Spring at Chios: 'Lalades' - The Wild Red Tulips

Spring at Chios Lalades the wild red tulips

Spring has arrived and our spirits have been lifted at the thought of the colourful wildflowers that flood Chios countryside. Spring at Chios is filled with colour and fragrance.

Chios Flora

Chios flora is different in the North of Chios to the flora the South of Chios.

The northern part of Chios is dominated by mountains and rocky soils where among it there are forests of pines, cypresses and plane trees but also pastures with oregano, thyme, sage.

The south of Chios is characterised by the cultivation of Skinos - evergreen shrubs that thrive only in the South.

The centre of the island, next to the city of Chios, is a plain area rich in water and fertile soil, where citrus fruits are grown!

The Lalades

Chios is internationally famous for its flora and wealth of wild flowers, as it not only has a wide variety of orchids (92 species) to be found, scattered over the island, but also wild tulips that we call "lalades."

Every year, around the end of March, in an area of central Chios, near the village Tholopotami, (meaning "blurred river") the lalades flower in March and April, flooding the meadows with a sudden flush of colour. The blooms however do not last long - only approximately 7 to 10 days.

During that period the colour red will dominate the green fields of the island. The olive and almond orchards of Chios islands are covered with the special Chios wild tulips, called lalades by the locals.

Visitors can enjoy the wildflowers of Chios all year round, including an impressive variety of flowers from late winter until early summer.

The tulips of Chios are part of the genus Tulip, which extends from Central Asia to the south-central and eastern regions of Europe (the genus numbers more than 100 species, 14 of which grow in Greece).

It has been said that the ‘tulip fever’ that gripped Holland in the 17th century came about as a result of the travels of a Dutch botanist, Carolus Clusius, in the 16th century and the collections of wild plants that he created. It is certainly known that Clusius was in Smyrna at the right time, but there does not seem to be any definite indication that either he or any other Dutch travellers collected bulbs from Chios, as has been claimed. Other collectors had certainly carried tulips to western Europe before Clusius.

The tulip was widely admired and cultivated throughout the Ottoman Empire . This is echoed in the local name for tulips, “lalades”, surely an appropriation of the Turkish word for the plant, “lale”.  The name "lalades" comes from the Persian word for tulip, “lale”, which has passed into Chios dialect through the Turkish language.

From the Botanist’s Perspective

The tulip that reddens the meadows of Chios is the Tulipa agenensis, while in Chios we find three other species of tulip. One species,  in fact, proudly boasts "striped" white-red flowers, while of the four species in total, only the T. Undulatifolia is indigenous to Chios.

Of the 250 species of orchids that exist in Europe, one can find 29 of them on Chios during spring!

The significant number of orchids that have been discovered in Chios is an example of the island’s rich flora. In 2002 and 2003 five new species were added. A lot of botanists have done research on the orchids of Chios and as a result Chios has received worldwide attention as one of the places of Europe that is richest in orchids.

Nowadays, the Municipality of Chios has taken an initiative to protect these rare flowers. In association with the Department of Environment of the Aegean University, research is being conducted on the possibility of preserving and extending the blooming period of the tulips.

As you can see, Chios is a year-round travel destination offering a different experience each time.

With thanks to Lena:

Adopt Chios Trees

Mobile: +306945994100

Website: www.adoptchiostrees.gr

Email: [email protected]

Address: Mesa Didima, 82102 Chios, Greece

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