extinct plant in 2006. The couple came across a secluded corner of the Acropolis where more than two hundred plants flourished. For several years they returned to this place to care for the plants.

Three years later, in 2009, Danish biologist Dr. Keith Tan, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, confirmed that the plants they were tending were indeed the famous Micromeria acropolitana. This confirmation meant that the unique plant was indeed not extinct, but was thriving in its natural ecosystem – the Athenian Acropolis (meaning the area around the sacred rock).

The location of the plant remains secret so as not to disturb the sensitive flora. Although the plant can be found throughout the Acropolis – it is in this hidden place that the endangered Micromeria acropolitana thrives undisturbed.

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