A big mountain with gentle slopes and many peaks that dominates among the plains of central Macedonia and is distinguished by the presence of many rare species of flora and fauna. Vermio mountain retains its ancient name, while formerly it was known by various local names from its peaks, such as Tsianaktsi, Karatasi, Tourlia, Xerolivado and Doxa. The mountain spreads to the west of the prefecture of Imathia with its western slopes entering the east of the prefecture of Kozani, thus constituting the border between central and western Macedonia. The northern foothills of the mountain reach Vegoritida lake, at east it is bordered with the big plains of Naousa and Veroia, in the south it is separated from the Pieria mountains by the straits of Aliakmonas river and in the west it reaches the plain of Eordaia. The direction of Vermio is from north to south, its length is 50 km, its width is 30 km and its range reaches 25.400 hectares. In the middle of its range lies a large, forested valley that divides the mountain into upper and lower Vermio. The highest peak of the mountain is Chamitis which reaches 2,065 meters and is followed by Tsianaktsi or Tsanakis (2,054 m.) Mavri Petra (2,027 m.), Troulos (2,016 m.), Palati (1,895 m.), Arsoubasi (1,874 m.), Xirovouni (1,801 m.), Ypapanti (1,770 m.), Pilalofos (1,749 m.) and Giona (1,739 m.). Many streams and little rivers spring from the mountain and end in Aliakmonas river with most important the Arapitsa, Tripotamos and Paliomylos streams. In the northeast of the mountain lies the gorge of Seliatikos Lakkos that ends in the town of Naousa, while the most known caves are Ermakia and Lefkopetra. The geology of the mountain consists of schist and limestone with local appearances of ophiolites and flysch. Vermio is a protected Natura 2000 habitat and maintains an unspoiled nature. The mountain is unfortunately threatened by the industrialization of its peaks that will lead to the destruction of its most untouched habitats.
The mountain flora includes more than 1,200 species. The northern and eastern parts are covered with dense forests, while in the west and south it is more bare. Close to the peaks spread large plateaus of grass that attract -through centuries- Sarakatsans and Vlach nomadic farmers. The mountain forests consist mainly of beeches, firs, black pines, chestnuts and oaks. Other trees are bosnian pines, yews, hornbeams, junipers, oriental planes, kermes oaks, aleppo pines, maples, hawthorns, and sorb trees. There are two close endemic plants in Vermio, Isatis vermia and Centaurea vermia. The most rare plants of the mountain are Dactylorhiza kalopissii subsp. kalopissii, Aquilegia ottonis subsp. amaliae, Campanula formanekiana, Stachys iva, Cynoglottis barrelieri subsp. serpentinicola, Achillea ageratifolia subsp. aizoon, Allium heldreichii and Pinguicula balcanica subsp. balcanica. Other interesting plants are Achillea chrysocoma, Arenaria conferta subsp. conferta, Anemone nemorosa, Centaurea pindicola, Convallaria majalis, Galanthus elwesii, Paris quadrifolia, Crocus cvijicii, Dianthus integer subsp. minutiflorus, Dichoropetalum oligophyllum, Gentiana asclepiadea, Gentiana cruciata subsp. cruciata, Gentiana lutea, Geum coccineum, Aconogonon alpinum, Antennaria dioica, Anthyllis aurea, Buxus sempervirens, Sempervivum heuffelii, Lilium chalcedonicum, Lilium martagon, Myosurus minimus, Galeopsis bifida, Globularia cordifolia, Pulmonaria officinalis and Rosa pendulina. The flora is supplemented by the following: Achillea holosericea, Arabis bryoides, Arabis sudetica, Asperula aristata subsp. thessala, Allium phthioticum, Aurinia corymbosa, Campanula glomerata subsp. glomerata, Campanula persicifolia, Edraianthus graminifolius subsp. graminifolius, Helichrysum plicatum, Gentiana verna subsp. balcanica, Crocus chrysanthus, Colchicum doerfleri, Scutellaria alpina, Asperula purpurea subsp. apiculata, Dianthus giganteus, Geranium macrorrhizum, Daphne mezereum subsp. mezereum, Festuca koritnicensis, Saxifraga scardica, Iris reichenbachii, Iris sintenisi subsp. sintenisii, Iberis sempervirens, Paronychia macedonica subsp. macedonica, Lysimachia punctata, Sideritis scardica, Silene radicosa, Stachys plumosa subsp. plumosa, Viola orphanidis subsp. orphanidis, Veronica orsiniana subsp. orsiniana. Rich is the presence of orchids with species, such as Cephalanthera damasonium, Cephalanthera longifolia, Cephalanthera rubra, Epipactis palustris, Epipactis microphylla, Epipactis subclausa, Epipactis leptochila subsp. naousaensis, Epipactis helleborine, Neottia nidus-avis, Neottia ovata, Platanthera chlorantha, Coeloglossum viride, Gymnadenia conopsea, Dactylorhiza sambucina, Dactylorhiza romana, Dactylorhiza saccifera, Dactylorhiza pindica, Anacamptis morio, Orchis pallens, Orchis purpurea, Orchis mascula, Orchis simia, Himantoglossum jankae, Ophrys apifera, Ophrys oestifera, Ophrys reinhardiorum, Ophrys helenae, Ophrys hystera, Ophrys mammosa, Ophrys epirotica, Ophrys hebes and Ophrys zeusii.
The vast forests and pristine habitats magnetize many interesting species of avifauna. Until a few decades ago griffon vultures and egyptian vultures were flying on the mountain. In the meadows at the foot of the mountain live grey partridges. Many species of woodpeckers are found in forests, such as black woodpecker, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, syrian woodpecker, middle spotted woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker and lesser spotted woodpecker. At the foot of the mountain nest black storks. Of the predators here live golden eagles, short-toed eagles, booted eagles, long-legged buzzards, common buzzards, honey buzzards, sparrowhawks, levant sparrowhawks, goshawks, peregrines, kestrels and hobbies. Many interesting species are found in the alpines, such as rock partridges, shore larks, alpine accentors, ring ouzels, rock thrushes, alpine choughs, snowfinches and ortolan buntings. Other birds of Vermio are woodcocks, woodpigeons, turtle doves, cuckoos, eagle owls, tawny owls, little owls, nightjars, bee-eaters, skylarks, woodlarks, wrens, dippers, dunnocks, redstarts, mistle thrushes, fieldfares, whitethroats, semicollared flycatcheres, marsh tits, long-tailed tits, wood nuthatches, treecreepers, red-backed shrikes, jays, ravens, golden orioles, siskins, linnets, hawfinches, cirl buntings and rock buntings.
The forests are full of fire salamanders, while other amphibians found here are macedonian crested newts, greek newts, fire-bellied toads, common toads, green toads, balkan frogs, agile frogs and greek frogs. Herpetofauna includes species such as Hermann’s tortoises, marginated tortoises, balkan green lizards, green lizards, Erhard’s wall lizards, common wall lizards, balkan wall lizards, snake-eyed skinks, greek slow worms, glass lizards, smooth snakes, cat snakes, aesculapian snakes, grass snakes and nose-horned vipers. Among the mammals, Vermio holds the most dense numbers of ground squirrels in Greece. The presence of brown bears is now permanent, while the presence of grey wolves is common. Other mammals are wildcats, roe deers, otters, foxes, wild boars, weasels, pine martens, badgers, hedgehogs, hares, red squirrels, forest dormouses, edible dormouses, common dormouses, common moles, Günther’s voles, common noctules, common pipistrelles, Savi’s pipistrelles and steppe whiskered bats. From insects stands out the presence of the forest beetles Morimus asper subsp. funereus, Rosalia alpina and Lucanus cervus and butterflies such as Parnassius mnemosyne, Aporia crataegi, Euchloe penia, Hamearis lucina, Thecla betulae, Tarucus balkanicus, Makulinea rebeli, Inachis io, Brenthis hecate, Boloria dia, Erebia ligea, Aphantopus hyperantus, Coenonympha arcania and Lasiommata petropolitana.
Landscape photos: Konstantinos Maggos