Tuesday 7 July 2020

Snežnik - a botanical paradise

Yet another hiking weekend is behind us. This time we fancied some Dinaric mountains, so we headed to the Snežnik plateau in southern Slovenia. The highest summit, Veliki Snežnik is 1796 metres high and is considered Slovenia's highest non-alpine peak. However if we look at the plant communities of this mountain we can clearly see some Alps in it. Snežnik, like several other mountains of the Dinaric chain, exibits a high mixture of plants from different biogeographical zones. The most well represented elements are Alpine and Balkan. The best time to enjoy the flora of Snežnik is right now, between early and mid July. It is hard to find a place in the Alps that is so packed with colourful carpets of alpine flowers like on Snežnik. The large bunches of Edelweiss Leontopodium alpinum look far more handsome, compared with the tiny-flowered and "grounded" specimen growing on alpine peaks. Snežnik is also home to some very rare or localised plants in Slovenia, including Edraianthus Edraianthus graminifolius, Campion-leaved Scabious Scabiosa silenifolia, "Little Alpine Catchfly" Heliosperma pusilla, Red Vanilla Orchids Nigritella miniata and several others. Carniolan Lilies Lilium carniolicum were still in full bloom and we even came across some yellow-flowered specimen (apparently a commoner colour variation in south Slovenian populations). The two commoner species of lily Martagon Lilum martagon and Orange Lily Lilium bulbiferum were also in bloom lower down at the forest edge. We didn't see many birds, apart from large numbers of Crossbills Loxia curvirostra, however we glimpsed an Adder Vipera berus hiding away from the path.
View NW over the Snežnik forests with mount Nanos in the distance.
Out of the beech forest and into the stand of mountain pines Pinus mugo.
Large Yellow Foxglove Digitalis grandiflora
Alpine Leek Allium victorialis
Flowery border along the path through the mountain pines.
Carniolan Lily Lilium carniolicum (yellow-flowered variant).
Hairy Alpenrose Rhododendron hirsutum
Edelweiss Leontopodium alpinum (not yet in full bloom).
Mali Snežnik (Little Snežnik) with extensive cover of mountain pine Pinus mugo.
"Campion-leaved Scabious" Scabiosa silenifolia -
a rare Balkan element in Slovenia.
Edraianthus Edraianthus graminifolius - a rare Balkan element in Slovenia;
only found on Snežnik, Trnovski gozd and Kočevsko.
Edraianthus Edraianthus graminifolius &
"Carniolan Honewort" Trinia glauca ssp. carniolica
Flowery meadows on the top of Snežnik.
Alpine Aster Aster alpinus
Shaggy Rock Jasmine Androsace villosa
"Little Alpine Catchfly" Heliosperma pusilla (Silene pusilla)
From Snežnik's summit looking south - the Adriatic sea (Gulf of Kvarner - HR)
was visible, not in the pics however!
The view E-SE: continuous forests as far as the eye can see!
Vegatation belts of Snežnik: rocky mountain meadows, mountain pine Pinus mugo stands,
beech Fagus sylvatica forest and spruce Picea abies forest in the bottom of the cold karstic dolinas (sinkholes).
Red Vanilla Orchid Nigritella miniata -
now very rare on Snežnik (we counted only 5 specimen).
Carniolan Lily Lilium carniolicum (including an orange-yellow variant).
Martagon Lily Lilium martagon
Orange Lily Lilium bulbiferum
Alpine Sow-thistle Cicerbita alpina
Great Yellow Gentian Gentiana lutea ssp. symphyandra
Illyrian Gladiolus Gladiolus illyricus

Driving back home through the extensive mixed forests of Snežnik, we stopped at a small glade for a quick butterfly-check. Out target species, the amazing Poplar Admiral Limenitis populi was there, waiting for us. A male showed rather briefly, but very well and close, while sucking minerals on the gravel road. This rare butterfly has a very scattered distribution in Slovenia and is only commoner in parts of the Alps. However it usually occurs in low densities and has a very restricted flight-period (8-10 days a year).
A common forest butterfly we encountered was Woodland Brown Lopinga achine, while we also saw Arran Brown Erebia ligea as well as Chestnut Heath Coenonympha glicerion in the meadows on the SW part of the Snežnik plateau.
Poplar Admiral Limenitis populi (male)