Velebit Botanical Garden
Established in 1967 on the initiative of dr. Fran Kušan, professor at the Zagreb Faculty of Pharmacology and Biochemistry, the Velebit Botanical Garden is located in close proximity to Zavižan, a mere fifteen minutes’ walk from the mountain hut. The idea that guided the founders of the Garden is still very much alive – to make Velebit’s wealth of plant life accessible not only to scientists, explorers and passionate mountaineers, but to other visitors of north Velebit as well. Shortly after establishment of the Garden, the surrounding area was proclaimed a Special Botanical Reserve Zavižan – Balinovac – Velika Kosa.
The Garden lies at an altitude of 1480 meters above sea level. At the centre of the Garden there is a sink-hole called Balinovačka Ponikva, encircled by a 600 m circular stone path. From here you can climb up one of the mountain trails that lead to the nearby peaks - Velika Kosa (1622 m), Balinovac (1602 m) and Veliki Zavižan (1676 m). From the circular path, stone steps will take you to the bottom of Balinovačka Ponikva sinkhole, at 1430 m above seal level.
Today, the Garden is home to some 300 plant species, some growing wild and others brought in from other parts of Velebit, including some rare indigenous species – Velebit degenia (Degenia velebitica), Croatian sibirea (Sibirea altaiensis ssp. croatica), Edelweis (Leontopodinum alpinum ssp. krasense), Velebit pink (Dianthus velebiticus), Kitaibel’s primrose (Primula kitabeliana), Kitaibel’s feather (Aquilegia kitaibelii) and Croatian bittercress (Cardaminopsis croatica). Especially interesting is a large rockery containing many attractive species. The tour of the Garden takes one hour of slow walk and the best time of year to visit the Garden is June and July when most of the plants are in blossom.
The Garden also features a botanical station, a rest area and benches for visitors. Plant names are indicated on illustrated plates, with information boards explaining the main natural values of the Garden.
Before proclamation of the Northern Velebit National Park in 1999, the Botanical Garden was managed by the Forestry Office Krasno. Scientific work in the Garden was conducted by a Commission for expert monitoring and proposing expert measures in the Velebit botanical garden lead by a group of distinguished scientists and experts.
Botanical Garden in Figures
The symbol of the Velebit Botanical Garden is the endemic Velebit degenia in fruit, the work of renowned Croatian painter Eduard Kovačević. Velebit degenia grows naturally only in the central and south Velebit. In the Northern Velebit National Park it can only be seen in the Velebit Botanical Garden and Reserve where it was imported from its natural habitat.