Tuesday 26 April 2016

Idrija - the cradle of natural history

Primula carniolica, Idrija, 25th April 2016. A Slovene endemic growing on cliffs in western and part of central Slovenia. It has a quite restricted range and Idrija is its stronghold. This little flower is quite frequent on wet cliffs on the hills and mountains around the town.
Primula auricula, Idrija, 25th April 2016. This (alpine) species is frequently found on the same cliffs with P. carniolica and the two species may sometimes hybridize. The result is the endemic "Idrija primrose" Primula x venusta which has features of both species (photos). It is rare and localised to just a few sites around Idrija, Trnovski gozd and west to the Trebuša valley.
Scopolia carniolica, Idrija, 25th April 2016. Quite common in forests, but most plants are already at the end of the flowering season. In late spring, the large leaves can form real "bushes" (photo above) and the flowers become less visible.
Scopolia carniolica f. hladnikiana at Scopoli's memorial garden, Idrija, 25th April 2016. This is a very rare, yellow-flowered form of Scopolia carniolica and is endemic to Slovenia. It is found in some localities around Idrija and in central Slovenia and got its name after Franc Hladnik (1773-1844), a botanist from Idrija.
Anemone trifolia, Idrija, 25th April 2016. A very common species in the forests, sometimes together with Anemone nemorosa (the usually much commoner cousin).
Paederota lutea, Idrija, 25th April 2016. Alpine species growing commonly on rocks and wet limestone cliffs.
Polygala chamaebuxus, Idrija, 25th April 2016.
Aster bellidiastrum, Idrija, 25th April 2016. A mountain/alpine species found also in wet gorges and cliffs, outside its alpine stronghold.
Lonicera alpigena, Idrija, 25th April 2016.
Lonicera xylosteum, Idrija, 25th April 2016.
Staphylea pinnata, Idrija, 25th April 2016.
Divje jezero ("Wild lake"), Idrija, 25th April 2016. This small lake near Idrija is in fact a karstic spring with a 160 meters deep cave in it! The Olm Proteus anguinus is one of the cave's inhabitants and this location represents the northernmost point of distribution of this Dinaric animal. Have a look at this video on underwater exploring of the lake - the Olm is also featured at the end.
Commemorative plaque on Scopoli's house, Idrija, 25th April 2016.

Yesterday I visited the town of Idrija (W Slovenia) and its surroundings. Idrija is worldly known for its mercury mines (UNESCO World Heritage Site) but among naturalists it's regarded as the Slovene "cradle of natural history". Several naturalists in the 18th and 19th century lived and worked there. Among them, the most famous is Giovanni Antonio Scopoli who around Idrija discovered and named many species of plants and animals new to science. A classical example is "his" Scopolia carniolica (genus name derived directly from his surname). He also published the first book on plants in Slovenia: Flora Carniolica.
Quite interesting is the fact that in the surroundings of Idrija Scopoli also found the Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria and named it Picus muralis. He then sent a specimen to Linnaeus who later described and classified the bird.
In Idrija I visited the house where Scopoli lived (between 1754-1769) and a small botanical garden dedicated to his memory. Some time was also spent in the field, on the hills around Idrija and at Divje jezero (lake), looking for wild flowers obviously!