The strongly sweet-scented Cyprus cyclamen (Cyclamen cyprium) is our national plant. Although it was first identified in 1862 by the Austrian botanist Karl Georg Theodor Kotschy, it wasn’t until 2006 that it was designated as the national plant of Cyprus. Due to its importance, the Cyprus cyclamen was depicted on the reverse side of the 10 Cyprus pounds note.
Endemic to the island and strictly protected, it grows on shaded calcareous or igneous rocks, steep hillsides and streambanks, usually under trees and shrubs. It is spread out from 50 up to 1100 m elevation, from Akamas peninsula to the Troodos and Pentadaktylos mountain ranges.
The name Cyclamen is cognate with the Greek word “Kyklos”, (Eng. Circle) and refers either to the round tuber or the rounded leaves, or possibly the circular twisting of the fruiting peduncle.
Cyprus cyclamen is a perennial growing from a tuber that grows heart-shaped leaves with coarsely toothed edges that are green on top (with light, white veins) and mauve underneath. The plants rise 7 to 15 cm high. They bloom from September to January and its leafless stems are crowned by single flowers. Usually, the flower appears before the leaves. Soon after blooming, the pedicels start coiling from apex downwards and a globose capsule appears on each pedicel.
Apart from Cyclamen cyprium, Cyprus hosts two more cyclamen species; Cyclamen graecum and Cyclamen persicum. The latter is the most common and best known species of Cyprus and is found in many areas of the island. In ancient times, cyclamen root was used for purulent inflammations. Nowadays, in some areas of the island, Cyclamen persicum leaves are used to prepare the traditional Cypriot dish koupepia (stuffed leaves).