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Island of Korcula Flora and Fauna < back

The island of Korcula is classified, according to its size, as one of the large Adriatic islands while in terms of its geographic location it belongs to the group of southern Dalmatian islands. It is surrounded by numerous small islands. As for vegetational and bioclimatic aspects of the vegetation, the southern part of the island cluster of Korcula lies in the stenomediterranean-coastal belt. The vegetation is also partially in the epimediterranean vegetational zone of the Mediterranean mountain vegetational belt.

Korcula is the most densely wooded of the bigger Croatian islands; 61% of the total surface is under woodland. The rest of the surface comprises cultivated fields under olives, vines and other agriculture, and there is less than 5% of stony unusable land. The ship building tradition and its dependence on woo, as well as the lack of much cattle breeding, saved Korculas woodland. However, the forests lost their importance for their owners, so that many woodland paths are disappearing, together with other fire-brakes, so that fire is today the greatest hazard for Korcula forest lands.
The forests of Korcula consist mostly of Aleppo pine (pinus halepensis), coastal pine (pinus maritimus), black pine (pinus nigra), stone pine (pinus pinea), and the evergreen maritime oak Cesvina (quercus ilex). Wild olive (olea oleaster fiori) can also be found in the woods, as well as black ash (fraxinus ornus), prickly juniper (juniperus oxycedrus) and others. Numerous cypress trees (cypressus sempervirens) can be found near villages and roads. quite a large part of the surface area is covered by dwarf vegetation known as maquis. Maquis comprises bushes of stunted coastal oak and juniper as well as arbutus (arbutus unedo), myrtle (myrtus communis), European holly (phyllirea latifolia), heath (erica arborea) and other species. Arbutus (the strawberry tree) predominates in the maquis with its white flowers and sweet brilliant red fruit. Trees and bushes of cultivated bay (laurus nobilis) can be found near settlements and in courtyards. Medicinal and aromatic plants have great value: sage, rosemary, sweet marjoram, mint,. Many wild herbs such as Zutinica are gathered, cooked and eaten dreesed with olive oil. Mulberry-trees (white and black) were planted earlier for their valuable wood. The avenue of lime-trees in Blato is well-known. In more recent times, one notices in Korcula many decorative trees, bushes and flowers such as palms, tamarisk, oleanders, agaves, cactuses, Bougainvilleas and others.
Beetles and other insects, also lizards and birds contribute to an exceptional richness of fauna. A particularly interesting lizard is cephalopod with stunted legs, which is mistaken by many with some of the snakes, but it is a timid lizard and useful to man. Birds are noumerous and the visitor can much enjoy their singing - and their flight over the dense woods and fertile fields. Large owls live in the pine trees, and among birds of prey there are hawks and falcons. The sea-gulls are an obligatory part of the Korcula landscape, and large flights of migratory birds arrive on the island during migration. Among mammals, besides the mongoose, martens, weasels and rabbits, especially interesting is jackal (cagalj), the last European animal of that genus (canis aureus) to be extant. From the beginning of the eighties, wild boars, have swum over to the Dalmatian islands in ever bigger numbers. They are very unpleasant nuisances for the peasants on the island who hunt them without regard to the close season. Amoung working animals, the islanders use donkeys and mules, and they also keep goats and a smaller number of sheep for meat and milk. Every peasant household breeds a few pigs. The sea around Korcula is rich in fish. One sights visitors specially enjoy is an encounter with dolphins. In 1994, after many years, the Mediterranean seal (monachus albiventer) has been seen in the waters of Skoji. While in a boat one can often see the flights of diving birds, and above the waves there are sometimes flying fish.

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Olive Oil and Olive Tree
Olive Tree
The Mediterranean people have considered olive oil as sacred for thousands years. The Old Egyptians believed that the goddess Isis transmitted the knowledge of growing and usage of olives to the people. In the Greek mythology the goddess Athens is mentioned as the one who conveyed this holy plant to the people, after she won in the competition among gods about who would introduce this most appreciated gift to the people. The Bible mentions the olive tree and olive oil on thousands of places, from usage of olive oil as fuel for lamps, anointment, or as a mean of payment. The farmers of the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean naturalized the wild olive tree around the year 4000 B.C., and with the production of olive oil they started two thousand years after that. The Fenitian trades transmitted the olive growing to Greece and Spain, and the Greek brought it to the Italian.
Pinus halepensis
Pinus halepensis
The pine tree (Pinus halepensis) is a distinctly Mediterranean variety. It is spread out in North Africa and in Europe from southeast Spain to the south of France, Italy and Croatia and to Greece, Israel and Jordan. In Croatia it grows naturally on the Dalmatian islands south of the town of Sibenik and along the coast south of the town of Split. As already mentioned the pine tree is being planted in crops, parks and set out in seedlings along the whole coastline of Croatia. It is worth mentioning that a similar kind is the Pinus brutia. Some scientists consider that the pinus brutia is only a sort of the Pinus halepensis. These two sorts of pine are being crossbred, but only when the Pinus brutia is taken from the female, and the Pinus halepensis from the male parent. The crossbreeding is taking over the characteristic of both parents, so that you never be a hundred percent certain that the tree you are looking at is a Pinus halepensis.
Cupressus sempervirens L.
Cupressus sempervirens L.
The cypress (Cupressus) has its Latin name from a young man who Apollo turned into a cypress, and from his name originates the Greek word Kyparissos. The common cypress is naturally spread out in North Iran, Asia Minor, on the islands of Cyprus and Crete, where from it spread out to the whole Mediterranean. In avarage it reachnes a hight between 20 and 30 meters, but there are species that have reached 52 meters high and over 3,20 diameters of its trunk. It reaches an age of over 1000 years. The cypress grows along the whole Adriatic coast; not onlyon the coastline, but far away in the inland, but bigger groups naturally sprout up trees can be found only on the island of Korcula and the peninsula Peljesac. The cypress has been celebrated in verse by many poets of different nations and all times, and it is the most beautiful ornament in front of old village churches, where it creates beautiful sights and reaches enormous dimensions. The cypress is a great ornament of many landscapes of the island of Korcula. Beautiful species grow on the island of Osjak, as well, where it together with the pine tree creates a magnificient park-forest. Its pyramidal form creates a characteristic physiognomy of that plant group and it fits perfectly in the ambience.
Viola blu
viola blu
The violet (Viola odorata or Viola blu) is a tiny plant that grows eyery year in authentic parts of Europe, Asia and North America. It was a Gods gift for the ancient Greek, and that is said in the legend, as well. It was created by Zeus, the supreme God of all Greek Gods. He fell in love with the beautiful nymph Io and to protect her from the anger of his jelaous wife Hera, he turned her into a cow. He ordered the nature (meadows) to grow a new flower that will feed it. He gave her the name Ion, in her honor, and in Greek it means violet. The Greek and the Romans discovered the madical worthiness of the violet, and even the father of medicine Hippocrates glorified its medical values, especially for the healing of headache, hangover and breathing difficulties. The violet was Napoleon Bonaparte favorite flower. He gave a bunch of violets to his wife Josephine as a gift for her birthday over the years, and before leaving in confinement to St. Helen, he picked some violets from her grave and carried them in a medallion around his neck until his death.
Mentha piperita L.
Mentha piperita L.
Mint has been used for many centuries. The name comes from the Greek legend of the nymph Minthe, who attracted the attention of Hades. Hades wife, the jealous Persephone, attacked Minthe and was in the process of trampling her to death when Hades turned her into the herb (and was ever sacred to him). A symbol of hospitality and wisdom, the very smell of it reanimates the spirit, Pliny tells us. Ancient Hebrews scattered mint on their synagogue floors so that each footstep would raise its fragrance. Ancient Greeks and Romans rubbed tables with mint before their guests arrive. The Romans brought mint and mint sauce to Britain. The pilgrims brought mint to the United States aboard the Mayflower. The Japanese have distilled peppermint oil for several centuries and the oil is further treated to produce menthol. The smell of mint is known to keep mice away and pennyroyal is also regarded as an effective insecticidal against fleas and aphids.Native to the Mediterranean, mint is now grown virtually worldwide. Spearmint is a herbaceous perennial growing as high as 1m (3 ft) with gray-green leaves and tiered clusters of small blue or purple flowers in spikes. Peppermint is a hybrid of spearmint with spikes of mauve flowers and red tinged leaves. Pennyroyal is a smaller plant with pink flowers. Mints thrive in cool and moist places but will grow virtually anywhere. Propagate by division, or transplant the underground runners. Mint can be very invasive in a garden. To dry, hang sprigs in bunches in a warm airy place.
Mediterranean Oak(Quercus ilex)
Mediterranean Oak (Quercus ilex)
The Evergreen, Holm, or Holly Oak is a tree that puzzles many folk at first sight, For it looks much like an enormous holly tree. A closer view, however, will show that its leaves, though evergreen, leathery, and dark in hue above, are white and hairy, not green and smooth, beneath; they are never prickly, though sometimes their edges are toothed; and the twigs are downy. The bark too differs, being black on young trunks, and dark grey, shallowly patterned into small squares, on older ones, whereas holly bark is always smooth and pale grey. The dark brown acorns, of course, reveal the helm oaks true relationship. They are borne in long, hard cups, and are themselves remarkably long and narrow, tapering to a point; they ripen in their first year. The flowers resemble those of the common oak, but the male catkins are greenish-white and rather short-stalked.
The evergreen oak is a characteristic tree of the macchi, or evergreen scrub of the Mediterranean countries, but it is quite hardy in the south and west of Britain. Slow growing, and rather tricky to transplant, it is used sometimes for ornament but mainly as a shelter tree; it stands up very well to strong sea winds. Each leaf endures two years, and there is a heavy fall of tough, brown, leathery leaves in May and June. Seedlings occasionally spring up spontaneously. The sapwood is white, and the heartwood dark brown, very hard, strong, heavy and durable. The timber is valued in its homeland, but too little grows here for it to be marketed.
Taken from British Trees by Edlin.
Agaves americana
Agave americana
Agaves Americana belongs to the family of Agavaceae and in the Mediterranean it established itself after it was brought from Mexico. The places were they grow must be sunny and half-shady. The agaves must get very old to become an 8 meters high flower pillar. Some say it takes 30 to 40 years, and some say it takes even 80 years. In any case, after blooming the main plant dies but it leaves enough offspring behind so that the cycle can repeat. Beside the kind of agaves with clear green leaves, there are also the ones with cream-white or yellow stripes or edges. The fat, fleshy leaves can grow even in a flower-pot on the balcony up to one meter high.
Ophrys Archipelagi
Ophrys Archipelagi
Korcula is an island that is situated in the Mediterranean climate area and its characteristics are a relatively richness of different plants. Among the different sorts of plants that were noticed on the island of Korcula so far, it is especially worth mentioning a sort of plant from the family of orchids ( Ophrys archipelagi). Vela Luka is mentioned as «Iocus classicus», respectively the place where the first example of the plant was found and used as a sample for the first description of its kind. The sample is being kept in the Botanic museum in Zurich. It is interesting to mention that the same sample was only found, except on the island of Korcula, in Italy on the peninsula Monte Gargano. At the end it should be emphasized that this kind of plant is spread on a very restrained area. This endemic example is visually very attractive and beautiful and it represents for sure a special botanic value. This endemic example of an orchid emphasizes Vela Luka as the place where it was first found and described and the island of Korcula, beside other, as an island where the nature is preserved and rich with rarities and special kinds of life and that is of great value that should be pointed out but also preserved.
Figs (Fichus carica)
Fichus carica - there are many sorts of figs, and the best known fig got its name after our sea - the Adriatic sort. This is a very old kind of fruit, that, upon the bible, descendsfrom the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve, apart from it that they used it probably for food, they made of its leaves in a particular moment clothes for themselves. The old Egyptians knew the fig as a distinctly nourishing plant, and the antique Greek not only relished its fruit, but also carried it on the first Olympic Games as a part of the trophy for their merit. As nourishment, the fig is a special fruit that is apart from it known for its medical features. Dry figs are rich source of different minerals, especially calcium (even 144mg in 100 grams) and phosphor, magnesium, mange, copper and iron. Apart from being rich with calcium and phosphor and the reciprocally proportion of this two minerals is ideal for the absorption of the mentioned minerals, so that dry figs are an excellent natural food that builds up and keeps the strength of the bones. Figs also contain a proportional ingredient of vitamins, and, thanks to its basic contain - carbohydrates, fibers, etc. figs are also very caloric. It is no wonder that in ancient times dry figs were used as a great part of the meals of the army of that time. There are also identified different kinds of photochemical in figs - polyphones, coumarone, bhensaldyhids, that have shown a particular activity against cancer cells, so that the fig is considered to be a good fruit with features that prevent cancer.
The Caper is a tropic and subtropical plant that grows in all hot parts of the world and it grows on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, as well. In our parts it grows in hidden and hot places and mostly it is wild growth on walls, cliffs and rocks, in stone, on all island and small islands of the middle and southern parts of the Adriatic coast. The flower buds (berries) made in vinegar is very popular as a vegetable or spice used in all cuisines. In ordinary earth it gives less tasty buds of poorer quality, and it does not grow at all in humid and colder countries. The stone-graveled land with chalky earth is the most suitable for caper growth.
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