National Park of Olympus
Beyond its mythological significance, Mt. Olympus is renowned for its fauna and flora biodiversity, since it is considered to be one of the top-ranking and rarest ecosystems on earth, which are under the protection of the international community. The Mt. Olympus National Park has a diversity of more than 1.800 species of plants, 23 of which – mainly flowers – cannot be found anywhere else in the world. There is also a wide range of fauna, however many of the mammals and birds of prey are presently categorized as endangered species. The global value of the natural heritage of Olympus has been acknowledged by UNESCO, which in 1981 incorporated it in the Biosphere World Reserves ecosystems, which belong to the world heritage. The European Union has also included Olympus in the “Most Important for its Bird-fauna Areas of the European Community”. The National Park of Olympus was the first to be established in Greece (1937) and is among the oldest national parks of the world. Its foundation aimed at the protection of the natural environment, the fauna and the flora of the Park from human interference. The core of the National Park covers an area of occupies an area of 44.500 1,000m2, on the eastern side of the mountain, enclosing Enipeas river and the gully of Mavrologgos, beginning at an altitude of 600m, reaching up to the Skolio – Mytikas – Stefani ridge.
Olympus has a great variety of flowers, bushes and trees dividing the mountain in three main zones that do not retain their uniformity since some trees and plants in other zones, thus, there is no clear classification of species according to altitude. In the lower one, at a height between 300- 700 m there are Mediterranean bushes [holm-oaks (quercus coccifera), arbutus (arbutus unedo), heathers (erica arborea), hazel-trees (corylus avellana), laurels (laurus nobilis), cedar-trees (juniperus oxycedrus), (paliurus spina)] deciduous and coniferous trees [hornbeans (caprinus betulus), ash trees (fraximus ornus), (cersis siliquastrum), cornel-trees (cornus mas), maple-trees (acer monspesulanum)]. Plane-trees (platanus orientalis) grow by the impenetrable gullies, poplar-trees (populus tremula), willow trees (salix caprea), linden trees (tilia tomentosa) and elm-trees (ulmus glabra), together with dense riverside vegetation. The second alpine zone, from 700 up to 2.400 m, is mainly covered by oaks(quercus frainetto ), beeches(fagus sylvatica), pine-trees(pinus negra), fir-trees(taxus baccata). There are big forests of olympic pine-trees (pinus heldreichii) and macedonian fir-trees (abies borisii-regis). In the last alpine zone, above 2400m, there are no forests except for some pine-trees, low bushes and several impressive and rare flowers, which only grow on Olympus, such as Cerastium Theofrasti (2500-2900m) and Festuca Olympica, which reaches up the peak of Mytikas. The southwestern side of the mountain, apart from some gullies, is bare, due to overgrazing, woodcutting and soil erosion.
The flowers of Olympus
The flowers of Olympus are world-renowned, the mountain being a favorite place of study for botanists from around the globe. The flowers of Olympus are identified by the international names, which are registered in the European Flora list (Flora Europaea). A registered sign of the mountain is a purple flower, Jankaea Heldreichii, which grows among the rocks and can only be found on Olympus. It was named after the pioneer German botanist Th. von Heldreich, who discovered several plants during his excursions on Olympus, in mid 19th century. Many of the mountain’s endemic flowers were “baptized” by researching botanists who chose places and mythological characters of Olympus, in order to emphasize their unique origin. As a result, wondering around on Olympus, especially early in the summer, one can meet Potentilla of the Gods (Potentilla Deorum), Dionysus` Silini (Silene Dionysii), Erussimo the Olympic (Erysimum Olympicum), Ligoustiko the Olympic (Ligusticum Olympicum), Veroniki the Thessalic (Veronica Thessalica), Centavria of Litochoron (Centaurea Litochorea), Poa the Thessalic (Poa Thessala) and others.
Birds and animals
Olympus’ fauna is rich, although the bears and deer, which existed in the past, have been gone and the few renowned royal eagles are endangered with extinction, birds which have been glorified by folklore music. Almost all the mammals of the Greek forests can be found on Olympus, such as wolves (canis lupus), boars (capreolus capreolus), jackals (canis aureus), wild goats (rupicarta rupicarta), foxes (vulpes vulpes), wild boars (sus scrofa), badgers (meles meles), ferrets (martes foina), weasels (mustela nivalis), hares (lepus europaeus), squirrels (sciurus vulgaris) and others. Several species of birds can be found on the slopes, the gullies and the clearings of Olympus. Birds of prey [golden eagles (aquila chrisaetos), royal eagles (hieraaetus pennatus), harrier eagles (gypaetus barbatus), vultures (gyps fulvus), peregrines (falco peregrinus), falcons (falconidae), falco biarmicus, buteo buteo, partridges, thrushes, cuckoos, horn-owls, bee-eaters, blackbirds (turdus merula), nightingales (luscinia megarynchos), orioles, woodpeckers (picidae), ravens (corvus corax) and others. All species of Mediterranean reptiles live on Olympus (snakes, lizards, tortoises), a great variety of insects and the famous butterflies of Olympus which are worth watching at early summer, close to the gullies. Fortunately, conservation measures have recently deterred the multinational collectors from catching the Olympic butterfly.