We’ve been back a little more than a week now from a wonderful exploration of the Dolomites with Greentours. We spent our days walking through meadows or scrambling up rocky cliffs finding hundreds of species of wildflowers in bloom.
The whole experience was a reminder of why alpines are so captivating for gardeners all over the world. Their relatively short growing season and difficult exposed conditions has produced adaptations characterized by rapid abundant flowering from compact plants that are often nestled in or on rocks where many other plants cannot grow. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the scenery is glorious whenever you take the time to look up from the plants.
The trick is to learn where to look for the different species. Meadows are often filled with various small ground orchids in the same way we would expect to see dandelions in Maryland. Potentilla, Sage, Thyme, and Ranunculus are abundant.
The interplay with the rocks mean that you often seek out rocks in a field to see what has colonized the rocks. Of course Saxifrages are particularly good at this.
But in between you find other treasures like the famous Edelweiss.
The Rampions were a particular favorite of mine. The Round-headed Rampion was found in many locations.
And on three occasions we came upon the famous Devil’s Claw in flower. This alpine flower is found only in Italy, Austria, and Slovenia and we were fortunate to actually be there when it was flowering.
The Physoplexis seemed happiest when growing on a cliff face. It immediately produced a question in our group which apparently has been a serious question for botanists. Namely, how does the Devil’s Claw get pollinated?
Another particularly beautiful flower, like the Rampions, is also in the Campanula family.
Mostly we explored the areas around the mountain passes, but we also got to higher elevations on two occasions. One I wrote about on the previous posting and the other was on the next to the last day when we took a ski lift up to the shoulder of Marmolada at 8500 ft. The ground at the top is all scree below the snowline and at first you would conclude there is nothing gowing there.
But on closer inspection you see that many things thrive in the scree.
Especially prevalent was the Round-leaved Pennycress which seemingly colonizes every spot where someone else is not…