Thursday 26 July 2018

Summer appointment with the Queen

Queen of the Alps - Alpine Eryngo Eryngium alpinum

Hairy Alpenrose Rhododendron hirsutum

White Adder's-mouth Malaxis monophyllos

Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra

Yellow-spotted Ringlet Erebia manto

Purple Emperor Apatura iris

Like every summer in recent years, also this time we made our traditional ascent to one of the very few mountains in Slovenia that is still home to the iconic Queen of the Alps or Alpine Eryngo Eryngium alpinum. This attractive plant was a once-widespread species on the mountain pastures of the Slovenian Alps (and elsewhere in the Alpine range), but was almost extirpated by intensive collecting. Nowadays the species is strictly protected, but it has become so rare that it can be only found on a few, quite inaccessible mountain slopes of the southern Julian Alps. Most of its strongholds (with the biggest stands containing up to 1000 plants) are found in the mountains south of Bohinj. Mount Črna prst (1844 m) is one of them and it has become a place we visit on a yearly basis, not only for its Queens, but also for the other alpine flora it hosts. A few days ago we visited the same place as last year (see this post) and found the Queens in an even better stage of bloom. However we noticed that there were far less specimen than the +800 we had last year and estimated no more than 200. But the season is still a bit early for the species as it is just starting to bloom and other specimen might be lurking in the shade of the tall undergrowth. For similar posts on the species, take a look at these posts from previous years: 2015, 2017, 2017.
Apart from a colourful multitude of alpine plants we also spotted a single White Adder's-mouth Malaxis monophyllos, a rare orchid found mostly in the wet mountainous regions of northern Slovenia. On the animal front we observed a juvenile Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, an Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra, heard a Marmot Marmota marmota and almost trod on two adult Adders Vipera berus on the path! Among butterflies the most interesting finds included a single Purple Emperor Apatura iris and several Yellow-spotted Ringlets Erebia manto.