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Alberi Serpente2 Francesco Rotondaro

Pollino National Park’s flora’s main quality is, without a doubt, diversity, as the many different species scattered all over the land testify; another main feature of the Park is the peculiar climate. Some of the rarest plants grow around here, which makes it unique in the whole Mediterranean area.

The Park’s flora, which depends on altitude, is also heavily influenced by microclimates, type of soil and solar exposure.

Nearby the coast, high up to 700-800 meters, the area is characterized by the presence of the Maquis shrubland, which involves: holm oak (Quercus ilex), lentisc (Pistacia lentiscus), juniper (Juniperus communis, Juniperus oxycedrus, Juniperus phoenicea), myrtle (Myrtus communis), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), downy oak (Quercus pubescens), Montpellier maple (Acer monspessulanum) and weaver’s broom (Spartium junceum). Where sand and rock prevail, there’s a mostly arid climate, therefore the flora that mostly characterizes the area, which is called “gariga”, involves aromatic species like: cistus (Cistus salvifolius, Cistus incanus, Cistus monspeliensis), thyme (Thimus capitatus), wall germander (Teucrium fruticans); other species that are present in the area are evergreen grasses, which make the so-called Mediterranean steppe.

In some areas of the Park, along the most exposed ones of St. Lawrence hills, nearby Cassano and Porace, thanks to the rock’s ability to incorporate heat, you can still find some Maquis shrubland high up to 900 meters. Between 800 and 1100 meters, it’s the oak that prevails with its different types: downy (Quercus pubescens), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Italian oak (Quercus frainetto). Together with oaks, you can often find: Eastern hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), maple (Acer obtusatum), chestnut (Castanea sativa), Neapolitan alder (Alnus cordata); the latter one is a species that is typical of Corsica and southern Apennine. Particularly interesting are Mount Sparviere’s extended maple woods, on the Ionian side: they put together five different species of maple: field maple (Acer campestre), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), Lobel’s maple (Acer lobelii), Hungarian maple (Acer obtusatum), Norway maple (Acer platanoides)..

Mountain and high-mountain flora

The mountain area sees the prevalence of beeches (Fagus sylvatica), which may be mingled with chestnuts, Turkey oaks and maples. The lower altitudes also see the presence of hollies (Ilex aquifolium) and Hungarian maples; high up the mountain, the beech is accompanied by Lobel’s maple, whilst on the North it combines with the white spruce (Abies alba), which is highly present on the Apennine. On the South, high up to 1700 meters, there’s a vast presence of black pines (Pinus nigra).

Pino loricato. The main attraction of Pollino National Park’s flora is, however, its symbol, the pinus heldreichii, also known as Pinus leucodermis, or, in Italian, pino loricato. This particular species can be found mainly in the mountain and high-mountain areas, either in groups or isolated, where it can get the largest solar exposure, also all over rock walls, where it stubbornly resists to the most impervious climate changes. The pino loricato arrived in this area long ago, and it can be found high up until 2200 meters, but on the south-west side it’s also present at 550 meters. This species’ main feature, from which it takes its name, “leucodermis”, is its peculiarly light gray cortex, which is mostly typical of the younger trees, whereas the older ones feature a peculiar type of gray cortex that is split into irregular plates, the so-called “loriche”, which remind of Ancient Roman armors.
The pino loricato may live for millennia, and it may grow up to 40 m, being large over 1,5 m. The cortex’s fibers are peculiarly resinous, which allow the tree to survive way past the end of its vital cycle and turn into a charming monument, an odd statue that bears the memories of long gone times. This is the main reason why until the first half of the 20th century the wood was used to build boats, houses, and chests that people used to travel to America during the difficult times that were marked by heavy migrations. In mountain and high-mountain areas, nearby the karst plateaus, you can find meadows and high pastures that in Spring, once snow has melted, cover in flowers, which make an amazingly beautiful and unique sight. The flower species you may find here are: yarrow (Achillea millefolium), great yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea), Asphodelus albus, wild narcissus (Narcissus poeticus), great white saffron (Crocus albiflorus), Ranunculus lanuginosus, and various other types of orchid such as Orchis mascula and Dactylorhiza latiifolia.

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