The peculiar geographical location of Mt Pelion in the middle of Eastern Greece in combination with the short distance from the sea and the relatively high elevation along the whole peninsula have a decisive influence on the formation of environmental conditions and vegetation.

The climate of Mt Pelion combines the coastal and mild Mediterranean conditions with the more dry and cold climate that prevails in the mountain ridges and peaks. As a result, environmental conditions change dramatically along the peninsula and depend on orientation, human intervention and local climatic conditions.

The diversity of conditions is clearly reflected in the vegetation composition and structure: despite the small area and the limited elevation fluctuation, Mt Pelion host many different vegetation zones that overlap, depending on the microclimate of the area. A typical example is the appearance of beech in warmer and less continental location than usual but also the presence of conditions suitable for the growth of orchards almost at sea level.

The vegetation of Mt Pelion: an overview

An important feature of the landscape of Pelion are the orchards and the olive groves that are inserted between the forest areas and the bushes. Main cultivations are apples, chestnuts, walnuts, peaches, lemons, but also many ornamental and aromatic plants, an activity that represent the major income resource for many families.

Respectively, the variety of aromatic plants in combination with their annual blossom creates the ideal conditions for the development of beekeeping. In the local markets and in the agricultural cooperatives one can find honey from a wide variety of plants. At the same time, many plant species are utilized in local gastronomy.

As for the typical zonation of vegetation, it is largely obvious, especially at lower altitudes. From sea level up to 500-600m., slopes are coverd by drought-resistant and heat-resistant species, while evergreen and deciduous shrubs grow in more humid places in the ravines. The most common species are Kermes oak, pine, Evergeen oak, junipers, lentisc and aromatic Mediterranean shrubs and large plants.

As soon as we leave the hot and dry zone we start to see more deciduous broadleaf species with more demands on moisture and nutrients, such as the beech, the ash and the European hornbeam. In the high peaks and rocky ridge there are small groups of Black pine.

Here and there, there are azonic appearances of forest species, such as beech stands at low altitudes and corresponding chestnut stands near the sea.The same phenomenon occurs in the streams, where we find groups and small clusters of species with special moisture requirements such as the plane trees.

Finally, an important feature of the vegetation on Mt Pelion is the constant presence of foliage in forest ecosystems as there is a large number of deciduous and evergreen species. Thus, the visitor can enjoy the natural richness and colors of any season throughout the year.

Starting from the sea level in the wider area of Pelion, the following vegetation zones appear:

Mediterranean shrubland and phrygana

This zone stretches from the sea up to about 600m. All plants species found there have limited requirements in water and nutrients and they persist the long Mediterranean summer and the high temperatures. The zone includes shrubland as well as phrygana.

The Mt Pelion shrubland consist mainly by Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), found mostly in low, bushy form due to intense grazing, Evergreen oak (Quercus ilex), Junipers (Juniperus communis, J. oxycedrus), Spanish broom (Spartium junceum), Mock privet (Phillyrea latifolia), laurels (Laurus nobilis), Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) and Greek strawberry tree (Arbutus andrachne), Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) and wild Olive trees (Olea europaea). Stands of pines (Pinus halepensis, Pinus brutia and sporadically Pinus pinea), occupy small or large areas, always mixed with previous species.

Phrygana is a mixture of low and woody shrubs, such as Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa), Greek spin spurge (Euphorbia acanthothamnos) and Thorny burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum).

Deciduous broadleaves

Above the 500-600m. elevation mark, drought-resistant and photophilous species give place to the deciduous broadleaves, which have more requirements in moisture and nutrients and less resistance to high temperatures. Dominant in this zone are the Hungarian oak (Quercus frainetto) and the Downy oak (Quercus pubescens). In the Chestnut (Castanea sativa) stands, the trees take advantage of the low acidity and the richness in organic matter of the soil. Although beech push normally at higher elevation, it is not uncommon to grow in this zone also, in wetter and more bright places.

Extensive crops of many apple varieties are located in the same zone.

The beech forest

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is more resistant to colder climates and higher annual rainfall. Thus beech forests, often not mixed with other species, grow on smooth or steep slopes, reaching the highest peaks of Pelion. Human interventions such as forest road construction, agricultural activities and logging form clusters that differ in their developmental stages, in the degree of soil cover and in the shape of the canopy.{cr}

On the forest carpet level there are thick layers of fallen leaves that are an ideal habitat for many microorganisms, offering significant value to the overall biodiversity of the area. In mid-autumn the leaves take on many vibrant colors and in spring the young shoots have a particularly intense shades.{cr}

Along with the beeches, grow clusters of Aspen (Populus tremula), Goat willow (Salix caprea). There are also reforestations spots with Black pine (Pinus nigra). Black pine is preferred in reforestation of quarries and burned areas due to its rapid growth, the stability it offers to the soil and its aesthetic value.

Riparian vegetation

The riparian vegetation zone grows along the axes of watersheds, the ravines and the streams of constant flow, creating linear forested zones from the mountain zone up to sea level. Dominant plant species of riparian vegetation are the willows (Salix alba, Salix purpurea), the Alder (Alnus glutinosa), the Plane tree (Platanus orientalis) and the poplars (Populus tremula, Populus nigra).

Coastal vegetation

Mt Pelion is characterized by an endless coastline of a long peninsula, which is further elongated by the extremely lacy shores and the rough end of the rocky slopes. This coastal zone is largely inaccessible and has not been affected by man-made factors, while even the beaches maintain a high degree of naturalness. This zone is home to many plant species, adapted to the salinity of the soil or to the constant spraying of salt water.