page created 10 Sept 2004. Rebuilt 3rd December 2009, modified 23Dec2011
During August 2004, I was working in Athens for the Olympic Games.
I took the opportunity to see what citrus I could find in the city itself, plus a day trip to the nearby island of Poros, and, after the games, a two day break to Naxos Island.
Many Athens streets are lined with sour orange trees. Many churches and public buildings are similarly adorned. But these ornamental trees are often infested with pests and frequently seem to lack fruit.
I hoped the National Garden, and the neighbouring Zappeion garden would have a citrus collection. These large shady areas are near the city centre. Again there were many specimens of Citrus aurantium, the sour orange, but the only other citrus trees were unlabelled, and had all been very heavily pruned recently. Perhaps this was a result of the snow of February 2004, as many unpruned trees had withered top growth as if touched by frost.
A few miles outside the city, is Athens University's 'Diomedes Botanic Garden'. Here again a small collection of citrus had been very heavily pruned. The trees lacked fruit and labels!
The island of Poros is 90 minutes fast hydrofoil trip from Athens' port of Piraeus. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, and from there it is a couple of miles to the area known as Lemonodasos, apparently famed and named for its lemon groves running down a valley to the sea. Tourist websites claim "the thick forest of lemon trees has no parallel in the whole of Greece".
After a very hot walk, I reached the area. It seems the commercial growing of citrus in this spot is dying. Many of the trees were unwatered, with the irrigation channels dry, and trees often surrounded by weeds. Not quite the glorious picture I had imagined!
General view of the area, showing how the citrus trees are interspersed with olives - which manage the dryness better.
A very old and neglected lemon tree - like many in Lemonodasos it appeared to be unpruned and unwatered.
This garden still had the irrigation channel working, and even some new trees, but they were having to compete with grass and weeds.
see also Citrons of Naxos
Here is the Olympic Flame burning over the main stadium built for the games.
C. aurantium var myrtifolia
C. decumana var paradisi
C. decumana var vulgaris
In the National Garden was a building marked as a Botanic Museum, but the inside was almost derelict. However, there was a pile of somewhat mildewed catalogues of plants in the garden. This 1981 publication listed the following species:-
The island of Naxos is 6 hours from Piraeus by ferry; three hours by high-speed boat; or 30 minutes by plane.
The cultivation of citrons makes the island worthy of a separate page on this web-site! Please click the button!
Nikos Razis, an amateur citrus grower near Athens, contacted me to say that there are citrus growing areas in Greece rather better than the ones I was able to visit. "The island of Chios (Xios) has a traditional citrus growing area at Cambos (Kambos). Other citrus growing areas include Eastern (Argos area), Northern (Corinth Area) and Southern (Laconia / Sparta & Messinia (Kalamata) areas) of Peloponesse, Southwestern central Greece (Arta area) and, of course, Crete."