The endemic succulents of Cyprus

Author: Apostolou Stavros
Photos: George Konstantinou & Apostolou Stavros

The geographical position of Cyprus and the existence of many kinds of habitat (sandy and rocky shores, wetlands, scrub, fields, half-deserted non-cultivated and rocky areas, forests, etc.) has resulted a rich variety of flora on the island.
Within this rich variety of flora there is a large number of endemic species.
When we say that a plant species is endemic to a region, we mean that it grow only in this region and nowhere else.
Endemic are an important class of species because they can be found only in a limited area and give us information about the past and its specific ecological factors.
In Cyprus we meet many kinds of succulents from families such as Aizoaceae, Crassulaceae and Euphorbiaceae but even some succulents with caudex like Euphorbia dimorphocaulon and Dioscorea communis.
Of these six species are endemic and a near-endemic.
The endemic succulents of Cyprus come from the Crassulaceae and Euphorbiaceae families, which we will see below, these are:
Rosularia pallidiflora (Holmboe) Meikle
Sedum cyprium A.K.Jacks. & Turrill
Sedum eriocarpum Sibth. & Sm. ssp. porphyreum Kotschy ex. Boiss
Sedum lampusae (Kotschy) Boiss
Sedum microstachyum (Kotschy) Boiss
Euphorbia veneris M.S.Khan
and as near-endemic Euphorbia dimorphocaulon P.H.Davis ( which can also be found in Greece (Crete) and Turkey (Anatolia).
Most endemic species can be found on various sites of Mt. Pentadaktilon and Mt. Troodos.

We meet beautiful succulents of the Crassulaceae family.
The Rosularia pallidiflora is encountered on limestone rocks and walls in the northern part of Cyprus in altitude from 750 to 1000 meters. It is a rare, perennial, endemic species with flowering stems that reach upto 15cms from April to July.

There are four endemic species of the Sedum genus on the island:
The Sedum cyprium is a succulent which makes a dense rosette with branched inflorescence pyramid from 10 to 30 centimeters. Its flowers have greenish or reddish color and appear from June to September. This species is locally very common in rock crevices and walls in the areas of Mt. Troodos and Mt. Akamas.

The Sedum eriocarpum ssp. Porphyreum is herbaceous annual succulent with white, pink or red flowers from March to May. This species is very common in rocky areas, from 0 το 600 meters in the areas of Akamas and Pentadaktylos.

The Sedum lampusae is a succulent loosely rosette-forming, reminiscent of a Rosularia. Leaves obovate-spathulate, shortly pointed to 5 by 2cm. Inflorescences soon become bare of leaf, pyramidal with many erect branches. Pedicels longer than the yellow to reddish flowers.

The Sedum microstachyum is similar to S. lampusae but the inflorescence has a distinct peduncle and is narrow like an ear of corn, pedicels as long or longer than the flowers. Leaves linear-spathulate, very blunt. 2.5 by 1mm, with soft glandular hairy. The inflorescence has a distinct stalk above the rosettes. This we can see at northern side of the Mt Troodos range.

One of the Euphorbia family endemic species is Euphorbia veneris (Aphrodite's Spurge), a striking plant that only grows in rocky areas, firewood, pine forests and slopes of roads in Mt Troodon (600-1.700 m) and was named after the goddess Aphrodite.
It's a perennial herb totaling 15-30 cm. Its leaves are in aqua-green colors and its flowers in reddish or yellowish glands. Blooms from February to June.

Belonging to the same family, Euphorbia dimorphocaulon a near-endemic species , which can also be found in Greece and Turkey.
The Euphorbia dimorphocaulon is a caudex plant (root-expanded) and named (dimorphocaulon) after Latin “strain in two forms”. This species first displays flowering stems, and then the leaves stems, and can be found almost across Cyprus except Karpasia and a few areas of Nicosia and Famagusta.

Non-endemic species of succulents encountered on Cyprus are:

Aizoaceae > Aizoon
Aizoon Hispanicum
Aizoaceae > Mesembryanthemum
M. crystallinum
M. nodiflorum
Crassulaceae > Sedum
S. aetnense
S. caespitosum
S. litoreum
S. microcarpum
S. rubens
S. sediforme
Crassulaceae > Rosularia
R. globulariifolia
Crassulaceae > Umbilicus
U. horizontalis
U. rupestris
Dioscoreaceae > Dioscorea
Dioscorea communis

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© Apostolou Stavros

Sedum lampusae