Hohlidaki lives in Crete, in the small town of Chania. Therefore, the first plant I am choosing to describe couldn’t be any other than my favorites one from the endemic plants of this place: Ebenus Cretica.
The search through the relevant bibliography highlights 186 endemic plants in Crete. Amongst them many wildflowers and small bushes. I am interested though in larger bushes with larger, woody trunks and, of course, trees. We only have one endemic tree in Crete, Ambelitsia (Zelkova Abelicea)!
We do have more endemic bushes though: aladania (Cistus creticus), galastivida (verbascum spinosum), midiki (Medicago Strassseri), ixos (Amelanchier ovalis ssp. cretica) and ebenos (Ebenus cretica) [1,2]. At least these are the ones that I know of. If any of you know more endemic bushes and trees, please feel free to share. I’d love to know!
So, ebenus! In Western Crete it is called katsoulia, while on the eastern part of the island it is called kourmoutsouli. Other
names for the plant are plumi, kokkalia, alimatsa, matsa, akozalia, agoulastraki, pulia, pseudoevenos, kounelofyto or archontoxilo.
Ebenus’s appearance, from Summer until Winter, with its pale green-gray leaves, is rather indifferent. In the springtime though, when it blossoms, it turns the sides of country roads, and sometimes whole mountain sides, a beautiful pink-mauve, with its small fluffy bouquets.
It is a plant much loved by bees and rabbits and, even though I wasn’t able to find any medicinal uses of the plant, it’s flowers have traditionally been used to stuff pillows. [3,4].
And now the obvious question: why is this bush called ebenus since, at least at first glance, it doesn’t seem to Bear any resemblance to the ebenus tree, that is, the plants of the genus diospyrus that grow in Africa, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India? Well, it is because of its wood! The wood of Ebenus Cretica is very similar to the wood of the trees mentioned above, not only in terms of its appearance but also in terms of its natural properties. In the photos below you can see a section of a trunk from an Ebenus tree (on the left) and sections of Ebenus Cretica bush branches. Don’t they look really similar?
In terms of its natural properties, it also needs to be noted that both have very similar density. This can be verified by placing a very small piece of an ebenus branch in a container full of water and simply observe it sinking. The same thing happens with a piece of a branch from an Ebenus Cretica bush.
When I found out that Ebenus Cretica sinks when placed in water, I experimented with all 60 different kinds of wood I had at my dsposal at the time and I discovered that apart from Ebenus Cretica, aspalathos (Calicotome vilosa), midiki (Medicago Strassseri), and krategos (Crataegus) sink as well.
Its wood is a beautiful dark brown, sometimes almost black, at its pith and heatrwood while its sapwood is a pale yellow to beige. It has a thin bark which grows in fibers. Ebenus Cretica doesn’t grow into a large bush so its trunk remains small. I’ve found trunks up to 7cm in diameter.
I only collect dry wood but usually though. when it dries it forms deep cracks. As a result, the pieces of wood that I collect are smallish and only big enough to carve small pieces of jewelry and beads which are really impressive though! I can’t say beautiful because this is something rather subjective but they are definitely impressive with all these chromatic contrasts.
When I make begleria out of such a sturdy and dense piece of wood, they produce a sound which
is very intense and clear but without any annoying high pitch elements.
I haven’t tried to make a whole string of worry beads yet because it is difficult to hand-carve so many beads for a single item and particularly difficult with this wood but if any of you wishes to order one, it would be a really interesting challenge.