Carpathian Scree Vegetation

Scree is a widespread feature in the mountains of Central Europe. Despite the unstable nature of this habitat many of the associated plants appear remarkable delicate, but this often belies a well-developed root system, which is frequently accompanied by a mat or tuft forming growth. Nevertheless, much of this vegetation comprises light-requiring plants that would quickly succumb to competition from other plants in less demanding situations. In the Carpathian Mountains, scree is particularly well represented in the Tatras (the highest range of the Carpathians). On calcareous scree one of the most characteristic species is the endemic Papaver alpinum subsp. tatrietum (Papaveraceae). Other species commonly include Cerastium latifolium, Saxifraga cernua and the endemic Cerastium tatrae (Caryophyllaceae). On granitic scree, where more acidic conditions prevail, Oxyria digyna becomes one of the main species, where it is often accompanied by various Carpathian endemics such as Cardaminopsis neglecta and Cochlearia tatrae (Brassicaceae) and Saxifraga carpatica (Saxifragaceae).

Carpathian Mountain Grasslands

In the calcareous zones, much of the upland grasslands are dominated by the endemic Festuca versicolor var. vulgaris (Poaceae), while common associates include the two Carpathian endemics Carex sempervirens subsp. tatrorum (Cyperaceae) and Sesleria tatrae (Poaceae). It extends to the highest calcareous summits in the Tatras and is one of the richest communities of these mountains supporting at least 100 species. Some of these include Androsace chamaejasme, Astragalus frigidus, Cerastium lanatum, Hedysarum obscurum, Oxytropis halleri, Saussurea alpina var. bordasii and Senecio capitatus. In areas where the soil is thin and poorly developed a sedge-dominated community - the principal species being Carex firma, replaces these grasslands. Other associates include Dryas octopetala, a number of cushion plants like Minuartia sedoides, Saxifraga caesia, Silene acaulis subsp. pannonica, and dense mat forming plants such as the endemic Oxytropis carpatica (Fabaceae). On the lower slopes the calcareous grasslands are more likely to be dominated by the two endemic species - Festuca tatrae (Poaceae) and Carex sempervirens subsp. tatrorum (Cyperaceae). These grasslands are again very rich in species including both high mountain and lowland species - examples include Allium montanum, Anthyllis alpestris, Carduus glaucus, Dianthus praecox, Sempervivum soboliferum subsp. preissianum, Thesium alpinum, and the endemic Knautia kitaibelii (Dipsacaceae). In gullies and depressions where snow cover tends to persist for longer and where soil moisture levels are higher the grasslands are typically characterised by Calamagrostis villosa, and on some of the more calcareous substrata by the endemic Festuca carpatica (Poaceae). Other associates include Crepis mollis, Linum extraaxillare Phleum michelii, and the endemic Achillea sudetica (Asteraceae). In still wetter places at the foot of cliffs with dripping water, alongside streams or around springs, grasses are largely repleced by a number of tall perennial forbs - dominant among these are Adenostyles alliariae, Doronicum austriacum and Mulgedium alpinum.  It is also in these situations that the two rare endemics Aconitum callibotryon var. firmum and Delphinium oxysepalum (Ranuncuaceae) reside. Moving into more acidic areas on granite, gneisses or quartzite, the principal grassland species are Festuca supina (often in its viviparous form), Oreochloa disticha and Juncus trifidus. The latter species often turns reddish in late summer giving whole mountain slopes a red-brown tinge, and is thought to be responsible for the name Czerwone Wierchy (Red Hills) given to a mountain range in the Tatras. Other associates of these acidic grasslands include Avenastrum versicolor, Pulsatilla alba and the endemic Senecio carpaticus (Asteraceae). 

Carpathian Naked Rush-Dwarf Shrub Heath

In the Balianske Tatry (limestone) Mountains (Western Carpathians) this formation is described as a Carex carpatica-Elyna (Kobresia) myosuroides (naked rush) association. It typically occurs on windswept slopes and ridges. In these harsh environments the shallow soils usually dry out in summer and winter temperatures can be extremely low, but snow cover tends to be light due to windstorms. The vegetation is therefore adapted to both dry and cold conditions and technically described as cryo-xerophytic. The characteristic species, Elyna (Kobresia) myosuroides and the Carpathian endemic Carex carpatica (Cyperaceae), may be accompanied by a sparse undergrowth of cushion forming species like Minuartia sedoides, Saxifraga oppositifolia, S. paniculata and Silene acaulis and ground cover of lichens. Other Carpathian endemics found here include Campanula tatrae (Campanulaceae), Carex tatrorum (Cyperaceae), Delphinium oxysepalum (Ranunculaceae), Erigeron hungaricus (Asteraceae), Genteniella tatrae (Gentianaceae), Leontodon pseudotaraxaci (Asteraceae), Oxytropis carpatica (Fabaceae), Poa carpatica (Poaceae), Primula hungaricus (Primulaceae), Saxifraga wahlenbergii (Saxifragaceae), Sesleria tatrae (Poaceae) and Thymus sudeticus (Lamiaceae).


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