Saturday, 14 February 2015

Early spring woodland flowers

Welcome to the first truly botanical post of the year! Here's a selection of the few wildflowers to be found on the Karst at this time of year.
The above species is Crocus weldenii (Hoppe & Fürnrohr), a plant I already mentioned a couple of times. So reassuming: it has a Balkanic distribution and the few places where it grows on the Karst (near Trieste and Gorizia) represent the north-westernmost points of its distribution. These areas are also the only known sites in Italy. On the Karst it is extremely localised to just a handful of locations, where however it can be really abundant and hard to miss. It starts blooming at the end of January/beginning of February and at the moment it is at its best possible splendour. From an identification point of view it is rather similar to Crocus vernus (especially subsp. albiflorus) - the only difference been in the bulb's structure and shape. But here on the Karst, where Crocus weldenii grows, there's only one possible confusion species - see below.

 Crocus reticulatus is the commonest member of its family in the Karst region and south-west Slovenia - actually a typical Karstic flower. It's distinguished from the other Crocuses, by the dark stripes on the outer side of the petals (see above). 

Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop) - one of the commonest early flowers on damp woodland floors. The species is especially abundant in the Karstic dolines (sinkholes) which represent a perfect microclimate of cool air, favouring woodland associations otherwise rare on the Karst (esp. Asaro-Carpinetum betuli).

 Primula vulgaris (primrose). Another very common species in woodlands.

Helleborus multifidus ssp. istriacus - a common woodland flower with a complicated taxonomic status (very similar to H. odorus). On the Karst though, the above species seems to be the most widespread. This is a rather bleak version of its more continental counterpart - H. niger which has large white flowers and is of course far more photogenic than this.