Thursday, 2 April 2015

Flora of the Karstic dolines

Primula auricula - one of the prettiest plants of all.
In this post I'll try to present some of the most characteristic wildflowers that grow at this time of year in the Karstic dolines. The dolines or sinkholes are (usually) large and shallow depressions typical of Karstic terrains and commonly found in western Slovenia and the Trieste area. The phenomenon of temperature inversion "traps" cool air in them and thus makes their microclimate cooler than the surrounding areas. This is then reflected in their vegetation which is characteristics of more montane areas. An example of is the presence of more cool-loving trees like Carpinus betulus, Colylus avellana or Quercus cerris, which are otherwise scarcer on the Karst. The predominant Karstic wood associations include warmth-loving species like Quercus pubescens, Fraxinus ornus and Ostrya carpinifolia. 
A this time of year, lots of colorful wildflowers are to be found on the bottom of dolines. These plants time their flowering season in early spring, so they can exploit the solar rays, before the trees put their leaves on and shade them. So this is the best time of the year to visit such places.
Apart from the below species, some additional ones are also common in the same habitats - see this post for more.
Primula auricula - a specialty found on just two locations on the Karst (both are dolines). See here for more info. This plant grows not in the bottom, but on the steep limestone cliffs of dolines.
Cardamine enneaphyllos with Corydalis solida in the 2nd pic. Both very common plants.
Woodland carpet composed mostly of Corydalis cava, C. solida, Cardamine enneaphyllos and other commoner species.
Corydalis cava - bumblebees seem to be the main impollinators (or stealers?).
Direct comparison between confusion species. The easiest way of telling the two is by looking at the shape of the small leaves right under the flowers.
Isopyrum thalictroides - also very common.
Lathraea squamaria - one of the most bizarre flowers of all!
Mercurialis ovata. Note oval shaped leaves with no leaf-stem. A warmth-loving species, usually avoiding the bottom of dolines (found this in a warmer area out of the doline).
Mercurialis perennis. Note more elongated, spear-shaped leaves on short leaf-stems. More cool-loving than the above species, thus usually found in dolines.
Cardaminopsis arenosa
Thlaspi praecox. A very common early-spring flower on the Karst.
Pulsatilla montana. Typical of Karstic dry grasslands; quite common.
Viola riviniana - one of the two commonest wild violet species here.
And to round up the post, a typical Karstic bird: Rock Bunting Emberiza cia.