Lemnos presents special geographical, biogeographical and ecological interest. The island conserves a high-level ecological value, based on a variety of natural vegetation formations but chiefly on human-made habitat types such as of arable and pastoral farmland. More than other Aegean islands, Lemnos with its extensive fertile plains and its geographical position has been a focus of arable farming since historic times and was an important part of the so-called “grain-route” across the Aegean Sea.
Plant life and wild herbs of the island are being studied since 1943. A total of 832 flora species were recorded on the island by previous expeditions before the start of the Terra Lemnia project. The Terra Lemnia recordings of 2018 and 2019 have added another 76 species, raising the total number of flora species to 908; this number is expected to increase, as there are still some more plant taxa to be recognized by the botanist team during the following period.
In parallel, other experts, forming the Terra Lemnia Biodiversity Core Group have been studying the status quo of Lemnos’ insects, birds and soils. The aim of this extensive recording has been not only to enrich the knowledge base for Lemnos’ biodiversity, but also to assess the impacts of different land use practices to biodiversity, soils and landscape, setting the basis for establishing a long-term monitoring system with the use of the so-called “bio-indicator” species. Bio-indicator species are indicative of traditional, low-input, farming methods and their presence is associated with the existence of many other species of biodiversity (plants, insects, birds, soil micro-fauna). Therefore, monitoring their presence across arable and pastoral lands of Lemnos is a relatively easy and practical method to assess the overall ecological status of the island’s agro-ecosystems and evaluate the environmental performance of the local farming sector. The list of bio-indicator species of Lemnos will be finalized this year and will be used as the backbone of the monitoring system that will be established in collaboration with local stakeholders in the second phase of the Terra Lemnia project.
The identified plant species belong in different categories. Wild arable plants (found in cultivated or fallow fields), wild rangeland plants (found in natural grasslands), wild ruderal plants (found in disturbed environments), crop wild relatives (wild relatives of cultivated species), insect-pollinated plants (commonly visited by insects for pollen or nectar) and crop plant species, where emphasis is placed on landraces. Some categories are not mutually exclusive, e.g. a wild arable plant may also be insect-pollinated. Nevertheless, the existence of many of these plants primarily relies on the conservation of traditional, low-input, farming methods which are practiced on Lemnos even today.
Several plant species are edible and they are wild harvested by the locals, to be consumed either as salad (“chorta”), or as filling for pies, such as “tsourekoudia’”, which is a type of braided pie. Other herbs, which cannot be eaten fresh, are pickled. According to recordings carried out by the Terra Lemnia agronomist team, the main species consumed as warm (boiled) or cold (raw) salad are “kafkalithres” (Tordylium apulum), “grouves” or “tsimpstia” (Sinapis sp.), “kotsinades” or “koutsounades” (Papaver rhoeas), “galatsithres” (Reichardia picroides), “pentanevro” (Plantago lagopous), “xinithres” (Oxalis sp.), “molocha” or “dentromolocha” (Malva sp.), “praso” (Allium ampeloprasum), “askordoulakos” or “askordelas” (Muscari comosum), “glistrides” or “trivlides” (Portulaca oleracea), “skombrogouli” or “sprogouli” (Scolymus hispanicus).
Other plants have pharmaceutical values and have been used for years as remedies by the locals. The vast majority of these medicinal plants are harvested from the wild, they are dried and brewed like tea. According to recordings carried out by the Terra Lemnia agronomist team, the main ones are “fliskouni” (Mentha pulegium), “malathro” (Foeniculum vulgare), “rigani” (Origanum vulgare), “tsouknida” (Urtica sp.), “agoudouras” or “spathochorto” or “valsamochorto” (Hypericum sp.), “aghriokardamo” (Capsella bursa – pastoris), “flamouria” (Tilia tomentosa), “chamomili” (Matricaria recutita), “matzourana” (Origanum marjoram), “agriada” (Cynondon dactylon) and “chamokissaros” (Cistus creticus). Some medicinal plants are also cultivated in pots, or in gardens, like “menta” (Mentha sp.), “dyosmos” (Mentha spicata), “louiza” (Aloysia citriodora), “anitho” (Anethum graveolens), “selino” (Apium graveolens), “maidanos” (Petroselinum crispum), origanum, thyme, basil, hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), “dentrolivano” (Rosmarinus officinalis) and “levanta” (Lavandula sp.).