Monday 8 June 2015

Botanical delights on Snežnik

Cypripedium calceolus
Mount Snežnik is (together with Trnovski gozd) one of the 3 most interesting botanical localities in Slovenia. This mountain has, similarly to Trnovski gozd, different biogeographical influences which can be readily recognised by looking at the flora. With 1796 m it is the highest non-alpine mountain in Slovenia. Thus some of the plants found there belong to the alpine floristic element and are at their south-easternmost edge of distribution. But in one little patch of ground, one can also find a mix of Balkanic, sub-Mediterranean, Illiric (Eastern Adriatic) and central European species of plants.
The most amazing species of the botanical trip I had on Saturday was Cypripedium calceolus (or Lady's-slipper orchid) which is actually not one of the true specialties of Snežnik. However it is an overall rare plant in Slovenia (also endangered and Natura 2000 species), found mostly in the northern part of the country, in the Alps. In the south it is very rare and I saw it in one of the two known localities for mount Snežnik. Only 7 specimens were in flower. Below a selection of pics of this beautiful plant and of the other most interesting species we had.
Cypripedium calceolus - the swollen, boat-shaped labellum acts as a trap for insects that are lured and fall in it. The internal walls are slippery, preventing the insects from going out, except for the area around the pollinia. By escaping through this "passage" the insects collect new pollen and/or pollinate the plant.
From bottom to top. The white "line" is the path we took.
From top to bottom. View extending south-eastwards to nearby Croatia.
Androsace villosa (alpine species)
Gentiana clusii (blue) and Helianthemum alpestre (yellow). Both alpine species.
Pulsatilla alpina (clearly alpine).
Pulsatilla alpina and Trollius europaeus
Looking at the south-eastern slope of Snežnik.
Bartsia alpina (still... clearly alpine).
Heliosperma pusillum
Lathyrus occidentalis
Ranunculus traunfellneri - alpine species with its south-easternmost point of distribution on Snežnik.
Potentilla crantzii. Again, mostly an alpine plant with a disjunction on Snežnik.
Arabis scopoliana - has its stronghold on Mt. Snežnik, although it was first described by Scopoli on mount Nanos, which represents its north-western edge of distribution. Found from Slovenia down to Albania along the Adriatic (Illiric distribution).
Trinia carniolica (T. glauca subsp. carniolica). Firstly found and described by A. Kerner on Snežnik at the end of the 19th century. Another plant with an Illiric/Balkanic distribution, stretching from the Julian Alps to Albania.
Carex kitaibeliana (sedge) with its only location in Slovenia on Snežnik.
Polygala alpestris subsp. croatica
Cirsium waldsteinii
Lonicera alpigena
Ribes petraeum
Ribes alpinum
Rosa pendulina
Veronica urticifolia
View from Snežnik towards its northern slopes, with two of the main dolines (sinkholes) with temperature and vegetational inversion. Note the structure and extent of the different tree associations.
More about wildflowers on Snežnik in this post from July 2014.

During last week I also had a short afternoon visit to Cerkniško jezero and Planinsko polje. It was good both on the birding and botanical front. During a walk through wet meadows I had 4-5 singing COMMON ROSEFINCHES Carpodacus erythrinus and a BLACK STORK Ciconia nigra landed in a meadow nearby. I also had typical birds of Cerkniško jezero like Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, Quail Coturnix coturnix and Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, while on Planinsko polje I was greeted by 3 singing CORNCRAKES Crex crex and several Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Eriophorum angustifolium
Orchis palustris
Scilla litardierei - a rare plant with its only location in Slovenia on Planinsko polje.
Gladiolus illyricus