Maria ANDREYEVA, (c)
by Maria ANDREYEVA, research scientist, Valdai National Park
The Valdai ("Valdaisky") National Park in the Novgorod Region is one of Russia's beauty spots. A fantastic sanctuary, with all its lakes and forests, lush meadows, and pine- and fir-groves here and there. A scenic wonderland!
The plant kingdom of our national park is rather young by a biologist's yardstick. The relief of this region took shape during the latest Valdai Glaciation (13,000 - 10,000 years ago) when there could hardly be any vegetation at all. Only separate plant communities could appear near the glacier's fringes (mostly, in forest-tundra and moorland). In time, as the climate turned warmer, sparse fir-groves came up, bringing along such herbaceous plants as pyrola, may lily, oxalis, trollflower, bilberry...
The close of the Valdai Glaciation saw a proliferation of birch and birch-pine forests, with broad-leaved trees in between. Moorland plant communities made their appearance at that time, such as willow, sedge, eriophorum, coma-rum, among other varieties of vascular plants.
The dry and cool climate gave "the green light" to broad-leaved trees like lime, elm and hazel. They ousted the tundra plants; and somewhat later, in the Atlantic Time (7,500 - 4,500 years ago), oak-tree woods sprung up every here and there. The canopy of broad-leaved forests sheltered such grasses as asarum, lungwort and anemone, joined later by liverworts and millet grass.
As the dry climate turned humid in the Subatlantic Time (2,500 - 1,000 years ago), natural conditions changed dramatically. First started advancing on broad-leaved forests to supplant them in many parts- the highest occurrence of fir forests dates back to that time, with firs
now being the "chief tree" of our forestland.
By the latest zoning, the Valdai and Budanovo-Okulovo regions have been assigned to our national park. The Valdai district has for the most part aspen, birch and fir forests with spots of lime, maple, hazel and oak here and there. The same forests predominate at Budanovo-Okulovo, though with large tracts of conifers on hilly terrain, on frontal aprons * , on dry and wet meadows of every kind.
What with particular flora species being confined to definite plant communities, we have singled out 6 ecophytocenoses. The largest number of species (about 34 percent) are found in woodlands and on forest glades and edges, and in bush thickets rising on the site of forest fellings or fires.
First, let's stroll about dark fir forests occupying 26 percent of the total woodland area. The dense canopy of firs lets in but little light, and it's pleasantly cool there in hot weather. The fir is not a sun tree, and therefore first the birch and the aspen come up on felling sites and only then, in their shade, does the fir appear. This tree makes very high demands on soil and humidity. Solid fir forests-with impregnations of shade-requiring trees like the aspen-occur only under favorable conditions.
In a spell of dry weather, it's a real pleasure to take walks about a fir forest in your bare feet: its velvety cover of moss feels soft. It is different, this cover: the sphagnous one is of bog moss; long moss is overgrown with hair moss, while the carpet of true mosses is green, just green. True (green) mosses occur the oftenest, for they prefer moist pod-zolic and sod soils. Walking about true green mosses, don't forget to take a bast basket because there are lots of dainties like red whortleber-
* Outwash plains formed at the fringes of ancient ice caps and built of sand and pebble. - Ed.
ry, bilberry and sourberry. Now add raspberry, currant, buckthorn and hazel. The grass cover, rich in all kinds of herbs, is a paradise for herbarium-collectors. Found in great variety, the grasses heavily depend on soil and level of humidity. Rich soils abound in lilies of the valley and lady's lint, liverwort and anemones, sweet gale and aconite, Polygonaturm multiflorum and Actaea spicata, Poa nemoralis and Poa pmtensis - you can't list them all. In fir-groves growing on less humid soils you can feast your eyes on two-leaved may lilies (Maianthemum bifolium), Melampyrum sylvaticum and prantense. You will never pass by Trientalis europaea or Calamagrostis arundinaca. Dry tracts are profuse with heather, red whortleberry, fescue (Festuca ovina), may lily and many, many other flowering plants.
The setting is different in bogged fir forests. You won't walk barefooted there because of the profuse growth of cane, sedge and sylvan or meadow horsetail, all that clinging to your feet. But you will be rewarded by baskets filled with black current berries. You will also come upon European pyrola and pyrola minor, lycopodium (wolfs claws and stiff club-moss), among other plants.
You breathe freely over there, in the coniferous forest. As a sun tree, the pine doesn't like dense groves, it is undemanding insofar as the soil is concerned, and thus other trees cannot compete with the pine on patches of dry and barren land. That's why pines often occur in proud solitude. Should intervening spaces be of rich soil, other tree varieties will take root. That's how mixed forests of pine-and-fir and of pine cum foliage trees come to be. Coniferous forests occur widely on sandy soils. But unlike the ground cover of fir-groves, in pine-groves it
harbors, besides mosses, lichens too. The latter are typical of coniferous forests with light (whitish) mosses. Such forests are rich in red whortleberry, bearberry, fescue, lilies of the valley, sealwort as well as pyrola. Solitary birches, aspens, rowan-trees (mountain ashes) and buckthorn rise here and there. True mosses grow on rather humid soils together with bilberry, oxalis (sour-berry), rose-bay and willow-herb.
The sparse dry coniferous forest merges into sandy glades on the site of forest fellings or fires, and also along roads. These open patches come to be overgrown with heather, or with red whortleberry and bear-berry in places, or small reed (reed grass) brakes. Certain rare species, such as Jasione Montana and Astragalus danicus, are found on glades and forest edges.
It would be worth visiting deciduous and mixed forests too. It is there, in the thicket of bushes, that you will hit upon Venus's Shoe (Cypripedium calceolus), a luscious plant half a meter tall and redolent of vanilla. Its fluffy stem carries 3 to 5 egg-shaped leaves. The flower is rather big, up to 6 cm long, its bright-yellow lip matching nicely the small brown-purple leaves of the perianth close by. But don't touch this natural wonder, because the Venus's Shoe is among the fifteen untouchables of our sanctuary. This plant starts blooming only in the eighteenth year of its life.
A new kind of plant communities inhabit the dry meadows on the ground cleared of forests. In flora the dry meadows are much like glades and forest edges. You come upon a variety of grasses there, such as red fescue, timothy grass, Agrostis tenuis and Agrostis gigantean, Anthoxanthum odoratum, Helictotrichon pubescens, meadow foxtail, wood meadow grass, and many other flowering plants. Their fragrance is
like the nectar of Greek gods. All kinds of bluebells, cornflowers, buttercups as well as the trollflower add to the bouquet. Barren sandy soils display patches of Nardus stricta and Sueeisa pratensis of the meadows. I think you should visit meadows on limestone sands, rich as they are in so many different plants. Over there you can see rare orchid species like Dactylorhiza longifolia and Listera ovata.
Here's something for those bent on romance and adventure: our moorlands are sure to be an attraction, with so many on the territory of our national park, so like and so unlike!
If you are fond of cranberry, cloudberry or bog (great) bilberry, better go uphill to highland bogs. Sphagnous for the most part, these swamps abound in wild rosemary (Ledum), Chamaedaphne calyculata, Andromeda polyfolia as well as in sedges and eriophorums of every kind. True, you will have to hack through the thicket of white birches, spreckled alder, buckthorn and willows.
Lowers of exotic plants will not skip grass bogs to see such relict plants as Liparis leieli and Gladium mariscus.
Lowland bogs are not devoid of certain charm either. Side by side with small reed, you'll see meadowsweet as well as Cirsium palustre and oleraceum. Here sedges rub shoulders with forest reed and Lysimachia vulgaris. Stunted birches and pines intertwining with willows will surely be a staggering sight.
Our sanctuary is also a land of lakes, with 200 and some. Their shores are overgrown with Cardanine amara and Sonium maculatum (hemlock), Callapalustris and Lythrum salicaria, Eleocharis acicularis and ovata, and Barbarea stricta... Slender willow beauties touch water with their branches, soughing in the wind. They, the weeping willows, look like lasses washing linen in the river.
The green kingdom is reflected in the water of so many lakes with aquatic plants of their own, like Hydrocharis morsus-ranae, Stratiotes aloides, and many varieties of Urticularia. Water-lilies, with their dazzling white and yellow blooms resting on the sky-blue water, are a thing you shall never forget. You stop and wonder at nature's harmony and variegated palette. The animal kingdom of our park is just as rich. If you take the Potamogeton, it is found in eight species (alpinus, compressus, crispus, perfoliatus, and others...). Floating nearby are yellow water- lilies rooted to the bottom, and Batrachium kauffmannii. Relict bellflowers, with their drooping leaves that form rosettes at the very roots, lend peculiar charm to our lakes.
Not so long ago, just before the appearance of our park, grain crops (rye mostly) were sown on large areas in the locality; but now these cultivated areas have been cut considerably. One other group of anthropogenic phytocenoses is under vegetation planted in city streets and along roads (6 percent).
To conclude, I must say that over 100 plant species in our park need special protection, in particular, 15 that are absolutely inviolable, such as Venus's Shoe (Cypripedium calceolus), white water-lily, liparis, Gladium mariscus, Dactylorhiza longifollia... One cannot pick primroses. The same applies to anemones, buttercups, lungwort, liverwort, and gagea.
Опубликовано на Порталусе 10 сентября 2018 года
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