Natural history of Rhodes

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The natural history of the island of Rhodes is determined by its geographic position, climate and geological diversity. Rhodes is in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin close to the coast of Turkey, and the flora and fauna are a mixture of Mediterranean and Asian elements. Rhodes is in the Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests ecoregion.

The habitats are: arable land; perennial crops, orchards and groves, ruderal land; coastline and coastal rocky areas, inland cliffs, sea cliffs and rocky shores: forest, native coniferous woodland; grassland steppes and dry calcareous grassland; shrub land, sclerophyllous scrub, garrigue and maquis shrubland; wetland, rivers and streams.

Forest (the dominant trees are Pinus brutia, the Turkish pine and the very closely related Pinus halepensis, the Aleppo pine, and in the valleys olive groves. The "bare" mountain in the background has its own specialist species, Kameiros.

Flowering plants[edit]

The flowering plant species of Rhodes number 1,243.

Phrygana in late summer

Phrygana or spiny garrigue[edit]

Phrygana or garrigue is open dwarf scrub dominated by low, often cushion-shaped, spiny shrubs. The phryganic species are high-temperature and drought tolerant, and they grow at low altitudes, usually on poor and rocky limestone and siliceous substrates.

The most common phryganic species on Rhodes are:

Other species include

Bulbous plants[edit]

Many bulbous plants on Rhodes flower in the month of October. Species include:

Notable are:

Ophrys attaviria


Rhodes has a high diversity of orchid species, especially in the genus Ophrys:

Other plants[edit]

Among the Mediterranean endemic species prominent in the Rhodes vegetation are:

Nearly endemic to the Mediterranean genera found on Rhodes are:

More widespread in South-east Europe and Asia Minor plants include

Hot arid climate cacti in Rhodes town

Widely-grown introduced plants[edit]

Widely introduced plants include:

The tiny Etruscan shrew. This is an adult.


257 bird species are recorded from Rhodes, many are passage migrants. 80 are breeding species.

Breeding species include:

Migrating black kites

Passage migrants include:

Vagrant birds (many from nearby Turkey) include Circus macrourus, Charadrius leschenaultii, Apus affinis, Luscinia luscinia, Merops persicus, Ficedula semitorquata, Oenanthe cypriaca, Sturnus roseus, Hoplopterus spinosus, Emberiza rustica, Chettusia gregaria, Bubulcus ibis, Anthropoides virgo, Passer moabiticus and very many others.

winter visitors on Rhodes include: Melanocorypha calandra and Acrocephalus melanopogon.

Beech marten


There are 33 species: Cervidae Dama dama; Erinaceidae Erinaceus concolor, Erinaceus roumanicus; Leporidae Lepus europaeus, Oryctolagus cuniculus; Molossidae Tadarida teniotis; Muridae Apodemus flavicollis, Apodemus mystacinus, Apodemus sylvaticus, Mus domesticus, Rattus rattus; Mustelidae Martes foina, Meles meles; Phocidae Monachus monachus; Rhinolophidae Rhinolophus blasii, Rhinolophus euryale, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Rhinolophus hipposideros; Soricidae Crocidura suaveolens, Suncus etruscus; Vespertilionidae Eptesicus bottae, Hypsugo savii, Miniopterus schreibersii, Myotis blythii, Myotis emarginatus, Myotis myotis, Pipistrellus kuhlii, Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Plecotus austriacus.


Rhodes has 3 species: Bufo viridis, Hyla arborea and Rana cerigensis.


Cleopatra butterfly

There are 24 species of reptile certainly found on Rhodes. These are: Amphisbaenidae, Blanus strauchi; Cheloniidae, Caretta caretta;Geoemydidae Mauremys rivulata; Colubridae, Platyceps najadum, Coluber caspius, Coluber gemonensis, Coluber nummifer, Elaphe situla, Natrix natrix, Natrix tessellata, Telescopus fallax; Dermochelyidae, Dermochelys coriacea; Lacertidae, Podarcis erhardii,Anatololacerta oertzeni, Ophisops elegans Lacerta trilineata; Scincidae, Ablepharus kitaibelii, Chalcides ocellatus, Euprepis auratus ; Typhlopidae, Typhlops vermicularis; Viperidae, Vipera xanthina; Agamidae, Stellagama stellio; Gekkonidae, Hemidactylus turcicus and Mediodactylus kotschyi.

Species uncertainly recorded include a further 8: Eryx jaculus, Eirenis modestus, Malpolon monspessulanus, Natrix tessellata, Vipera xanthina, Chamaeleo chamaeleon, Testudo graeca and Testudo hermanni.


See List of fish of the Mediterranean Sea. Squalius ghigii is endemic to Rhodes.


2,652 insect species/subspecies are recorded from Rhodes. Commonly seen insects in Rhodes are the sail swallowtail, the scarlet dragonfly, Cleopatra butterfly, European praying mantis, cicada, glow-worm, hummingbird hawk-moth, firebug, field cricket, European tree cricket, European hornet, cuckoo wasp, carpenter bee and the rose chafer.

Land and freshwater mollusca[edit]

178 land and freshwater mollusca species/subspecies are recorded from Rhodes.

Other terrestrial invertebrates[edit]

The freshwater crab Potamon potamios is found on Rhodes. It is common at Petaloudes.

Marine fauna[edit]

Characteristic habitat types of the Rhodes Mediterranean/Aegean coastal zone, are the Cystoseira biocenosis and the Posidonia oceanica seagrass beds, Lithophyllum lichenoides communities form coralligenous reefs which are a spectacular sight; the coralline alga is covered with large gorgonian fans, coral, and a diverse array of often colourful invertebrate organisms and hundreds of species of fish.

These communities host sponges (Porifera), sea anemones, jellyfish (Cnidaria), sea mats and hornwrack (Bryozoa), segmented worms (Annelida) snails, bivalves, squids and octopuses (Mollusca), starfishes and sea urchins (Echinodermata), crabs, lobsters and shrimps (Arthropoda) and little known groups such as Echiura, Priapulida, Sipuncula, Brachiopoda, Pogonophora, Phoronida and Hemichordata.

Amongst the thousand or so species of invertebrates found in the Rhodes Mediterranean/Aegean coastal zone marine environment are mantis shrimps, Mediterranean slipper lobsters, octopus, cuttlefish, scribbled nudibranch, Hypselodoris picta, tasselled nudibranch, precious coral, zigzag coral, purple sail, Mediterranean jellyfish, spiny spider crab, circular crab, broad-clawed porcelain crab, noble pen shell, pilgrim’s scallop, ragged sea hare, violet sea hare, Portuguese man o' war, black sea urchin, purple sea-urchin, long-spine slate pen sea urchin, Mediterranean starfish, sea mouse, Barbatia barbata and Parazoanthus axinellae.


There is a marine natural history display at the Aquarium of Rhodes together with a display of living Mediterranean fish and other marine creatures. A second natural history display at Petaloudes is devoted to the mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants and geology of Rhodes. A more specialised museum devoted to bee keeping is close to Rhodes city).

Educational display at Nature Museum Petaloudes concerning threatened rare plants.
Habitat provided for Squalius ghigii at Eleousa



Greece is a signatory to the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and the Habitats Directive both affording protection to the fauna and flora of Rhodes.



  • Flora Europaea
  • Vangelis Papiomytoglou, 2006 Wild Flowers of Greece Mediterraneo Editions ISBN 960-8227-74-7
  • Panitsa, Maria, Britt Snogerup, Sven Snogerup & Dimitrios Tzanoudakis, 2003. Floristic investigation of Lemnos island (NE Aegean area, Greece). - Willdenowia 33: 79 - 105. [1]


  • Kretzschmar, H. and G., 2004 Orchids - Crete and Dodecanese Mediterraneo Editions, Greece ISBN 9608227429
  • Kreutz, C. A. J., 2002 Die Orchideen von Rhodos und Karpathos : Beschreibung, Lebensweise, Verbreitung, Gefährdung, Schutz und Ikonographie ( the orchids of Rhodes and Karpathos : description, pattern of life, distribution, threat, conservation and iconography) Seckel & Kreutz Publishers. ISBN 90-805149-2-6
  • Zissis Antonopoulos, 2009 The Bee Orchids of Greece - The genus Ophrys Mediterraneo Editions ISBN 978-960-6848-23-0
  • Orchids of Europe includes spring expedition report Frühling auf Rhodos 20. - 30. März 2008 pdf in German




  • Bender, R., 1963 Beitrage zur Lepidopterenfauna der Insel Rhodos Zeitschr. wiener e.nt. Ges., vo1. 48: pp. 11-20, 2 pls. 1963. Review of previous studies& annotated list of 150 macros from Rhodes. Figures races of Gonepteryx cleopatra (in colour), Maniola telmessia ornata, & Glaucopsyche alexis insulicola. In German.
  • Kudrna, O. 2002. The Distribution Atlas of European Butterflies. Oedippus, Nr. 20.
  • Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Lux, K., Pennerstorfer, J., Schweiger, O.,Settele, J. & Wiemers, M., 2011. Distribution Atlas of Butterflies in Europe. GfS, Halle, Germany. 576 pp.
  • Van Swaay, C., Cuttelod., A., Collins, S., Maes, D., López Munguira, M., Šašiæ, M., Settele, J., Verovnik, R., Verstrael, T., Warren, M., Wiemers, M. and Wynhoff, I., 2010. European Red List of Butterflies.


  • Frank C., 1997. Die Molluskenfauna der Insel Rhodos, 2. Teil. Stapfia, 48: 1–179.
  • Maassen, W.J.M., 1981. De Molluskenfauna van het griekseeiland Rhodos. De Kreukel, 17: 21–32.
  • Paget O.E., 1976. Die Molluskenfauna der Insel Rhodos. 1.Teil. Annalen des Naturhistorischen Museums in Wien 80:681–780.
  • Barna Páll-Gergely and Zoltán Csabai, 2008. Notes on the continental malacofauna of Rhodes, with two new species for the fauna of the island Malacologia Bohemoslovaca 7: 76–78 [2]
  • Fauna Europaea


Marine life

  • Noelle and Dinos Simeonidis, 2010 Life in the Greek seas and the Mediterranean Mediterraneo Editions ISBN 978-960-6848-25-4
  • Repetto, G.; Orlando, F. & Arduino, G. 2005. Conchiglie del Mediterraneo. 1770 Specie Illustrate con Distribuzione e Frequenza. Amici del Museo Federico Eusebio, Alba. 392 pp.

External links[edit]



Natura Mediterraneo