It's mid winter, but the botanist inside us is never at rest! In the warmer parts of the Karst, some vernal plants are making an early appearence. Actually this is the time when the very first spring flowers usually start to appear. Primroses, Helleborus and Crocuses for example are typical late-winter plants. Moreover the weather has been unusually warm recently, with temparatures rising up to 15 degrees C at times and this certainly encouraged the blooms.
Here's a selection of the plants that made us a bit more cheerful during our recent winter excursions.
Tommasini's Sandwort Moehringia tommasinii - endemic to SW Slovenia, NW Croatia and extreme NE Italy (see IUCN factsheet). It grows on sunny limestone cliffs that even in winter can support a mild microclimate, encouraging early blooms. The above shot was taken a few days ago in the Osp cliff - the species' typical locality in Slovenia.
Welden's Crocus Crocus weldenii - a Balkanic species present at a couple of locations in the Trieste Karst, not far from the Slovenian border. There are a few doubtful historic data for Slovenia and the species has not yet been discovered in the country. However, even the small Italian population is of uncertain origins.
Primrose Primula vulgaris - the harbinger of spring?
Helleborus multifidus ssp. istriacus - very common species in the Karst.
Butcher's Broom Ruscus aculeatus - a very common shrub in the Karst's termophilous woodlands.
These could possibly be the leaves of a Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, photographed a few days ago in the flysch hills near Kozina. Certainly a very early record.
Hazel Corylus avellana - catkins.