Tekst

Plants

Because of its special position, Velebit is influenced by a variety of climates and geographical areas, as reflected in the flora or the plant life covering the mountain. Velebit hosts plants characteristic of coastal, inland and mountain habitats. Species belonging to an area are called flora elements. Among the plants of North Velebit, boreal (northern) and arctic-alpine (northern-Alpine) flora elements are commonly found. The arrangement in which identical or closely related species grow in northern regions an on mountain tops is the result of glaciation, periods in which much of the earth was covered in ice. The plants in cold areas had then lost their living space and were forced to migrate southwards. When the ice started to melt, it become too warm for them, and only those plants growing on mountain tops, where the climate is similar to that of northern or polar regions, were able to survive. After withdrawal to the mountains, these plants became isolated, as if living on an island, surrounded by a large area of unfavourable warm habitats. In their isolation, each group of plants evolved independently from others, resulting in creation of unique species and subspecies – the endemics. Velebit is one of Croatia’s four centres of endemism.

So far over 950 species and subspecies have been recorded in the Park. Many of them are of limited, regional distribution, and some 40 are locally distributed, strict endemics. They account for 4.4 percent of North Velebit flora, which is high for European circumstances. According to the IUCN criteria – (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), 2.3 percent of species and subspecies are included in the national Red List of Threatened Plants compiled by the State Institute for Nature Protection. At European level, 5.1 percent of plant species of the Park are protected under the Bern Convention and the Habitats Directive, the two major pieces of European nature conservation legislations.

Some interesting and protected plant species of the Northern Velebit National Park

 
Silvery Yarrow (Achillea clavenae)
Silvery yarrow is a highly aromatic mountain plant of the Alps and Dinarides regions. It grows in tufts on rocky grasslands and limestone cliffs. It has silvery gray-green leaves and white flowers, which are larger than those of the common yarrow (A. millefolium). Stems and leaves are densely covered in fine hairs, which give them a velvety (felt-like) texture. Silvery yarrow is heat and drought resistant like most plant species growing in rocks. In Croatia, it is protected by law and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Near Threatened category. It blooms from July to September.
 
 
Kitaibel’s Feather (Aquilegia kitaibelii)
An endemic of the western Balkans, it grows on screes and in rock crevices of mountain regions. It has blue-green leaves with fine hairs on both sides. Its unusual, purple flowers on long stalks are bent downwards like hoods with petals having tubular extensions – spurs. The plant is named after the Hungarian botanist and chemist Pal Kitaibel, who was one of the pioneer explorers of the Velebit flora. In Croatia, Kitaibel’s feather is strictly protected by law and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Near Threatened category. It blooms from June to August.
 
 
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Bearberry is widespread in cold regions of the earth's northern hemisphere, such as the north and mountainous areas of Europe, North America and Asia. Bearberry is a low shrub with hard, leathery leaves, white bell-shaped flowers and bright red fruits. It has long been used in treating urinary tract infections. Due to excessive harvesting in nature, it has been placed on the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Vulnerable category, and is strictly protected by law. It is in flower from April to June.
 
 
Candy Carrot (Athamantha turbith subsp. haynaldii)
Athamantha turbith subsp. haynaldii is an endemic plant of the western Balkans, first described by scientists in the North Velebit. It grows on mountain cliffs and screes and is characterized by multiple pinnated leaves and shield-shaped flowers. In appearance, it is similar to other plants of the carrot family, such as the widely familiar carrot or parsley, the difference being the narrow, thread-like leaflets. The plant was named after Lajos Haynald, the Hungarian archbishop and cardinal, who was extensively involved in botanical research in his youth. In Croatia strictly protected, it is in flower from May to July.
 
 
Waldstein’s Bellflower (Campanula waldsteiniana)
A very decorative plant, Waldstein's bellflower forms clumps in crevices in the rocks. It grows on Velebit and Plješivica mountains. The purple-blue flower crowns are dentated and upright, more resembling a star than a bell. Named after Franz Waldstein, an Austrian officer and explorer, Waldstein’s bellflower is strictly protected and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the category of Near Threatened. It blooms in July and August.
 
 
Croatian Bittercress (Cardaminopsis croatica)
An endemic plant of the north-western Dinarides, it is typical of the Velebit mountain, where it was first described. It forms small clumps in rock crevices, and its multiple twisted zig-zag stems give it a strange appearance. This is somewhat less evident during the flowering period, when the stems bear white flowers with four rounded petals. Croatian bittercress is strictly protected in Croatia. Its flowering period is between May and June.
 
 
Rock Pink (Dianthus petraeus subsp. petraeus)
A very attractive plant native to the Balkan peninsula, it grows in tufts in the mountainous rocky grasslands. It has long and thin bluish green leaves resembling grass blades and snow-white flowers with five-toothed petals. In Croatia, the plant is strictly protected, and due to overgrowing of mountain grasslands has been included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Vulnerable category. Rock Pink is in bloom between June and August.
 
 
Alpine Dryas (Dryas octopetala)
A dwarf shrub from the rose family, it grows in cold regions of the northern hemisphere (the north and mountainous areas). It has small wrinkled leathery leaves that are hairy on the underside. The white flowers bear eight petals and many stamens. Two periods in the ice age cycles of the Pleistocene, the Younger Dryas and the Older Dryas, were named after this plant, which was very common in this age. It is strictly protected in Croatia and is included in the Red list of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Data Deficient category. It blooms from May to August.
 
 
Alpine Sea Holly (Eryngium alpinum)
A tall, hardy and thorny plant of the Alps and the Dinarides. It has blue stems that bear beautiful, dark-blue, cone-shaped flowers, and heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges. The plant grows on rocky mountain meadows and along the edges of sinkholes. It is strictly protected in Croatia and is included in the Red list of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Least Concern category. It blooms from June to September.
 
 
Great Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea subsp. symphyandra)
An endemic subspecies growing in the Balkans and the south-eastern Alps. In addition to having bright yellow flowers, growing in whorls along the high and thick stalk, the entire plant is yellow tinted, with leaves having a thin wax coating of gray-blue colour. It grows in mountain meadows, but can also be found among rocks. In Croatia, great yellow gentian is strictly protected by law, and due to its medicinal properties is intensively harvested, which is why it has been placed on the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Endangered category. It blooms between May and June.
 
 
Illyrian Iris (Iris illyrica)
A plant of medium height with large purple-blue flowers wearing yellow "beards" on the downward facing flower petals. Its flat, grass-like leaves are wide and long. Illyrian iris is native to the Dinarides of the eastern coast of the Adriatic, and is found in coastal to pre-mountainous areas. it is strictly protected in Croatia and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Least Concern category. Its flowering period is May and June.
 
 
Edelweiss (Lentopodium alpinum)
A mountain plant of central and southern Europe. It is entirely covered with dense, woolly hairs, including the famous white flower heads. It has narrow, elongated leaves of greyish green colour. Edelweiss grows on cliffs and mountain meadows. It is strictly protected in Croatia. The flowers are in bloom between July and August.
 
 
Carniolan Lily (Lilium carniolicum)
An endemic plant of the southern Alps and the Dinarides. The tall stems bear large drooping orange flowers with petals curved backwards, giving the flower a globular shape. A variety commonly found on the Velebit mountain has yellow flowers and is described as the Bosnian lily (L. bosniacum), although it is probably not a separate species. Carniolan lily grows in rocky grasslands and among rocks. In Croatia, it is strictly protected, and due to excessive harvesting and habitat destruction has been placed on the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Vulnerable category. Its flowering period is between June and July.
 
 
Dinaric crazyweed (Oxytropis dinarica subsp. velebitica)
This low-growing bushy plant is native to the Dinarides. Its pale yellow flowers are clustered in thick elongated inflorescences. It has feathery leaves growing in rosettes. Oxytropis dinarica grows in rocky highland and mountain grasslands. It is strictly protected in Croatia. Its flowering period is between June and August.
 
 
Peony (Paeonia mascula)
Peony is a tall and hardy plant of the mountainous areas of the Mediterranean. It bears a single large and beautiful flower with rounded bright to pale pink petals. Its glossy dark green leaves are divided into two segments with three leaflets each. It grows on overgrown rocky slopes in sunny spots in deciduous forests and among rocks. It is strictly protected in Croatia, and is included in the Red list of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Near Threatened category. It is in flower from April to June.
 
 
European Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo)
A dwarf mountain pine that grows into a shrub or small tree, it is is found in the mountains of central Europe and the Balkans. It is especially adapted to harsh climatic conditions, and is therefore found in the highest belt of forest vegetation. It forms a very dense and impassable forest. European mountain pine bears small cones, and young female cones are purple in colour. Its flowering period is between May and June and the cones mature in October of the second year.
 
 
Mountain Milkwort (Polygala alpestris subsp. croatica)
An endemic subspecies of the Balkan mountains, it is a low-growing plant with numerous slender and prostrate stems. It has tiny blue, more rarely white, flowers. Mountain milkwort grows among rocks and grass-covered slopes. It is strictly protected in Croatia and is included in the Red list of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Data Deficient category. It blooms from April to June.
 
 
Kitaibel’s Primrose (Primula kitaibeliana)
Endemic to the central Dinarides, Kitaibel's primrose is a low-growing plant with bell-shaped flowers of beautiful pink colour and leaves densely covered with sticky hairs. It grows in rock crevices. The plant got its name from the Hungarian botanist and chemist Pal Kitaibel. It is strictly protected in Croatia and is included in the Red list of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Data Deficient category. Its flowering period is from April to July.
 
 
Wind-Flower (Pulsatilla alpina)
A plant of central and southern European mountains, it has upright stems and feathery leaves covered in long hairs. Large, hairy flowers are white inside and purple to reddish tinted on the outside. It has an interesting fruit, with long hairy fruit extensions giving it a cute fuzzy appearance. It grows in mountain meadows and sinkholes. In Croatia, it is strictly protected and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Near Threatened category. It blooms from May to August.
 
 
Bigleaf willow (Salix appendiculata)
Native to the mountains of central and southern Europe, it grows into a shrub or small tree and has leaves with hairy underside. The trees that grow at higher altitudes have smaller leaves. Male and female flowers are born on separate trees. It grows in forests, thickets and in open spaces in mountain areas, spreading all the way up to the upper forest boundary. The plants are in flower between April and May.
 
 
Viper’s Grass (Scorzonera purpurea subsp. rosea)
Endemic to eastern parts of central Europe, the Balkans and central and eastern Italy, it bears beautiful large pale pink flower heads. The stigma ends in two long pink ribbons that resemble a snake's tongue. It grows in mountain meadows. In Croatia, it is a strictly protected species and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Data Deficient category. It is in flower from June to August.
 
 
Maly’s Moon Carrot (Seseli malyi)
Endemic to the western Balkans, it grows low to the ground. Its blue-green leaves are divided into narrow, elongated leaflets, and its dense, shield-shaped flowers are red-pink when young, turning into pale pink when they reach full blossom. The plant is named after Franz Maly, the court gardener in Vienna, who was a frequent visitor to Velebit. It grows in rocky mountainous areas. In Croatia, it is a strictly protected species and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Near Threatened category. It is in flower in June and July.
 
 
Croatian Sibirea (Sibiraea altaiensis subsp. croatica)
Endemic to the western Balkans, in Croatia it is found only on the Velebit mountain. Its closest relatives grow in central Asia. A deciduous shrub of the rose family, it has small white flowers growing in loose elongated inflorescences. Croatian sibirea grows among rocks in the mountainous area. A significant locality is the Visibaba Botanical Reserve located within the Park. In Croatia, it is strictly protected and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Near Threatened category. The plants are in flower between June and July.
 
 
Common Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
A deciduous tree native to Europe and western Asia. It has leaves composed of serrated leaflets. It bears fragrant white blossoms covered with white woolly hairs. Its very attractive and conspicuous fruits are bright red or bright orange and occur in numerous dense clusters. The plant grows in deciduous, mainly beech, forests of the mountain areas and is a protected species in Croatia. It blooms in May and June.
 
 
Globe Orchid (Traunsteinera globosa)
A mountain plant native to central and south-eastern Europe, it is the only European species of this genus. It has few leaves and bears a beautiful ball-shaped inflorescence of mauve or pink colour. It grows in mountain meadows and is a strictly protected species in Croatia. It blooms from June to August.
 
 
Mountain Globe Flower (Trollius europaeus)
Globe flower is native to northern and mountainous areas of Europe and western Siberia. Its high stem usually bears one globe-shaped flower of bright citrus-yellow colour with palm-shaped leaves. It grows in damp meadows of the mountain regions, but is also found in sinkholes and valleys which retain the snow cover long. Particularly impressive is the sight of globe flowers blooming in large numbers on Štirovača, the only wet meadow in the Park. It is protected in Croatia and is included in the Red List of Threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Near Threatened category. It is in flower between May and June.
 
 
White Hellebore (Veratrum album)
A mountain plant native to Europe and Asia, it has a tall and stout stem, with large elliptical leaves featuring pronounced longitudinal veins. Its white oblong inflorescences are branched. White hellebore grows in mountain meadows and clearings, where it is very conspicuous. It is one of the most poisonous plants of the Velebit, which is probably what its Croatian name is derived from. The young plants resemble young yellow gentians. It is a strictly protected species in Croatia and is included in the Red List of threatened Plants of Croatia, in the Data Deficient category. It is in flower from June to August.
 

Forest Plant Communities of the Northern Velebit National Park

Much of Northern Velebit National Park (more than 80 percent of the total area) is covered in forests with easily observable altitude distribution (zoning). Biogeographically, they mostly belong to the Eurosiberian-North-American region and to a lesser extent to the Mediterranean region. Although no extensive studies of forest plant communities have yet been conducted in the Park, 14 different forest plant communities have been identified in the wider North Velebit area.

Downy Oak and oriental Hornbeam Forest (Querco-Carpinetum orientalis)


This forest community occupies large areas of the southern exposure of the Velebit mountain. Through the long centuries, even millennia, it has been intensively exploited by the local people – it was cut for timber, deforested, used for grazing cattle, etc. As a result, large areas of these plant communities today occur in form of stump forest, a forest where trees grow from the stump. They are very important for the protection of soil against erosion. In the tree layer, in addition to downy oak (Quercus pubescens) and oriental hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis) grow manna ash (Fraxinus ornus), Montpelier maple (Acer monspessulanum), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris) and true service (Sorbus domestica). The most common plant species in the shrub layer include: scorpion senna (Coronilla emerus subsp. emeroides), smoke-bush (Cotinus coggygria), Christ’s thorn (Paliurus spina-christi), bladder senna (Colutea arborescens), St Lucie cherry (Prunus mahaleb), cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). The most important ground vegetation species include: wild asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius), winter savory (Sataureja montana), spiked speedwell (Veronica spicata), red feather clover (Trifolium rubens), white dittany (Dictamnus albus) and others.

European Hop-hornbeam and Pubescent Oak Forest (Ostryo-Quercetum pubescentis)


This forest is also developed in various degraded forms of original forest. It occupies a layer above hornbeam and pubescent oak forests on the coastal slope of the Velebit mountain. It mainly occurs on calcareous soils, in the form of fragmented groves and thickets, and has great significance for the conservation of soil. In addition to European hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) and pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens), the most common species include: manna ash (Fraxinus ornus), Bosnian maple (Acer obtusatum), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Norway maple (Acer platanoides), Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).

Beech Forest with Autumn Moor Grass (Seslerio autumnalis-Fagetum)


This forest covers the lower stratum of beech forests which grow on the coastal slopes of the Velebit mountain. It occurs at altitudes between 700 and 1300 meters and is characterized by the presence of thermophilic species of autumn moor grass (Sesleria autumnalis) which covers the whole ground like a carpet in autumn. The tree layer is dominated by common beech (Fagus sylvatica), with some patches of Bosnian maple (Acer obtusatum), European hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), common whitebeam (Sorbus aria) and manna ash (Fraxinus ornus). The shrub layer is mainly composed of wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana), cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), warted spindle (Euonymus verrucosus) and purging buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Most important species in the ground vegetation layer include: autumn moor grass (Sesleria autumnalis), bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum), fingered sedge (Carex digitata), corymbflower tansy (Tanacetum corymbosum), bastard agrimony (Aremonia agrymonoides), nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium) and others.

European Black Pine and Cotoneaster Forest (Cotoneastro-Pinetum nigrae)


This is a very interesting forest community containing a number of Mediterranean species, such as prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), Montpellier maple (Acer monspessulanum), terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus), scorpion senna (Coronilla emerus subsp. emeroides) and others. Next to them also grow typical „pinewood“ species such as: spring heath (Erica herbacea), hairy cotoneaster (Cotoneaster nebrodensis), june-berry (Amelanchier ovalis) and others. In North Velebit indigenous black pine forests are a relict - remains of what were once much wider spread forests.

Mountain Beech forest (Lamio orvalae–Fagetum)


This community occupies a very narrow belt on the inland-facing side of the Velebit mountain at heights between 600 and 900 meters above sea level. In addition to beech, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), wych elm (Ulmus glabra) and other species are found, too.

Dinaric Beech and Fir Forest (Omphalodo vernae-Fagetum)


These forests are found at altitudes between 1000 and 1400 meters. In addition to common beech (Fagus sylavtica) and european silver fir (Abies alba) other important species growing in these forests include: blue eyed mary (Omphalodes verna), hacquetia (Hacquetia epipactis), carnian spurge (Euphorbia carniolica), dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perennis), veiny buckthorn (Rhamnus alpinus subsp. fallax), bastard agrimony (Aremonia agrimonoides), giant dead nettle (Lamium orvala), broad-leaved spindle (Euonymus latifolius) and large-flowered calamint (Calamintha grandiflora).

Sub-alpine Beech Forest with Sycamore Maple (Polysticho lonchitis-Fagetum)


It occupies the highest regions of the Park where it grows at altitudes between 1200 to mostly 1500 meters in conditions characterized by large amounts of snow, low temperatures, short growing season and strong winds. The trees in this forest are typically curved in the lower part of the trunk due to the pressure of prolonged snow cover and wind. The tree layer is dominated by common beech (Fagus sylvatica), but sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) is also very common. The shrub layer is less developed and is composed of February daphne (Daphne mezereum), alpine honeysuckle (Lonicera alpigena), with bigleaf willow (Salix appendiculata), stone bramble (Rubus saxatilis), alpine rose (Rosa pendulina) and alpine currant (Ribes alpinum) growing at higher elevations. The most significant species in the ground vegetation layer include: holly fern (Polystichum lonchitis), round-leaved saxifrage (Saxifraga rotundifolia), alpine adenostyles (Adenostyles alpina), wood colt’s foot (Homogyne sylvestris), nettle-leaved speedwell (Veronica urticifolia), large white buttercup (Ranunculus platanifolius), yellow thistle (Cirsium erisithales), three-leaved valerian (Valeriana tripteris), broad-leaved garlic (Allium ursinum) and others.

Fir Forest with Small Reed (Calamagrostio-Abietetum)


This community develops on craggy calcareous blocks. At higher altitudes it grows within the pre-alpine beech forest belt, and at lower altitudes within the mountain belt of beech and fir forest. It conquers the steepest habitats and prevents soil erosion in the most endangered regions. The species occurring in this community include: common juniper (Juniperus intermedia), reed grass (Calamagrostis arundinacea), alpine clematis (Clematis alpina), alpine adenostyles (Adenostyles alpina), alpine rose (Rosa pendulina), black-berried honeysuckle (Lonicera nigra), bigleaf willow (Salix appendiculata), maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum multiflorum), spiked rampion (Phyteuma spicatum) and others.

Illyrian Mountain Beech Forest with Dead Nettle (Lamio orvale-Fagetum sylvaticae)


It occurs on the inland side where it occupies a belt between 400 and 800 meters above sea level and is very abundant in species. The tree stratum is dominated by common beech (Fagus sylvatica), with patches of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), Norway maple (Acer platanoides), common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and wych elm (Ulmus glabra). The ground vegetation layer is composed of February daphne (Daphne mezereum), laurel-leaved daphne (Daphne laureola), european red elder (Sambucus racemosa), common holly (Ilex aquifolium), alpine honeysuckle (Lonicera alpigena), fly honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum), broad-leaved spindle (Euonymus latifolius) and other species. The dense ground vegetation layer is characterized by specific species of Illyrian beech forests – the beech forests of the western Balkans and the east Adriatic coastal belt: giant dead nettle (Lamium orvala), hacquetia (Hacquetia epipactis), henbane bell (Scopolia carniolica), blue-eyed mary (Omphalodes verna), Carnian spurge (Euphorbia carniolica), large-flowered calamint (Calamintha grandiflora) and others. However, species typical for most European beech forests can also be found: sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), wood sanicle (Sanicula europaea), baneberry (Actea spicata), woodland sedge (Carex sylvatica), common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), martagon lily (Lilium martagon), dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perennis), yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) and others. In north Velebit this community grows around the village of Krasno.

Spruce Forest with Bastard Agrimony (Aremonio-Piceetum abietis)


Especially developed in Štirovača and on the fringes of numerous mountain meadows, it's a plant community of so-called frost pockets, wide valleys where the concentration of cold air is higher. The tree stratum is dominated by norway spruce (Picea abies) with some european silver fir (Abies alba) and common beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) of lesser vitality. The shrub layer is less well developed and comprises species such as common rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and black-berried honeysuckle (Lonicera nigra). The ground vegetation layer is very lush and abounds in acidophilic species (those that thrive in acid soil), such as blue whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), stiff clubmoss (Lycopodium annotinum), hairy woodrush (Luzula pilosa), with other important species comprising common wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), raspberry (Rubus idaeus), willow gentian (Gentiana asclepiadea), trifoliate bittercress (Cardamine trifolia) and many others. Bastard agrimony (Aremonia agrimonoides) is commonly found within the community, but not in great abundance.

Sub-alpine Spruce Forest with Listera (Laserpitio krapfii–Piceetum abietis)


The largest complexes of this forest are found in Smrčeve doline and Lubenovac. It develops in the cold, steep, enclosed northern sinkholes and valleys, with a high and long lasting snow cover. The tree layer is almost exclusively composed of norway spruce (Picea abies), and the shrub layer consists of black-berried honeysuckle (Lonicera nigra) and bigleaf willow (Salix appendiculata), with blue-berried honeysuckle (Lonicera borbasiana) found more rarely. The common plants in the ground vegetation layer are those belonging to coniferous forest acidophilic species: blue whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), stif clubmoss (Lycopodium annotinum), fir clubmoss (Huperzia selago), heart-leaved twayblade (Listera cordata) and species growing in pre-alpine beech forests: yellow thistle (Cirsium erisithales), three-leaved valerian (Valeriana tripteris), alpine clematis (Clematis alpina) and others. Commonly found are also different species of moss from the genera Plagiothecium, feather moss (Hylocomium sp.), peat moss (Sphagnum sp.), and haircap mos (Polytrichum sp.).

Spruce Forest with Small Reed (Hyperico griesebachii–Piceetum abietis)


It grows around Zavižan, on Hajdučki kukovi and Rožanski kukovi on steep calcareous blocks 1400 meters above sea level. The tree layer is dominated by norway spruce (Picea abies). Other species to be found include common rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), with occasional stunted – krummholz common beech trees (Fagus sylvatica). In the shrub and ground vegetation layers, pre-alpine species dominate such as: alpine rose (Rosa pendulina), reedgrass (Calamagrostis varia), alpine juniper (Juniperus communis subsp. nana), blue-berried honeysuckle (Lonicera borbasiana), european mountain pine (Pinus mugo), alpine currant (Ribes alpinum), large-leaved willow (Salix appendiculata), silvery yarrow (Achillea clavenae) and others.

Spruce Forest with Adenosytles (Adenostylo alliariae-Piceetum abietis)


It grows in wider bottoms of shallow sinkholes which are wetter, colder and richer in fertile soil – humus – than the surrounding habitats. In such forest habitats the snow cover lasts long and the ground is very wet. The dominant type of vegetation are tall herbs: Adenostyles (Adenostyles alliariae), alpine blue-sow-thistle (Cicerbita alpina), Austrian leopard's bane (Doronicum austriacum), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), white butterbur (Petasites albus), meadow grass (Poa hybrida), pond water crowfoot (Ranunculus platanifolius), whorled Solomon's seal (Polygonatum verticillatum), wood chickweed (Stellaria nemorum) and two-flower violet (Viola biflora). Unlike other spruce communities, this community is characterized by the absence of large moss complexes with blue whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and norway spruce (Picea abies) shrubs growing on trunks and fallen trees. In North Velebit, this community grows in a mosaic pattern with nicest stands to be found in the Lom area.

Mountain Pine Krummholz and Blue-berried Honeysuckle Forest (Lonicero borbasianae-Pinetum mugi)


This forest inhabits the uppermost peaks of North Velebit and forms the upper boundary of forest vegetation in the Dinaric mountains 1350 meters above sea level. It covers many rocky peaks, ridges and slopes. The dominating species is european mountian pine (Pinus mugo) which develops very long and low-lying branches under the influence of long-lasting snow cover and strong air currents and covers vast, impassable regions. In addition to mugo pine and a few scrubby norway spruce trees (Picea abies), and krumholz – stunted, shrubby common beech (Fagus sylvatica) other species to be found here include: large-leaved willow (Salix appendiculata), common rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), blue-berried honeysuckle (Lonicera borbasiana), alpine rose (Rosa pendulina), false medlar (Sorbus chamaemespilus), alpine currant (Ribes alpinum), alpine juniper (Juniperus communis subsp. nana), European cotoneaster (Cotoneaster intergerrimus), stone bramble (Rubus saxatilis), blue whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and other species. Pine scrub has an immense protective function as it overgrows many steep and craggy areas containing countless Croatian endemics and rare plant species.

Grassland Plant Communities of Northern Velebit National Park
(By: Antun Alegro, DSc, Croatian Botanical Society)

Although grasslands are created by human activity, not all grasslands are the same. They vary depending on altitude, relief of the terrain, characteristics of soil, impact of wind, method of use and other factors which are sometimes difficult to detect. The interplay of these factors has created a range of grassland types, which are characterized by a specific combination of plant species.

Over the past few years, grassland plant communities of the Northern Velebit National Park have been extensively explored.

Dwarf Sedge and Rock Knapweed Rocky Grasslands (Carici humilis-Centauretum rupestris)


These grasslands are developed in the lowest belt, i.e. the European hop-hornbeam belt, for example, in Dundović pod, Kačarica, Laminača and Turska vrata. They are characterized by a high proportion of sub-Mediterranean species, often occurring with large populations. These are, for example: rock knapweed (Centaurea rupestris), Nice milkwort (Polygala nicaeensis), giant scabious (Cephalaria leucantha), amethyst sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum), Koeleria splendens and others.

 
 

Mountain Savoy and Dwarf Sedge Rocky Grasslands (Saturejo subspicatae-Caricetum humilis)


With increasing altitude, the number of sub-Mediterranean species falls. In their place alpine species are found, forming this community. These pastures are found on the coastal slopes of north Velebit at altitudes ranging between 1100 and 1400 meters in the beech forest belt, and sporadically also in the european mountain pine belt. Fine stands can be found in the Borove vodice, Vukušić duliba, Zelengrad, Oštrik, Alančić and Buljma areas. Since most of the sub-Mediterranean species which are found in abundance in the preceding community of the lower regions are missing here, these grasslands are poorer in flora. Instead, some higher altitude species occur such as: cowslip primrose (Primula veris subsp. columnae), splendid knapweed (Centaurea triumphetti), silver plantain (Plantago argentea), spring gentian (Gentiana verna subsp. tergestina) and some other species.

 
 

Upright Brome Grasslands (transitional type of grassland between Bromion erecti and Scorzonerion villosae)


At altitudes ranging between 850 and 1100 meters, relatively small areas of this grassland are found in protected positions not directly exposed to the sea or the bora winds, often surrounded by forest. They develop in deeper soils that are never rocky, but are shallow enough to prevent leaching and acidification as evidenced by the lack of acidophilic (acidity loving) species. These grasslands are probably of different origin. They were possibly mostly used as pastures (in the Babrovača and Paljež areas they still today have this function), and being created on flat ground without protruding stones, it is possible that they served as hay meadows. A small portion of these grasslands could have been created on overgrown farming land (e.g. in the Dundović pod and on terraces close to Gobanović padež near Babrovača). They also occur as the most thermophilic type of grassland of the peak zone, normally occurring on very shallow karst soils or above moraine materials. Such grasslands are particularly well developed in Mirovo, and are noted for their large populations of Hoermann's lousewort (Pedicularis hoermanniana). Upright brome grasslands are characterized by a relatively extensive set of species, including keeled garlic (Allium carinatum), sheep's burnet (Sanguisorba minor subsp. muricata), dropwort (Filipendulla vulgaris), wood betony (Stachys serotina), meadow sage (Salvia pratensis) and others.

 
 

Narrow-leaved Moor Grass and Dwarf Sedge Grasslands (Seslerio juncifoliae (interruptae)–Caricetum humilis)


These are grazing pastures (sometimes hay meadows) occurring in the highest positions of the coastal slopes exposed to the bora winds, in the beech and hrummholz mountain pine forest belt, at altitudes ranging from 1200 meters up to the highest summits (e.g. Balinovac 1602m, Veliki Zavižan 1676m, Oštrik 1355m, Alančić 1611m, Buljma 1451m). Meadows with narrow-leaved moor grass are the most wide spread type of high mountain grasslands of the coastal slopes of Velebit, with bora playing a crucial role in their formation. Under such conditions, broken narrow-leaved moor grass (Sesleria interrupta), is very competitive, which is why it is the dominant species in this type of habitat. Other plants to be found in this community include: silvery broom (Genista sericea), downy elecampane (Inula hirta), ilirian savory (Satureja subspicata), globe daisy (Globularia cordifolia), silver plantain (Plantago argentea), Hoermann’s lousewort (Pedicularis hoermaniana), buckler mustard (Biscutella laevigata), Velebit locoweed (Oxytropis dinarica subsp. velebitica) and others.

 
 

Bosnian Fescue Grasslands (Festucetum bosniacae)


These grasslands are developed in the same peak zone, but in protected areas, primarily those sheltered from strong winds, and often in deeper soils. They are the most common type of grassland on the mountain meadows Dundović padež, Šegotski padež and Bilenski padež and in Rožano and Zavižan areas. In Tudorevo and Veliki Lubenovac they appear in a mosaic pattern together with other types of grassland. They are comprised of a range of mountain species such as: Velebit pink (Dianthus velebiticus), tufted campion (Silene saxifraga), glossy scabious (Scabiosa lucida), rock pink (Dianthus petraeus subsp. petraeus), Burnet saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), purple viper’s grass (Scorzonera purpurea subsp. rosea), chamois ragwort (Senecio doronicum), clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata), roundheaded rampion (Phyteuma orbiculare) and others.

 
 

East Alpine Violet Fescue Grasslands (Festucetum paniculatae)


These grasslands are distributed in patchwork patterns in areas of Bosnian fescue grasslands, but in deeper, moister and more or less washed out soils depending on exposure and relief. They are very conspicuous because they are composed of dense stands of monodominant east alpine violet fescue (Festuca paniculata), often growing higher than 1.5 meters. An interesting fact is that some otherwise typical forest species are found in these grasslands. These grasslands are one of the rarest types of mountain grassland in Croatia, and so far have only been found in the mountain valleys of Šegotski padež and Bilenski padež and in Tudorevo.

 
 

Matgrass Grasslands (Nardetum strictae)


Matgrass grasslands develop in the peak belt, the zone of sub-alpine beech and mountain pine scrub forests, at the bottoms of flat, protected dolines where a thicker layer of soil has accumulated, thereby isolating the calcareous layer and allowing the bases to be leached out, and creating an acidic, nutrient poor soil. They are the only type of acidophilic grassland in the north Velebit area. Matgrass grasslands are easily recognizable by their dense stands of matgrass (Nardus stricta), which is generally the dominant species. In addition to matgrass, some other species are present in fair abundance such as alpine chewing's fescue: (Festuca nigrescens), spring sedge (Carex caryophyllea), field wood-rush (Luzula campestris), common tormentil (Potentilla erecta), common heath grass (Danthonia decumbens), alpine vernal grass (Anthoxanthum alpinum), common bent (Agrostis capillaris), mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica), wood cudweed (Gnaphalium sylvaticum) and others. In the species composition there are generally no sub-Mediterranean, Illyrian species of the west Balkans and the eastern Adriatic coastal area or southern European species, so that matgrass grasslands can be said to phytogeographically poorly reflect the area in which they are developed. Their floristic (plant species) composition primarily reflects the extreme environmental conditions in which they are formed.

 
 

Hairgrass Mountain Grasslands (Deschampsietum subalpinum)


These grasslands can develop in funnel-shaped depression bottoms in which water collects, especially from melted snow. They normally cover a very small area of not more than a dozen square meters and have very poor floristic (plant species) composition.

 
 

Former Farming Land


Formerly mainly used to grow potatoes, cabbage and rarely some other vegetable crops, this land has now become completely abandoned and has eventually acquired the appearance of grassland. The species composition is dominated by nitrophilic plants – those preferring higher concentrations of nitrogen in the soil and mesophilic species – those preferring more moist habitats than those present in the rocky grasslands, so that at first glance they might seem to represent small exclaves of lowland grassland. Among the dominating grass species are oat grass (Arrhenatheterum elatius) or couch grass (Elymus repens), the latter especially to be found in mountain valleys and at Mirovo. Both types of grasslands are linked by a large number of common species such as: couch grass (Elymus repens), orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata), Saint John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense), bird vetch (Viccia cracca), white bedstraw (Galium mollugo), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), white campion (Silene latifolia subsp. alba), cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and others. If grasses are not too dominant, these stands have the appearance of tall herbs. An interesting fact is that no neophytes or invasive species have been found here, such as annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus), Canadian horseweed (Conyza canadensis), common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), which are otherwise common and often dominant in abandoned farming land in lowland regions.

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