Central European Inundation Grassland

One of the best and most undisturbed examples of central European inundation grasslands can be found on the floodplain of the Morava River separating Austria and Slovakia. After the Second World War it became part of the Iron Curtain border zone and as a result was almost completely closed to any human activity. The area comprises several grassland types including ones dominated or characterized by Carex acuta, Glycera maxima, Phragmites australis, Potentilla anserina, Rorippa amphibia and Scirpus lacustris, but the most extensive inundation meadows are descibed as a Alopecurus pratensis – Cnidium dubium community. These are typically inundated at the start of the growing season but as the summer progresses the surface soil gradually dries out. Nevertheless, these have the highest species diversity of all the inundation communities. In addition to Alopecurus pratensis the main grasses include Agrostis stolonifera, Elymus repens and Poa angustifolia, while other characteristic species include Carex praecox, Clematis integrifolia, Cnidium dubium, Galium boreale, Gratiola officinalis, Inula salicina, Serratula tinctoria and Veronica longifolia. Geophytes include Allium angulosum and Iris sibirica. In the most elevated areas, Festuca nigrescens becomes the main character species. Inundation in these areas is often very short and irregular. Other characteristic species include Colchicum autumnalis, Galium verum, Ranunculus auricomus, Sanguisorba officinalis and Serratula tinctoria. In spring the white flowers of Ornithogallum orthophyllum become a feature. Less common species typically include taxa from drier meadows such as Centaurea jacea and Leucanthemum vulgare. Overall these inundation grasslands support some 540-plant species from a variety of different phytogeographical zones. For example, there are boreal (continental) species such as Barbarea stricta, Inula salicina and Veronica longifolia; subcontinental species such as Carex melanostachya, Plantago altissima and Viola pumila; and euroasiatic species such as Cnidium dubium and Erysimum diffusum. Also present are Pannonian endemics or near endemics like Dianthus pontederae (Caryophyllaceae) and Lathyrus pannonicus subsp. pannonicus (Fabaceae). 

Central European Steppe Grassland

These grasslands are mainly confined to the xerothermic regions of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and the highlands of southern Poland (Little Poland Highland) where they typically occur on dry, sunny south facing slopes on well drained neutral or alkaline soils such as those produced on limestone or gypsum. Grasses such as Festuca pallens, F. rupicola, F. valesiaca, Koeleria macrantha, Stipa capillata and S. pennata are the dominant species. Their peak growth occurs in late spring or early summer when a number of associated perennials forbs come into flower such as Adonis vernalis (yellow adonis) and Potentilla cinerea before the advent of the dry summer when no species flower. These are usually joined by a variety of small annuals like Arabis recta and Arenaria serpyllifolia.In autumn there is typically a second flush of flowering when species such as Aster amellus (European michaelmas daisy) and Odontites lutea (yellow bartsia) come into flower. Among the endemic species associated with these grasslands are Carlina onopordifolia (Asteraceae), Dorycnium sericeum (Fabaceae) and Euphrasia tatarica (Scrophulariaceae).

Central European Parasteppic Grasslands of the High Friulian Plain

The steppe-like, dry grasslands found to the south of the Carnic and Julian pre-Alps at altitudes up to 300 m are in one of the wettest parts of Europe, but the gravelly soils are so permeable that most of the precipitation rapidly percolates away. The vegetation is known locally as ‘magredi’ (in the Friulian language), which is derived from the Latin term ‘mager’ suggesting an agriculturally poor area. It can be broadly divided in to three successional types: 1. The typical community characterised by Globularia cordifolia and the endemic Centaurea dichroatha (Asteraceae), 2. An intermediate community characterized by Schoenus nigricans and Chrysopogon gryllus and 3. A mature community characterized by Chrysopogon gryllus and the endemic Chamaecytisus purpureus (Fabaceae). These grasslands have considerable phytogeographical interest in that they support eastern (Illyrian and Pontic) elements, Alpic elements and endemic elements. The Illyrian species close to their northern and western limits include Crepis froelichiana, Dorycnium pentaphyllunum, Genista sericea, Knautia illyrica, Potentilla australis, Satureja variegata and Seseli gouanii. Some of the endemic or subendemic taxa include Brassica glabrescens (Brassicaceae), Buphthalmum salicifolium (Asteraceae), Campanula caespitosa (Campanulaceae), Carex mucronata (Cyperaceae), Centaurea nigrescens (Asteraceae), Daphne cneorum (Thymelaeaceae), Euphorbia triflora ssp. kerneri (Euphorbiaceae), Euphrasia cuspidata (Orobanchaceae), Hieracium porrifolium (Asteraceae), Knautia ressmannii (Dipsacaceae), Matthiola carnica (Brassicaceae) and Rhinanthus freynii (Orobanchaceae).


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