LESBOS — Steps taken to protect the unique fossil remains at the Lesbos Petrified Forest Geopark from grazing have helped create another valuable resource to draw visitors – a protected habitat for a rich variety of endemic plant life, including the rare endemic orchid Ophrys lesbis, which is found only on the island and nearby Chios.
The fencing about the Bali Alonia location has turned the spot into a veritable botanical paradise, as a wide variety of wild local plants go into bloom, around the massive fossilised tree trunks of sequoia and pine that date back 18 million years.
"The Museum of Natural History of the Lesbos Petrified Forest with exceptional care, with the scientific support of the University of the Aegean and researchers of Lesbos flora, in collaboration with the Lesbos Forestry Directorate is setting in motion new actions for the protection and promotion of this unique wealth that can be used to attract researchers and nature watchers throughout Europe, as it combines many advantages that allow safe access and observation of wild flora by park visitors via the implementation of measures to prevent grazing within the park, protection and observation of the plant population in order to ensure the health and sustainability of this rare habitat," said the museum director Nikos Zouros.
He said the fencing put around the park 27 years ago, separating the expanse from the grazing lands all around, has made it the largest habitat of the Lesbos orchid, which is one of the most distinctive species of orchid in Greece.
Orchid expert Yiannis Karatzas said the size of the orchid population was extraordinary, greatly exceeding anything he had seen before: "I have been studying the orchids of Lesbos since 1979. Always, the populations of this plant Ophrys Lesbis, until recently endemic to Lesbos, did not exceed 15 individuals in one area. Here we are talking about hundreds."
The park was also home to many other orchid species in high numbers, he added, which came into bloom between February and until May-June.