Do volcanoes bloom?

A remarkable view welcomes spring visitors in the Aegean Archipelago. The usually arid, barren, rocky and treeless landscapes of the Cycladic islands are full of colours, senses and essences. This surprising image, in stark contrast to the expected summer scenery, is even more evident on the volcanic rocks on the two islets, Nea and Palia Kameni, within the caldera of Santorini.

The Volcano of Santorini is part of the Hellenic Volcanic Arc and is considered geologically active. The two islets, both named  Kamenes, constitute the top of the volcanic cone, that has emerged from the bottom of the caldera, as this was formulated during the great catastrophic Minoan eruption of ~1600 BCE, which had a volcanic explosivity index between 6 and 7 (out of a maximum of 8). Ever since several eruptions, some major and other minor, are constantly forming and changing the islands of the volcanic complex of Santorini, creating land from the abyss of the sea. Historically these eruptions have not only influenced the geology, and landscapes of Santorini but also the human environment itself since several of them have caused serious and extensive havoc and destruction. Its last eruption occurred in the ‘50s during which new deposits of lava have slightly expanded the island of Nea Kameni. It should be here noted that  Santorini is neighbouring one more active and powerful underwater volcano, named Kolumbo, lying 4 nautical miles North-east of the island. This volcano has already given important eruptions as the one in 1650 CE, which devastated Santorini.  

Nevertheless, and apart from the above historical and geological information, the Volcano of Santorini is a unique landmark omnipresent in the centre of the caldera. As one can imagine it is widely perceived as an arid and barren land, with few if no obvious vegetation. Thus spring brings an enormous and unexpected change on the terrain of the Volcano. The dry, broken land is nearly fully carpeted by green and red plants, in such colours that are usually absent. Both are unusual to the eye (of course during the peak tourist season) and exclusively seasonal, consisting of a single lupin species (Lupinus angustifolius), native to Eurasia and Northern Africa, and the red canopied sorrels, named Rumex bucephalophorus a Meditteranean plant. Despite their sight, the two Kamenes islets, are not unoccupied. Nature always finds its ways to colonise and adapt, fill gaps and thrive, even on the most inhospitable and hostile environments. Life in such places may be hidden most of the year but when it blooms it leaves us all in awe!