Sithonia’s Itamos tree and its history

If you are a true and devoted Sithonia lover, you already know that the magic of this place is not only the sun and beaches but other natural features too. The highest mountain and the largest mountain range of this enchanting peninsula are called Itamos (also known as Dragoudeli). It is close to Neos Marmaras and its peak is at 811 m above sea level. It is perfect for recreation and a refreshing refuge on hot summer days. You can hike, cycle or drive to the top but there are also many paths of the main road with the rich forests of black pine trees and juniper, but also bushy areas that host rabbits, deer, foxes, wild boars, even wolves. If you are a birdwatcher, you will enjoy the diversity of bird species here (more than 90 kinds of birds).

itamos mountain sithonia
itamos mountain – Sithonia / source: zvoncara.com

2000-year-old itamos tree

The mountain got its Greek name Itamos from this mysterious sort of tree that once covered a big part of the mountain, while today it is rare. Still, a 2000-year-old itamos tree stands at the top of the Itamos mountain and is protected and respected by the locals. It is believed it is one of the oldest trees in Greece. It even survived the big fire in 1945. which burned almost the whole mountain. Today it is a preserved monument.

last itamos tree sithonia
itamos tree – Sithonia

It is believed that this tree can cause death, but it never dies. It has the ability to sprout and recreate itself forever which almost makes it immortal. It is said that all the parts of the plant are toxic except the fleshy part of the fruit. Others say that the flesh is toxic too. But we know for sure that most animals don’t touch it. The toxicity of the tree has been known for a long time. Horses are less tolerant of itamos’ toxins than animals, while cattle and pigs are slightly more tolerant. Deadly poisoning rarely occurs in humans, only in cases of ingestion of large amounts of toxic parts of the plant. The birds consume the red shell of the fruit, which is gelatinous with a very sweet taste and is not poisonous.

The itamos tree in Greek history

In ancient Greek mythology, the itamos tree was associated with the Erinyes, who used its venom to punish atheists. Even the Greek goddess Artemis used arrows poisoned with itamo. And specifically with such arrows and at the command of her mother, she killed the children of Niobe, because Niobe blasphemously boasted that she had more children than Leto (Homer Ill. 11.24.607). 

Itamos tree’s scientific name is Taxus baccata and it belongs to the group of rare and endangered species. Its diameter reaches 1.2 m.

The hard and durable wood of the itamos has been popular and used since antiquity for carpentry work and well-preserved wood carvings have been found during the excavations. Thus it was found that in the past it was used to make wheels, cups, spoons, bowls, and spears.

In the Middle Ages, it was characterized as “green gold” for a good reason. In Great Britain and France we find it in churchyards, while in Spain and in cemeteries because due to its longevity, it functioned as a means of connection with deceased ancestors.

itamos tree – Sithonia

The Celts considered it a symbol of magic and believed that it was a very powerful tree for protection against evil.

On your way to Itamos mountain, you will reach the beautiful village of Parthenonas which will enchant you with its architecture and good food in a famous taverna. And when you reach the top of Itamos, the view of Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos will literally take your breath away. Also, at the summit, you will find the mysterious itamos trees and all your hard work will be worth it when you see this wonder of nature…

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