Rumija’s Romans

April 20th is another brilliant day and Lake Skader ice flat, blue gin under blue sky. The villages and hamlets are alive with sprouting vines and emerging vegetables; an old woman bends over hoeing carefully along the rows. The surrounding wooded slopes are bright green swathes of hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) spattered with vanilla ice creams of flowering manna ash (Fraxinus ornus). In the villages, dark spires of Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) close to the church, white blossom of cherries and almonds (Prunus spp.) and rust red of new pomegranate (Punica granatum) leaf paint endless pictures.

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Plants are coming up: red musk thistle (Carduus nutans) prior to flowering in perfect radial symmetry, comical monkey orchid (Orchis simia) and Roman orchids (Dactylorhiza romana) in small colonies on the harsh limestone.

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Musk thistle and monkey orchid.

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Roman orchid.

A sharp-snouted rock lizard (Dalmatolacerta oxycephala) emerges from the rocks to bask on a section of asbestos roofing in the morning sun. The rubbish is thrown over the side of the road everywhere; it is ugly and odorous but does provide havens for reptiles. An eastern dappled white (Euchloe ansonia) only requires roadside flowers.

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Sharp-snouted rock lizard and eastern dappled white.

The young sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) woodlands to the west of Ostros have emerging bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) and bugle (Ajuga reptans) but also a myriad of Roman orchids that create a cream and purple pattern in the spring green.

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Abundant Roman orchids under sweet chestnut woodland.

The ancient sweet chestnut woodland the far side of Livari has a sparse ground flora but the old, twisted trees do not require adornments and are always worthy of admiration.

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Livari’s ancient chestnut woodland with sparse ground cover.

In the quiet, cool evening, the nightingales sing louder and old men and women stand and water the vegetable beds in slow contemplation. In one freshly sown bed, water twitches from the top of two metal irrigation poles and the farmer rests easy on the terrace.

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