Botanical Excursion to the Dolomites

 

Photos from my plant watching excursion to the dolomites in South Tirol, in the very north of Italy on the border to Austria.

As with my page about Mediterranean plants, I describe the landscape, types of vegetation, some typical plants, and a few garden scenes.

(all photos available in a larger scale by clicking on them)

  

 

The Dolomites are a part of the alps that consists mainly of lime stone (dolomite). While the central alps consist of granite and are very massive, the southern and northern edges of the alps consist of limestone, which weathers differently, and which results in more rugged shapes of the mountains. We hiked a medium-sized mountain near Sankt Lorenzen (St.Lorenzo), the Piz da Peres, with a height of approximately 2500 m (8200 ft.).

  Lower down on the slopes are tiny villages surrounded by meadows and forests.
     
 
The valleys contain some larger towns and villages, the roads and railways, as well as countless farms that benefit from fertile soils and a mild climate.   In the cities, like here in Bozen (Bozano), bikes are a favorite means of transportation.
 
Life seems romantic in these tiny villages with old churches and farm houses. the Farm gardens contain fruit trees, vegetables and flowers   Some gardens are surrounded by beautiful old walls and fences.
 
Even newer houses are often built in the traditional style that connected the living quarters with the barn and the stables all under one roof. Many houses have solar installations on their roofs and firewood stored on the side of the building - makes for low energy bills!   What a different world it is up in the mountains, where the clouds pass, and from where the villages down below look like part of a lovely and peaceful fairytale landscape.
     
      
Starting on the lower slopes, we find some stately perennials that are typical for the rich alpine meadows. Other than juicy grasses and red and white clover we find Meadow Sage (Salvia pratense),    and Pincushion flower (Knautia arvensis), as well as Succisa pratensis, both members of the Dipsacaceae.
 
Silene vulgaris is common in rich, moist meadows   while Verbascum densiflorum is found on dryer locations. The latter is an old medical plant.
 
This delightful plants is Arnica montana - rare in many parts of Europe and usually limited to 'extensively used' mountain meadows - it is a very popular medical plant. The German name says it all: "Berg-Wohlverleih", which translates as "Mountain-wellness-giver"   Right next to it I found Europe's most poisonous plant - Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), which is also a common garden plant (more about this in my page about Childrens Gardens!)
     
 
As we climbed higher we entered the forests, which had a dense undergrowth containing, among others, Rhododendron hirsutum - a Rhododendron species adopted to lime-rich soils.   Scabiosa lucida
 
One of the many Gentiana species   Prunella vulgaris
 
A species of Achillea similar to the common Achillea millefolium, but shorter in habit   At the tree line, the typical plants of the high alps are starting to show up.
 
Phyteuma orbiculare - the devils claw!   Aster alpinus - often found in retail nurseries - is a low, summer-flowering aster
 
Thymus serphyllum, not uncommon elsewhere in Europe   A creeping willow species (Salix)
 
This alpine potentilla (P. nitida) that is typical for the dolomites has beautiful silvery foliage and pink flowers.   Potentilla nitida often inhabits barren limestone slopes.
 
Papaver alpinum rhaeticum - the Alpine Poppy   Leontopodium - Edelweiss - was used extensively as a hat ornament, but is nowadays protected and therefore illegal on hats.
 

This tiny fern in a shady rock crevice at over 2000 m elevation is probably an Asplenium species
  One of the countless Hieracium species
 
Saxifrages are very common in the rock walls. Many species form dense mounds of tiny foliage.    
 
cushion plant   A tiny saxifrage anchored among some rocks
 
the alpine bellfowers were some of the most striking little plants to me - here Campanula cochlearifolia   close-up of C. cochlearifolia
 
Lotus and Campanula in a high altitude meadow make up for a nice color contrast of yellow and blue   Lotus alpinus
 
Dryas octopetala forms extensive drifts on the high mountain meadow. At this time of the year (August) the flowers are gone but it is still beautiful with its fluffy seed heads. This plant was very widespread during the Ice age, covering the plains of the barren glacial landscape where the wooly mammoth roamed.   Close-up foliage of Dryas octopetala. In New England the same plant species is found on the slopes of Mt. Washington, and therefore sometimes called Mt. Washington Daisy.
     
 
The top of Piz da Peres was covered in clouds, so we could not enjoy a wide view over the alps. But the fog was beautiful in its own way.   Starting the way back was like entering into a secretive and mysterious world that is concealed by fog.

 

 

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