The habitats of Mt. Ainos

The forest of Abies cephalonica J.W. Loudon

As is apparent, the Cephalonian Fir received its name from the island of Cephalonia,because the species specimens, which were used for its scientific description as a new species, came from Mt. Aenos of Cephalonia. Specifically in 1824, the English General Charles James Napier, Governor of Cephalonia (1822-30), sent Fir seeds from Mt. Aenos to his friend L. Long, who cultivated them. Later, Long received from another source a branch of Fir from Mt. Aenos, with numerous mature cones. Based on the above material, J.W. Loudon (1838) described the Fir of Mt. Aenos as a new species for the Botanical Science under the name Abies cephalonica.The most characteristic morphological features of this species are the following: Needles rigid, acute 18-30x1.8-2.5 mm in length, spirally arranged. Upper surface dark green and flat, whilst the surface below keeled with two white, parallel bands. Cones cylindrical, erect, brownish-green 12-20 cm in length. They mature by the end of autumn and then disintegrate, dispersing their seeds. It blooms during Mayand June. The height of the tree reaches 15-25 rarely exceeding 30 m, with horizontal branches and a conical crown.

The black Pine (Pinus nigra) trees of Mt. Ainos

The black Pine (Pinus nigra) is a polymorphic species, divided into many subspecies. It is a tall tree, the height of which usually reaches 20-40 m and in rare cases 45 m (Pindos variety). Needles in pair, 8-15 cm in length, dark green, rigid, persisting for 4-6 years. Cones ovoid, 5-8 cm in length, vertically oriented towards the branches ingroups of 2-4, lacking a peduncle, shiny and yellowish-brown. They mature in October-November during the second year after blooming. The seeds are dispersed during the next spring (March-April) (according to Dafis 2010). The black Pine forms small stands, temporarily mixed with Fir and Beech, and permanently mixed with Heldreich Pine in N. Pindos and Mt. Olympos. It occurs at an altitude of 1,800 m in all continental Greece, on the Aegean Islands of Lesvos, Thasos and Samos, as well as on the island of Cephalonia. A few years ago, it was first announced that 5 individuals of Pinus nigra subsp. nigra were found amidst the forest of Abies cephalonia in the core of the National Park of Mt. Aenos (Efthymiatou Katsouni & Phitos 2011). It was the first time that the presence of the said Pinus subspecies was verified not only for Cephalonia, but also for the Ionian Islands in whole. Since then and following an extensive investigation by the personnel of the Management Body of the National Park of Mt. Aenos, 63 additional individuals were recorded within the boundaries of the National Park, thus today a total of 68 individuals of the said subspecies are known to exist (Xanthakis & al. 2015).

Eu-Mediterranean vegetation zone (Quercus ilex & Q. coccifera)

The Eu-Mediterranean zone of vegetation occurs in coastal regions of western, northeastern and eastern Greece, from sea level to various altitudes in different locations. For instance, in northern Greece it reaches an altitude of 300 m, in Crete it reaches up to 1,000-1,500 m, while in western Greece and specifically in Cephaloniait usually reaches 900-1,000 m. In this zone Quercus ilex is or, formerly, was thedominant species, accompanied by Q. coccifera. The climate in the regions of this zone is typical Mediterranean with autumn and winter rains, a prolonged dry season, with a mild winter and a hot summer. Precisely because of the particularly mild climate of this zone and the easy access to the sea routes, the Greek civilisation flourished from prehistoric times till today. This region was inhabited by the majority of the population of Greece and at the same time its forests suffered from the most extensive damage.

Evergreen-sclerophyllous shrubs

Today, the typical vegetation of the Mediterranean region, which has largely replaced the primeval forests of Quercus, are various forms of bushy vegetation. It is the formation of evergreen-sclerophyllous shrubs, adapted to the Mediterranean climate, which feature relatively small, leathery leaves, coated with waxy substances, stomata sunk in cavities and, generally, a structure that reduces the great loss of water during dry periods. This vegetation consists, typically, of the species Arbutus unedo, A.andrachne, Myrtus communis, Olea europaea subsp. oleaster, Phillyrea latifolia, Pistacialentiscus, Quercus coccifera, Erica arborea etc. Under favourable conditions - mainly of increased humidity - this vegetation becomes tall and forms dense and impassable stands, whereupon it is given the name "macchie" (from the French term maquis: dense, bushy vegetation). Therefore, the term macchie describes the formation of evergreen-sclerophyllous shrubs, 1.5 m in height, densely growing, with an aerial part, which, usually, is not clearly differentiated into trunk and foliage.