Steve’s Nature Quiz #25

In this week’s #CreteNature blog we were looking at herbs but which is the correct pronunciation of the word ‘herb’?

a) herb

b) ‘erb

c) both are correct.

It all rather depends on when and where you lived. ‘erb used to be the accepted pronunciation in England and it is still the accepted pronunciation in America. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the Brits decided that as the H was there it may as well be used and herb became the standard. So the answer is c) both are correct.

Not only were we discovering herbs or ‘erbs this week but also butterflies, lizards and spiders with a bit of ancient history thrown in for good measure. Join us for our weekly wander around the idyllic Cretan countryside with this week’s walk Further Back in Time to Praesos

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Steve’s Nature Quiz #24

We are now well into the third season of the year but which is the most recent term for this period of the year?

a) harvest

b) autumn

c) fall

The Autumn Crocus, Colchicum pusillum

No trick question this week, if you said Fall then you’d be right (but it’s a close run thing). Prior to the 1500s the term Harvest was used in England to mark the season between Summer and Winter and many European languages still use a variation of this word. Gradually in the 1500s Autumn, from the Latin autumnus took over in England and harvest began to change its meaning to the specific gathering in of crops. In the 1540s the phrase ‘fall of leaves’ also came into use but it wasn’t until the 1660s that this was reduced to simply the Fall. Fall and Autumn battled it out and Autumn eventually won through in England. The colonists took both to America with them but Fall won through which is why the Americans refer to the season as the Fall whilst the English call it Autumn.

More Autumnal observations in this week’s #CreteNature blog: Achladia (It’s All Gone Pear Shaped)

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Steve’s Nature Quiz #23

In last week’s #CreteNature blog we found a beautiful ivy hedgerow buzzing with life. Ivy has been associated with the Winter solstice since pagan times but in Germany they traditionally tie it to the outside of a church. Is this to protect it against

a) the devil

b) lightning

c) witches

Somewhat surprisingly the answer is lightning. Why this should be is a matter of speculation; perhaps someone observed that ivy covered trees did not get struck by lightning so often as bare trees? A similar thought was held by the druids who believed that Ivy’s Christmas counterpart, Holly, if self seeded near a dwelling, would protect the inhabitants from fire, nightmares and, once again, lightning.

More seasonal nature notes and other trivia in this week’s #CreteNature blog: The Springs of Paraspori

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Steve’s Nature Quiz #22

Mantis, to most of us, conjures up a picture of the familiar Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa). In this week’s #CreteNature blog I introduced you to another, the Mediterranean Mantis (Iris oratoria) but how many types of Mantis are there in the world?

a) 24

b) 240

c) 2,400

Mediterranean Mantis, Iris oratoria

Somewhat surprisingly there are over 2,400 species of Mantis in the world (and probably many more that we’ve yet to discover). They are a distinct order of insects (Mantodea) on a par with Flies (Diptera) or Beetles (Coleoptera) and there are fifteen different families of Mantises within the order Mantodea. Here in Greece the ancients believed that Mantises had supernatural powers and could show you the way home. I wouldn’t rely upon it; this one is pointing away from my front gate!

More on mantises, as well as frogs, flowers, stone chats and grasshoppers plus a bit of folklore in this week’s #CreteNature blog: Skordilo, Where God and the Devil Meet

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Steve’s Nature Quiz #21

Nature isn’t just about flowers and animals, it’s about the soil and rocks and everything else that allows them to exist. This week we met up with Gypsum but which city is most associated with this rock?

a) Beijing
b) Sao Paolo
c) Paris

Gypsum011017 Chrysopigi (small)

Gypsum is used to make plaster, as used in artistic molds, construction and most famously for plaster casts when setting broken bones. Although plaster was probably first made by the Egyptians for architectural purposes and then taken up by the Greeks (gypsum is Greek for plaster) a large deposit was discovered near Montmartre, Paris in the 1600s and calcined gypsum (which involves heating it to a very high temperature and then grinding it to a fine white powder) has been known as Plaster-of-Paris ever since.

For more fascinating insights into the natural world follow the #CreteNature blog at

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Steve’s nature Quiz #20

This is a male Common Darter dragonfly but where does the female drop her eggs?

In the soil?

In the water?

In the air?

Common Darter, Sympetrum striolatum

The male clasps the female as they fly through the air and they swoop down over the water in tandem. Then, at the lowest point of the arc the female releases her eggs where they scatter over the water. So, if you said water then you were partially right but she actually drops them from the air.
More fascinating nature facts as this week’s #CreteNature Blog explores the area around the village of Stavrohouri in east Crete.
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Steve’s nature Quiz #19

Last week’s #CreteNature blog featured butterflies, dragonflies and hoverflies but which one of these is really a type of fly?

Butterflies have four wings covered in tiny scales and, together with moths, form the order of insects called the Lepidoptera (originally from the Greek meaning scaly wings). Dragonflies also have four wings and, along with damselflies, form the order Odonata (again, originally from the Greek, this time for tooth – as is dentist – referring to their rather formidable mouth parts). Hoverflies, house flies, mosquitoes, midges and a host of others have only two wings and form the order Diptera (from the Greek again; di + ptera meaning two wings). So, whenever you see an insect with only two wings you can be sure that it is a type of fly.

More insect facts, some beautiful flowers and scenery as well as some rare Cretan frogs as the #CreteNature blog wends it’s way up to the mountain village of Orino.

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