Associazione Giardino Mediterraneo
Not really a flower walk, August 2018
This wasn't a walk, just a 'Let’s take a picnic to the mountains', but when you see something so unusual I have to share it.
We were driving our usual route to Sassotetto when Pete suddenly stopped the car, having spotted lots of Colchicum autumnale on the hedgerow banks. Out we get to look at them, then we also see Cyclamen hederifolium, and even though we have seen them many times before, it’s always a joy each year when they come back again.
Whilst Pete is taking photos I investigate the bank. I see blue and yellow in the undergrowth. 'What’s this?' I exclaimed, 'Never seen this before'. It appears to be a plant with blue and yellow flowers. We take photos, look in available books: not in. Unfortunately, we do not have a good camera with us today, only our iPhone, but we capture the images you see here. When we get home, out come more books, trawl the internet for ideas: nothing.
So I posted the photo on the MGS forum hoping someone will be able to help: nothing. I then posted the photo on Plant Idents, a Facebook page, and hey presto back came the answer: Melampyrum nemorosum. It is a parasitic, herbaceous flowering plant in the broomrape family, Orobanchaceae. What looked like blue flowers are new leaves which are blue, turning green as they mature. How unusual is that?
We also saw Trifolium nigrescens. Solidago virgaurea, Epilobium dodonaei and when we reach Piani di Ragnolo and the surrounding areas, we find the entire area covered with Eryngium.
This has been an exceptional year for us, with many new species discovered.
Sharing our walk
We get a call from Jan, another MGS member, who would like to know where we see the wild flowers she reads about. 'Would you like us to show you?' we say, only too keen to go again. 'That would be nice' she says.
So early on 27 July we head towards the area in Aquacanina which we highlighted in our last walk on the Sibillini mountains.
To begin with the area is blue with Eryringum but then disappointment: the farmers have cut the fields leaving only the grass verges. Then there is a sigh of relief when we arrive at our intended area, still pristine and uncut. The orchids seen earlier in the month have all gone but now there is a fresh carpet of flowers.Jan is in her element, as we wander across the hillside like kids, trying to identify what we see, taking photographs of the ones we 'just can't remember the name of'.
Having explored this area, we move back to the large layby where a couple of weeks ago we saw masses of monkshood in flower. I am keen to see if the foxglove spikes I saw here previously would now be in flower, and yes, excitedly I make my way towards them. Some plants do tend to grow in difficult areas and these were some of them, much clambering is required to get to them. We identify them as Digitalis laevigata and Digitalis lutea subsp Australis, both firsts for all of us.
After this it is lunchtime, so we head towards Pintura where there is a bar where we consume our panini washed down with a small beverage.
'Where to now?'. I suggest the Zig-Zag walk, which we find very overgrown. Slowly we navigate the track explaining to Jan what we've seen here on previous visits, she exulting in the magnificent views.
The edges of the track are fragile in places and in a few areas it has been badly damaged by falling rocks, probably due to earthquakes. Here plants literally cling on, some encased in mossy turfs as with the maidenhair spleenwort ferns, others like sedums and Umbilicus repestris tuck themselves in tightly between the rocky outcrops. On route today we find Sedum acre, Campanula latifolia, Onobrychis viciifolia, Cephalaria leucantha and many ferns, mostly Asplenium trichomanes. It is far too hot to complete the walk today so we return to the carpark area, where we tell Jan of the massive avalanche some five years ago when snow, rocks and trees crashed down the mountainside creating a wide swathe through the forest, taking with them the picnic table.
As we drive away we reflect upon what a good day we have had, and so many plants; a total of 56.
Notably:Digitalis laervigata, Digitalis lutea subsp. Australis, Linum suffruticosum subsp. salsoloides, Saxifraga granulata, Euphrasia picta, Trifolium montanum, Melilotus officinalis, Salvia pratensis, Echium vulgare, Convolvulus arvensis, Globularia meridionalis, Linaria arvensis, linaria vulgaris, Marrubium vulgare, Heracleum sphondylium, Arnica montana, Doronium pardalianchesi, Campanula micrantha, Campanula latifolia, Campanula trachelium, Carlina acaulis, Eryringum amethystinum, Echinops, Scrophularia nodosa, Origarum vulgare and Teucrium chamaedrys.
It’s still June, another walk
It’s my birthday and Pete asks me what we should do. “To the mountains to make the most of this good weather.” “OK” he agrees “but as a surprise, somewhere different.”
So, although it’s a late start, we set off, call in our favourite panini shop at Pian di Peica, then veer off on a different route, towards Fiastra. The first part of the journey is a bit disappointing; not much to see along the way but a few flowers until we see a huge patch of Campanula glomerata. We skirt around lake Fiastra, travelling towards Visso, and begin to see a more flowers, stopping many times to identify plants:
Polygala nicaeensis, Onobrychis viciifolia, Stellaria holostea, Knautia arvensis, Trifolium montanum, Melilotus officinalis, Salvia pratensis, Echium vulgare, Tanacetum parthenium, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, Neotinea ustulata (syn. Orchis ustulata), Gymnadenia conopsea, Briza minor, Rhinanthus minor, Hypericum perforatum, Blackstonia perfoliata, Thymus vulgaris, Globularia meridionalis, Cruciata glabra (syn. Galium vernum), Cuscuta epithymum, Galium mollugo, Trifolium stellatum, Gymnadenia nigra (syn. Nigritella nigra).
Around 12.30 we decide it’s lunchtime and find a secluded shady area to settle down for a 'birthday picnic'. Now’s the time to get the books out and see exactly what plants we have seen and to make a list. After a short siesta we prepare to venture onwards. As Pete is putting the stuff back in the car he calls me to come quickly. On the other side of the road he has found a very small hedgehog, looking very dehydrated. We pour water over it and it rallies and starts to drink water from the roadway. After about 15 minutes he seems to be refreshed so Pete picks him up and takes him well away from the road. Before letting him go, he offers him a snail which is eaten with gusto. Our good deed for the day, and hopefully we have saved his life.
We travel on a little further as far as Cupi seeing plenty of Levisticum officinale and Carduus nutans and lots of Sedum acre along the edges of the road.
The journey home is soon interrupted by a stupendous area of flowers. We are both in awe of the number of flowers on either side of this minor road, especially orchids. We hastily exit the car and climb the bank exclaiming 'Have you seen this one?' 'How about this one?' 'What's this?' My mind is racing trying to remember all their names. Of special note were a 'white pyramidal' orchid, thousands of white perennial cornflowers and several Bee orchids.
So what have we identified? Anacamptis pyramidalis in their thousands, a few Neotinea ustulata and Gymnadenia conopsea. Linum catharticum, Linum suffruticosum and Linum perenne all growing together along the banks. Lonicera canadensis, Conopodium majus, Leucanthemum vulgare, and thousands of white Centaurea montana and quite a lot of Ophrys – yet to be identified.
Later on and further down the roadway we see Gentiana lutea, Clematis vitalba, Ononis spinosa, Lonicera periclymenum, Digitalis lutea and Lilium martagon.
We eventually get home late, tired but still in awe of the number of flowers we’ve seen. As we refresh ourselves with a welcome cup of tea, out come all the books – we must record this whilst it’s still fresh in our minds, with a promise to return quite soon. What a birthday present!
How wrong can one be – at the end of our account of our walk in April we had written 'It had turned out to be a splendid day out. A return visit will not be long in its planning.'
What a year for rain. We had been wanting to visit the mountains for some weeks, but the weather forecasts were dismal: rain, rain and yet more rain. Not ideal weather for walking or inspiring for flower spotting, so we were delighted when at last there appeared to be a good forecast. From the top of our driveway you can see the mountains and, on inspection, it did indeed appear that there were no clouds about.
We set off and en route collected panini for lunch from our favourite shop at Pian di Peica where they make your panino to order, and then travelled up the SP57. We commented on the lack of colour in the hedgerows along the way but as we got higher, stopping here and there, we did see quite a variety of flowers, some known immediately, others to be identified or confirmed later.
Among them were: Polygala nicaeensis, Orchis anthropophora, Orchis mascula, Onobrychis viciifolia, Centaurea montanus, Dactylorhiza maculata, Saxifraga granulata, Neotinea tridentata, Lilium martagon, Silene italica, Myosotis sylvatica, Stellaria holostea, Lathyrus latifolius, Euphrasia officinalis subsp. kerneri (syn. Euphrasia picta), Rosa sempervirens, Knautia arvensis, Trifolium montanum, Melilotus officinalis, Salvia pratensis, Echium vulgare, Tanacetum parthenium and Dactylorhiza fuchsia.
On reaching the area known as we saw quite a few colourful Orobanche gracilis which are parasitic on legumes, together with Anacamptis pyramidalis, Neotinea ustulata (syn. Orchis ustulata), Gymnadenia conopsea, Filipendula ulmaria, Cruciata glabra (syn. Galium vernum), Campanula rapunculus, Campanula glomerata, Rhinanthus minor, Armeria canescens, Thymus vulgaris, Vicia cracca and Dianthus carthusianorum.
I had been looking forward to seeing the various areas where we know peonies grow, which are usually in full flower in mid-June, but we were disappointed and amazed to note that they had already flowered and set seed. We met a local man foraging for fungi who said that it had been a wet spring so that everything had had an early and short life.
Today was really hot so when lunch time arrived we needed to find a shady place, and we knew of an area of beech trees with plenty of shade. Splendid panini as usual. Lunch over – time for a little siesta I thought, for it’s exhausting work seeking out wild flowers.
I awoke to the buzzing of insects and went to investigate the area beneath the trees where we had seen Daphne laureola in the spring, doing very well here and spreading. This time I found two new plants, Sanicula europaea (Sanicle), which is here in abundance and 'oh what have we here?'… Orchids? Well, not exactly, but of the orchid family - Cephalanthera damasonium (white helleborine)**, not many flowering but there were plenty of seedlings around for the future. I noted that the flowers don't appear to open as in other orchids but have a yellow rim just visible at the base of the flower.
** Edward Step who published a book in 1943 “Wild Flowers in their Natural Haunts”, recalled finding white helleborines in the shadow of beech trees with which it is associated and said “The White Helleborine is a wasp flower, and has no hollow spur for the secretion of honey, for the wasp has no long tongue like the butterflies and some of the bees”.
The field next to our picnic spot was covered in a wonderful mass of Gymnadenia conopsea, (fragrant orchids) among the other wild flowers.
Continuing along the road which runs around the mountain we saw Verbascum thapsus (great mullein) flowering, resplendent against the mountain backdrop, and, on the opposite side of the road, banks of scree with plants clinging on trying to make a home there.
It is the 2 April, Easter Monday. Weeks of prolonged rain followed by snow and several severe frosts which killed leaves on olive trees, oleanders and even several covered plants, had delayed our first flower walk. With blue skies and 18 degrees predicted we set out, but even then our anticipation was low as the Sibillini mountains were still cloaked in snow.
Our pessimism evaporated as we approached the foothills where the verges were carpeted with anemones (Anemone apennina) in their thousands.
Another surprise was that our favourite walk was clear. We call it the zig-zag walk due to the constant changes in direction it takes. Last year it was totally blocked because of an avalanche which had left a deposit of rocks and trees, making it impassable. This year we were greeted by Tussilago farfara, Crocus vernus, Hepatica nobilis, Galanthus nivalis, Primula vulgaris and Scilla verna beneath the beech trees.
Further on, huge rocks and some of the tree trunks were still there but now passable. Crocus vernus and patches of Juncus trifidus had forced their way up through the rocky path and hellebores, both Helleborus foetidus and Helleborus viridis subsp. bocconei grew amongst the trees.
As the path climbs the beech trees give way to spruce and pines, with views to the Adriatic 70 km away. Here we saw Daphne laureola in flower. As we climbed higher the flowers were only promised by familiar leaves pushing up through the dead grass. We passed the remains of Bird’s Nest Orchids which seems to always favour this one spot and climbed on further to the top where hundreds of ladybirds were sunning themselves after their long hibernation and the views were magnificent. We returned to the car marvelling at all these varieties again.
We then drove up past Sassotetto and skirted the snow-covered hills where carpets of crocus grew wherever there was bare ground. It had turned out to be a splendid outing. A return visit will not be long in its planning.
A walk in November 2017
We took a trip to Foce, which is a tiny village at the start of the walk to Lago di Pilato, within the Sibillini national park, to see what flowers were about. We gave up searching for wild flowers, there were very few to be found, instead we enjoyed the fantastic colours that Autumn brings, and share them here with you ...
A walk in October 2017
What a difference a little rain makes!
We took some visiting friends to see the open areas of grassland at Piana di Ragnolo, hoping to share with them , hoping to share with them the abundance of flowers which we usually see, even at this time of the year. We found it difficult to find any wild flowers at all just dried grass, due to the lack of rain this year and the very high temperatures. A few rose-hips along Piani di Ragnolo is all we saw.
We travelled on as far as Pintura above the village of Bolognola and found many seed heads of Carlina vulgaris.
Eventually a few scanty specimens were found - Epilobium dodonaei, Eryngium amethystinum, Linaria vulgaris, Mentha arvensis, Agrimonia eupatoria and a few Cyclamen hederifolium.
This was not exactly a walk as I recently had surgery to my knee. My husband and I decided to take a picnic into the mountains, to a different area to where we usually go: Montecavalli which is just outside Visso.
There were few flowers about due to the hot weather and lack of rain this summer. Amongst the few survivors which were mainly in the shady areas, we saw Scabious, Epilobium dodonaei, Lotus corniculatus, plenty of Eryngium amethystinum.
But the hero of the day was Daucus carota.
Daucus carota - The wild carrot is a somewhat variable biennial plant that grows between 30 and 60 cm tall and is roughly hairy, with a stiff, solid stem. The leaves are tripinnate, finely divided and lacy, and overall triangular in shape. The leaves are bristly and alternate in a pinnate pattern that separates into thin segments. The flowers are small and dull white, clustered in flat, dense umbels with one red flower at its centre designed to attract insects. As the seeds develop, the umbel curls up at the edges, becomes more congested, and develops a concave surface. The fruits are oval and flattened, with short styles and hooked spines. The fruit is small, dry and bumpy with protective hairs surrounding it. The endosperm of the fruit grows before the embryo. Wild carrot blooms in summer and autumn. It thrives best in sun to partial shade, and is commonly found along roadsides and in unused fields, as shown in the photos below.
In England it has many several common names, such as bird's nest, bishop's lace, and Queen Anne's lace.
July 2017 walk.
Having first bought our lunch at our favourite shop along the way we headed out to Sassotetto in the Sibillini's. On the way up to the top we stopped at our favourite walk, the zig zag, which we have explored many times over the past 13 years, it is a great place for wild flowers. Boots on, note book in pocket, cameras at the ready, secateurs handy, as we often need to clear the pathway, and off we go. It was obvious that there had been an avalanche recently, and after only about 20 metres we were shocked to see a huge bolder blocking part of the way; never mind we get around it and venture forth. Not more than 15 meters further on and 'Oh my goodness, what happened to the path' it was completely obliterated by a pile of felled trees and more rocks. This is just not what we had expected. Part of the path had been excavated by other huge boulders as they descended. It was quite obvious we could not continue, as the path was the only level walking area. The avalanche was almost certainly caused by some recent earthquakes.
Even so we were able to record specimens of note: Digitalis lutea, Cephalaria squamiflora, Epiloblium dodanaei, Campanula rotundifolia and Phagnalon rupestre. We then drove to Sassotetto, passing several Lilium bulbiferum along the way, and there was a splendid array of flowers.
Eryrigium amerthystinum, Sherardia arvensis, Achillea millefolium, Campanula trachelium, Allium aflatunense, Knautia arvensis, Campanula glomerata, Dianthus cathusianorum, Dianthus sylvestris, Anthemis cretica.
Continuing around the mountain we reached an area known as Pintura di Bolgnola, it was now lunch time and after a drink at a local bar, we found a picnic spot and consumed the splendid sandwiches in total isolation. Moving on around the mountain we stopped frequently to identify even more flowers, namely Sedum rupestre, Eryrigium creticum, Sedum reflexum, Gentiana lutea, Galium verum, Pulmonaria apennina, Verbascum longifolium, Achillea collina, Campanula latifolia, Trifolium angustifolium, Aconitum vulparia, Malva moschata, and Dianthus monspessulanus.
This meadow resounded to the sound of Rhinathus seeds shaking in their pouches. Also from here, you could see the sea 45 km away due to the clarity of the air. There was just one more stop, a return to the lily pond, where there were Clematis vitalba, Helichrysum italicum and Scrophularia scorodonia. Having had such a splendid day, we had almost forgotten the disappointment of the zig zag walk. Finally we stopped where we know there are Himantoglossum hircinum adriaticum: most years they had been cut down when they mow the roadside hedges, more recently they have not been mowed so there were many Himantoglossum seedheads, Lathyrus latifolius and Lonicera etrusca.
15 May 2017 Mountain walk
A change of area for our May walk. Some years ago we discovered a clearing on the side of a lane just west of Amandola which was covered in many orchids and various other flowers. Here we had our only siting so far of Limodorum abortivum (Violet Bird’s Nest Orchid), I was hoping that we may be lucky enough to see it again.
This elusive orchid is a tall plant but is, nonetheless, difficult to find because it blends in so well with its surroundings. Limodorum abortivum can disappear for several years during periods of drought and then it reappears when the weather is wetter. This makes it harder to find rather than its rarity. It is usually found in coniferous woodland, scrub, and grassy woodland clearings. It is saprophytic and is dependent throughout its life on mycorrhizal fungi, but because the stem is green and contains chlorophyll, it is unlikely to be parasitic as some people have suggested. It is sometimes pollinated by insects, but Limodorum abortivum is also cleistogamous (pollination takes place inside the flower bud).
When we arrived we saw many Orchis simia (Monkey Orchid) covering the edge of the area. On closer inspection we found an Ophrys fuciflora (Late Spider Orchid), Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s Nest Orchid), together with various other flower species. We then wandered down the lane discovering many other flowers.
On our return to the car, we stopped dead in our tracks, not more than 5 metres away from the car we saw two Limadorum abortivum side by side which were over 80cms tall. Many photographs were taken.
We then drove a little further down this lane and stopped to see some pink flowers on the side, on closer inspection found them to be Anthyllis vulneraria ssp rubriflora (Pink Kidney Vetch) and there amongst them 6 more Limadore orchids just about to flower. Alongside them was an Orchis anthropophora (Man Orchid) and a (Three-toothed Orchid). A very good afternoon.
These are some of the species we saw including 11 orchids:
Limodorum abortivum, Orchis simia, Ophrys fuciflora, Neottia nidus-avis, Orchis anthropophora, Neotinea tridentata, Orchis mascula, Orchis purpurea, Anacamptis pyramidalis, Himantoglossum adriaticum, Cephalanthera longifolia, Trifolium campestre, Galium verum, Cruciata laevipes, Thymus serpyllum, Salvia pratensis, Asparagus officinalis, Leucanthemum vulgare, Smilax aspera, Lonicera implexa, Vicia villosa, Lotus corniculatus, Lotus pedunculatus, Polygala nicaeensis, Scutellaria galericulata, Trifolium angustifolium, Anthyllis vulneraria ssp rubriflora, Aristolochia rotunda and Hedysarum coronarium.
We went for our first flower walk of the year on the Sibillini mountains today. Surprisingly there was still a lot of snow lying in the sheltered areas and the road from Piani di Ragnolo around to Sassotetto was blocked halfway with 3 metres of snow. Nevertheless, we were able to see some old favourites and a few new ones in this area. We picnicked in weak sunshine but our visit was curtailed by a thunder storm with heavy rain.
The highlights were Ruscus aculeatus, Drimia maritima (with one rare white one), Daphne laureola and a large patch of Eranthis hyemalis, which were not open due to the wet weather.
Today we identified:
Polygala vulgaris: Primula vulgaris: Primula veris; Hepatica nobilis; Viola lutea; Viola tricolor; Helleborus foetidus; Helleborus bocconei; Corydalis cava; Galanthus nivalis; Scilla bifolia; Scilla bifolia var. alba; Scilla verna; Pulmonaria apennina; Ruscus aculeatus; Anemone hortensis; Anemone apennina; Asphodelus albus; Muscari neglectum (syn. M. atlanticum); Daphne laureola; Hippocrepisemerus (syn. Coronilla emerus); Crocus vernus; Prunus domestica; Prunus spinosa; Anemone ranunculoides and Eranthis hyemalis.
Ruscus aculeatus was given its common name, Butcher's broom, because its stiff twigs were bound together and used by butchers in Europe to keep their cutting boards clean. It is a low-growing common evergreen shrub. It is widely distributed from Iran to the Mediterranean and the southern United States. It has flat shoots known as cladodes that give the appearance of stiff, spine-tipped leaves. Small greenish flowers appear in spring, and are borne singly in the centre of the cladodes. The female flowers are followed by a red berry, and the seeds are bird-distributed, but the plant also spreads vegetatively by means of rhizomes. Ruscus aculeatus occurs in woodlands and hedgerows, where it is tolerant of deep shade, and also on coastal cliffs. It is also widely planted in gardens, and has spread as a garden escapee in many areas outside its native range. The plant develops edible shoots that are similar to asparagus in form. Butcher's broom has tough, erect, striated stems with false thorny leaves.
The plant has a long history of medicinal use. Extracts, decoctions, and poultices have been used throughout the ages, but the medicinal use of this plant did not become common until the last century. The increasing popularity of natural and herbal remedies in Europe in the 1970s has reaffirmed its position in modern medicine.
Common English names: Butcher's broom is also known as box holly, knee holly, pettigree, sweet broom, and Jew's myrtle. If there are Italian common names for this plant we would like to hear of them.
Wild flower walk on 1 November 2016
Following a similar route as our September walk, we travelled from Sarnano up to Sassotetto (signposted from Sarnano carpark) and then on to the open areas of grassland at Piani di Ragnolo. Even at this time if the year there were a few gems to be found including the same poppy which we had seen back in September, it was still flowering. It was a very windy day so difficult to photograph our specimens. Our son was with us and took the photos on his mobile phone. We also noticed some daphne growing in a thicket which we must come back to see in the spring.
Wild flower walk – Thursday 29 September 2016
Despite the late start to our walk, we had a fruitful day plant hunting. We ventured from Sarnano up to Sassotetto (signposted from Sarnano carpark) and then on to the open areas of grassland at Piani di Ragnolo.
Our first thought was that there would not be much to see as the grass had all been cut. But no; as we looked towards the edges of the cut areas, the parts where the tractors cannot reach, we found quite few species, including this little campanula.
In all we managed to see and identify 21 species of wild flowers:
Epilobium dodonaei, Eryngium amethystinum, Galium vernum, Campanula scheuchzeri, Carduus chrysacanthus, Carlina acaulis, Trifolium campestre, Bellis perennis, Hypericum richeri, Asperula cynanchica, Scabiosa columbaria,Trifolium pratense, Cephalaria leucantha, Trifolium montanum, Linaria vulgaris, Centaurea scabiousa, Gentianopsis ciliata (a first for us) and surprisingly, Papaver rhodeas.
We also saw Pyracanthua coccinea covered in berries, Sambuca ebulus in berry, and plenty of lovely shiny rosehips.
On the way down from Piani di Ragnolo, there is a little lay-by where we know of a pond with water lilies. We stopped and were rewarded with a beautiful sight of double yellow lilies basking in the sunlight.
A very enjoyable day out and sitll plenty to see.