Wildflowers in Etruscan places at Easter

The Italians aren’t great walkers; we learnt that soon after coming to live in Italy. Footpaths are rare, where they exist there are seldom signposts and more often than not they are overgrown! To start with I couldn’t understand why but slowly I realised that in winter it was bitingly cold (often) and in summer the beach is much more appealing when it is too hot to do more than sit under a large umbrella.

But we like walking and I also wanted to see the wild flowers to help me understand what grows naturally here. Then we also developed an interest in visiting the numerous Etruscan necropoli in the area. Most are completely abandoned, the archaeologists having done their work of recording their contents and the choice items having been sent to museums locally and internationally the areas are left untouched. BUT slowly the local councils have realised that they have a great incentive for tourists to visit the area, buy quality local produce and use restaurants, hotels etc. So the areas where the tombs are situated often have footpaths to them, usually reasonably signposted and generally the paths are trodden enough to keep them open ah! the perfect place to walk.

Add to this the fact that the areas are not farmed, no sprays are used; you have the perfect place to see native flowers growing as they should in perfect harmony.

Across the ravine tombs? or earlier cave dwellings?  But notice the carving along the top of the rocks making a cornice

Across the ravine tombs? or earlier cave dwellings? But notice the carving along the top of the rocks making a cornice

The 'T' carved into the rock marks the place of a tomb, an entrance to the after-life

The ‘T’ carved into the rock marks the place of a tomb, an entrance to the after-life

Stairs lead to a (usually) covered area where feasts to honour the dead were held, other steps lead down to the tomb itself

Stairs lead to a (usually) covered area where feasts to honour the dead were held, other steps lead down to the tomb itself

One of the first books I read after arriving here was DH Lawrence’s ‘Etruscan Places’ in the first chapter he describes arriving at Cerveteri and finding many plants new to him he asked the children who were guiding him “What’s this” pointing at a flower. He was told, as I have since been told “It’s a flower”; the knowledge of the majority hasn’t changed much in a hundred years and only slowly are Italians learning to love their own countryside and to perceive it to be alien.

So on Easter Sunday we had the place to ourselves and were thrilled to find three different species of orchid. On a board describing the wildlife the orchids present are Orchis coriophora, Ophrys apifera and Orchic papillionacea. Having looked in my wildflower book I’m afraid I can’t say with any certainty that these are what we saw! So I’m not much better informed than Lawrence’s boys of so long ago.

The beautifully marked foliage of Cyclamen hederafolium formed part of the vegetation and the flowers of Cyclamen Coum were everywhere. There were tufted hyacinth, scabious, tree heathers, and many flowers that I haven’t yet identified. Click on the image below to see and maybe help me ID the flowers that we saw.

Lovely combination of wild flowers, we can learn so much from nature's planting

Lovely combination of wild flowers, we can learn so much from nature’s planting



27 thoughts on “Wildflowers in Etruscan places at Easter

  1. I’m glad that you were able to get out into the countryside for a walk, all the wild flowers you saw are amazing. I can’t help with any identification I’m afraid, apart from that I think your cyclamen might be Cyclamen repandum. I’ve been and checked with mine in the garden and the flowers and leaves are exactly the same. Lovely heart shaped patterned leaves and longer petals than C coum with a twist at the tips.

  2. A lovely post, Christina. I love a bit of botanizing combined with some history. Those Etruscan tombs are wonderful..By coincidence I am reading D H. Lawrence’s ‘Twilight in Italy’ at the moment. I love your flicker slide show but I don’t know how to slow it down to get a proper look. At a glance I see that your first photo is Tordylium apulum, when I saw it last year in Greece I thought that it was Orlaya.. You have Muscari comosum, and the blue lupin: Lupinus angustiflolius. I also spotted the red sweet pea: Lathyrus clymenium. Several orchids including a Serapias. Lovely Cyclamen repandum and there was a meadow clary: Salvia pratensis. The last one was Ornithagalum umbellatum which is a pest in my garden but lovely in the wild.
    Lots of lovely wild flowers, what a delight. Thank you for sharing them.

    • Thank you Liz, that’s perfect! I do usually look them all up but I’ve been short of time this week! I’m glad you enjoyed some of the history of this area; I love being places that were inhabited by the etruscans 2000 years ago. I imagine them using the hot springs and walking along the roads they constructed and that I still use.

  3. What an amazing sense of history your area has, even if it’s not loudly celebrated. I was almost a little disappointed in the single wildflower picture and then realized I needed to click on the picture for the slideshow…. I’m not that quick, even though it says to do so right there in print!
    You found quite a few orchids after all, I always imagine them needing more moisture, but I guess the family is so diverse there’s one adapted to every nook and cranny. Sorry I don’t know any names, there do seem to be plenty of bulbs though, I guess that’s a handy way to weather out the dry spells.

  4. a lovely post of history and flora Christina, I think of the people who live there when visiting historic sites, there is such a large range of plants and flowers in the countryside around you, no wonder you can grow such a wide range of plants in your garden, I am sorry I do not know the names of any of them, until I had a garden I only knew common names of the few plants I did know, so not much better than Lawrence’s children, Frances

  5. Oh Christina, I had to chuckle!!! Same thing happened to me in the desert when I asked our guide -fascinated by the albeit sparse flora- for the name of the plants: “Some sort of a wild plant” (LOL). I love wildflowers and find the encounters with them always inspiring. Is that Euphorbia and Muscari on the main image? Wonderful flowers…love the blue lupins, lots of orchids too – I have to come back again to check them out! Thanks for that 🙂

  6. Such a lot of beautiful wild flowers. I’ve never seen lupins in the wild and it was lovely to see the masses of cyclamen. It’s good to think that these tombs will protect the wild flowers and also provide you with interesting walks! Amelia

  7. What gorgeous flowers and photos, Christina – and it must have been wonderful seeing them all in the wild like that. I was intrigued to hear about the cyclamen, as I would have expected it to be too late in the year for them, particularly in your climate

  8. I enjoyed the slideshow again – you certainly saw a lot of beautiful wild flowers – many are familiar, but a lot aren’t, so I probably can’t help with I.D. either. On my walks by our canal I have often wondered why I hardly ever meet anyone – just a few touring cyclists – but I’m so glad as it means less disturbance and more pleasure for me!

    • Yes the plus side is that the flowers aren’t disturbed, some of the orchids were right on the path so not many people can have walked there or they would have been trampled.

  9. What an amazing place to have on your doorstep! (I’m assuming it’s close?) So beautifully untouched and seeped in history. I imagine it to be very peaceful and quiet. And what an array of wild flowers – Nature at her best. A lovely way to spend a sunny day!

  10. Christina, I opened your lovely post earlier today and could not see you pictures on flicker and I still cannot tonight, I think its because our download speed is so slow which is very disappointing. There are a couple of sites, Plantlife and BSBI gives a link to the Italian botanical society under abroad. You are quite right natures planting has much to teach gardeners.

  11. How beautiful, such rich variety, and glorious colours too. I am no help at all on the identification front though. I’m glad the Italians are catching on that the wild places have a value too, maybe you will see an increase in the number of well marked footpaths.

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