The Flora of Monte Baldo: a Unique Blend of Alpine Beauties and Endemic Species

The flora of Monte Baldo knows no parallel in the entire Alps, for its original combination of splendid "Alpine classics" and unique species ('endemics') that can only be admired here or that indeed were here first discovered.

With the name of Monte Baldo is indicated a mountain that, developing for about 35 km in a N →S direction, separates with a long ridge the Valle Lagarina (where the Adige flows) to the E from Lake Garda to the W. The highest peak (Cima Valdritta) is 2,218 metres high, and it presents a wide variety of different environments and landscapes.

Even though it is a mountain located between Trentino and Veneto, it is in fact so distinctive that it is set apart from both regions: too southern for the former and too peripheral for the other. Despite that, on this mountain have taken place some of the first – and most fundamental – experiences of modern botany. As far back as 1566, Francesco Calzolari was already giving a description of the flora of Monte Baldo and the plants found in the area: it is in fact one of the first accounts to describe the flora of a localised region within the Alps; soon after, came the more comprehensive work compiled by Giovanni Pona (1601).

These works, of a pioneering and seminal nature, first attracted the interest of naturalists, who followed in their wake in the exploration of the flora of Monte Baldo. Among the best known for the period between the 16th and 18th century, are to be remembered in particular Gaspare Bauhin, Ulisse Aldrovandi and Pier Antonio Micheli.

The flora of Monte Baldo subsequently became an important element in the botanical works regarding the area of Verona; the first is by Séguier (Plantae veronensis, 1745-54), followed by the volumes complied by Pollini (Viaggio al Monte Baldo, 1816; Flora veronensis, 1822-24) and Goiran (another Flora veronensis, 1897-1904).

The scholars who have visited the area and studied the flora of Monte Baldo in the 19th and 20th century are very numerous; among them we find the names of most notable Italian botanists of the time, some coming also from Central Europe; many of them were the authors of detailed studies, while others have included information on the flora of Monte Baldo on more general works.

At this point we may ask ourselves what is the reason behind so much interest for the flora of this one mountain. A first explanation – perhaps the most obvious one – is provided by its position, overlooking as it does Lake Garda. At the base of the mountain there is a mild and temperate climate, which favours the cultivation of olive and the production of wine, while the summit presents aspects almost of tundra: an extraordinary gradient which, in the simple course of a daily excursion, allows one to transit from the Mediterranean to the Arctic – and that in itself was a strong motive of attraction, as this factor was already known to the botanists of the Renaissance and the early explorers.

In the following centuries, however, another element added itself, and that was the awareness of the documentary significance of the flora of Monte Baldo, as this mountain during the coldest periods of the Quaternary emerged like a solitary rampart between the icy tongues of the Adige and the Garda: a condition that has allowed the survival in situ of pre-glacial species, as well as the evolution of completely new ones – the so-called endemics.

With this in mind, Monte Baldo is to be included in the so-called “Nunatakker line” ('Glacial islands', or 'relic stations'), which extends from the Julian Alps in Friulithrough to Monte Cavallo, the Vette di Feltre, the Monti Lessini, and continues beyond Lake Garda with the Pre-Alps of Brescia and Bergamo until the Grigne range in Lombardy; in actual facts, one could say that for its central position, Monte Baldo is the essential pivot within this system of notable botanical Alpine sites.

This would explain the reason why there are so many species that take their name from Monte Baldo (the epithet 'baldensis' or 'baldense'), or from the botanists who have studied them: Anemone baldense, Bupleurum baldensis, Carex baldensis, Knautia baldensis, Heracleum pollinianum, Moheringia ponae, Dianthus seguieri – just to name a few of the most known (all these plants are described in more details below). The name of Calzolari does not appear in this list, but that is perhaps simply because it was adopted to indicate a whole new genus of tropical plants with splendid blossoms: the Calceolaria.

The flora of Monte Baldo (but to a lesser extent the same would apply also to the fauna) then takes us to witness the events linked to the Quaternary glaciations and the subsequent migrations of termophilic (warmth-loving) species during the melting phases that followed the glaciations. For this reason, this mountain holds a central interest for the comprehension of many bio-geographical problems within the entire Alpine chain, and it is safe to say that much research will still be needed before arriving at an exhaustive knowledge of the evolution which has brought about the formation of this special biodiversity hotspot.

The interest for the study of the flora of Monte Baldo has always remained very much alive; nevertheless, at least as for the botanical component, during the 20th century not many new general studies have appeared on this subject – that is, until the comprehensive volume on the Illustrated Flora of Monte Baldo, which came out in 2009: an innovative work that brings together description, photography and maps, and that may serve as a model for further similar publications to come in other areas.

Geographical Outline

The area taken into account here is Monte Baldo – the westernmost range in the Pre-Alps of Veneto, and one of the best-delimited massifs in the whole Alps. It is in fact situated between the tectonic depression of Lake Garda and the Valle Lagarina (where the river Adige flows).

Developed mostly with a N-NE → S-SW direction, it is elongated for 38 km, starting at the Valle di Loppio southwards, and it is therefore one of the few mountain chains to push into the Pianura Padana (Po valley plain), which opens up to the south. Its southern boundary is more uncertain, as there is not a valley or a river to define it more precisely: the Rocca di Garda, the Piana di Affi, Monte Moscal and the moraine hills of the Garda and Rivoli are usually not included, and considered geo-morphologically as outlying fringes, outside Monte Baldo proper.

With a surface of about 390 kmq, this mountain's territory ranges in altitude from the 65 m of Lake Garda to the 2,218 m of Cima Valdritta. At a morphological level, Monte Baldo is composed of two distinct parts: the Bocca di Navene pass (1,425 m) separates the southern sub-group (highest peak: Cima Valdritta, 2,218 m) from the northern, which culminates at Monte Altissimo di Nago, 2,079 m. In the direction N → S Monte Baldo is constituted instead by a more western rocky chain (major anti-clinal), which falls with a sheer drop into Lake Garda – flanked to the east by a plateau (sin-clinal), more undulated and incised by branching side-valleys – and also a secondary chain (minor anti-clinal) parallel to the E of the main one, which forms almost a balcony opened up on to the Valle Lagarina below.

The more than 2,100 gradient rise between the base of Monte Baldo and its highest reaches allow to transit from the sub-Mediterranean termophilic band of the shores by Lake Garda and the beginning of the Adige valley up to the summits, dominated by a rigid Alpine climate. The contemporary presence of all these different vegetational bands is a prerogative that very few other mountain ranges can claim in the whole Alpine chain.

Next to Lake Garda develops a typically Sub-Mediterranean environment, characterized – in the less steep locations – by the cultivation of vineyards and olive. In the driest and more arid areas, on the contrary – and often on very steep and craggy slopes – one can find extensive Holm oak (Quercus ilex) woodland patches, which constitute an important relic of xerophilous (arid) vegetation. The termophilic (warm) characteristics of the basal areas of Monte Baldo are confirmed by the presence of splendid dry meadows, which constitute one of the most interesting plants associations within the range. Once these habitats were pastured and scythed regularly, while today they are almost completely abandoned and therefore in stark regression – especially because of the advancing shrubs; they seem to resist only on those slopes which are better exposed, and in the rockiest areas.

The hilly, temperate band just above with termophilic woodland is characterized instead by the presence of orno-ostrieti (that is, a combination of Fraxinus ornus, Manna ash, and Ostrya carpinifolia), dominated by Pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens) in the driest areas and Hop hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) in the freshest and more humid environments. In these woodlands, discontinuous in their cover and slow-growing, one must associate to these entities other shrubs or small trees such as Cotinus coggygria, Fraxinus ornus, Amelanchier ovalis and Celtis australis.

Here, in the deepest soils derived from the disaggregation of flinty and clayey limestone, or in correspondence with basaltic outcrops, extended Sweet chestnut woods (Castanea sativa) and wide patches of Turkish Oak (Quercus cerris) have developed. Within this band, the areas occupied by meadows (mostly composed of the grass Arrenatheretum elatum), despite not covering great extensions, are usually of noteworthy interest from a botanical point of view, and only survive thanks to the traditional forms of agriculture, as excessive dispersal of manure is unfortunately causing a trivialization of the floral composition in some areas.

The Alpine band is dominated by beech, of which it is possible to distinguish between two different typologies: one more termophilic (warmth-loving), which stays in close contact with the orno-ostrieti mentioned above, and another with a more meso-thermic (shade-loving) character, found at higher altitudes. In the ‘warm’ type of woodland – sparse and full of light – other entities are often associated with beech, which are usually more typical of the underlying vegetation band.

Between 1000 and 1400 metres of altitude, on fresher and deeper soils, develops the typical mountain beech woodland, of which today – however – on Monte Baldo only some residual patches remain, witness of much more extended formations pre-existing their felling in order to make room for more extensive pasture lands. The woods left over are on the whole well-developed and luxuriant, always with beech as a dominant species, which only occasionally is accompanied by other tree species such as Norway maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) and Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). In this band, scythed fields are still not a rare sight – and also the meadows, which change appearance and composition according to the altitude, subsoil and the agricultural practices to which they are subjected.

The Boreal band is characterized above all by sub-Alpine shrubs: Dwarf Mountain pine (Pinus mugo), Rhododendrum patches, Green alder (Alnus viridis) thickets – and only partly by conifer woods (Norway spruce, Larch, Silver fir), whose presence is almost exclusively due to artificial replanting.

At the most elevated altitudes extends the High Alpine (or 'Snow') band, with stretches of primary meadows and other primitive environments typical of the highest grounds – such as associations of the exposed rocks and scree, which conceal some of the most spectacular aspects of the flora of Monte Baldo.

The presence of human activities is noticeable over the whole territory, but concerns particularly the valley floors, the foothills and the lower mountain areas; most notably, the shores of Lake Garda and the Adige valley see numerous permanent settlements composed of a mixture of houses and tourist infrastructures, an extensive road network and also patches of intensive agriculture. Instead, the presence of man at higher altitudes is usually relegated to sparser practices such as forestry and fodder cultivation, cattle- and sheep-farming and, more sporadically, land use for tourism purposes (such as winter sports and hiking during the summer).

In the area are present 15 municipalities, subdivided between the provinces of Trento (42%) and Verona (58% of the overall territory of Monte Baldo). The municipalities that have the highest surface of territory on Monte Baldo are Brentonico, Avio, Malcesine and Caprino Veronese.

Geological and Geo-morphologic Framework

For its geographic individuality and the geological aspects, Monte Baldo is a perfect example of how rocks and structures influence and interact in a significant way with one another and with the biological world at large, thus creating a complex system in dynamic equilibrium that represents the ‘landscape’ as we perceive and experience it.

The complete study of stratigraphy (rock types) and tectonics in the area of our interest is epitomized by the geological chart and by the spatial and chronologic synthesis of rock distribution – as well as by their deformations. The following rock formations – witnessing the different sedimentary environments that have occurred in an interval of about 200 million years – are thus reported in chronologic order:

Formations of the Upper Triassic. They are represented in this area uniquely by Main Dolomite (Carnian-Rhaetian), which results abundantly present along the western side of Monte Baldo and is also visible in minor outcrops, often in continuity with grey limestone. These are Dolomite and limestone of a light saccharoid nature, with a color varying from rosy-yellow to grayish-white.

Jurassic Formations. These are represented by the group of Grey Limestone of Noriglio (the so-called ‘Calcare di Noriglio’) dating to the Rhaetian-Upper Pliensbachianan, extremely variable both laterally and vertically and articulated in light calcarenites of fossil nature, pseudo-oolithic and oncolithic and by other calcium-based rocks, dark and rich in organic matter, oolithic limestone, fossiliferous limestone, marly and clayey layers; also representative are the San Vigilio Oolithic Limestone, yellow oolithic calcarenites with crinoids, and the famous “Rosso Ammonitico Veronese– a highly prized rock, which is particularly abundant on the eastern side of Monte Baldo and is formed by red micritic limestone, rich in nodules and ammonioids.

Cretacic Formations. These are represented by Maiolica (Titonian-Aptian); white, well-layered micritic limestone; flints with 'radiolari' and 'Tintinnidi'; variegated Alpine Scale ('scaglia'; Aptian-Cenomanian); well-layered micritic limestone with an alternation of greenish marls – sometimes bituminous – and also the 'Red Scale' (“Scaglia Rossa”; Upper Albian-Lower Eocene), composed by the classic red micritic limestone, and disposed in slabs or plates.

Paleogene-Lower (Inferior) Neogene Formations. These group the ‘Formazione di Chiusole’ (Lower Eocene), Tertiary vulcanites (Middle Eocene) and the Malcesine, Torbole and Nago Limestone (“Calcari di Malcesine, Torbole e Nago”), represented by calcarenites.

Quaternary Formations. These are represented by glacial, inter-glacial and fluvio-glacial deposits, and also by the so-called "facies di versante" – that is, rock formations developing on slopes.

As for the structural framework and tectonic organization, close examination of the geological chart reveals the noteworthy tectonic activity to which the region of Monte Baldo was subjected – an activity explicated mainly through structures such as folds, faults and fractures, which represent respectively the ductile and fragile response of the rocks when undergoing stress or strain.

The tectonic styles that are recognizable and mutually influenced are, in chronologic order:

1) The “Pre-Alpine Distensive Tectonic System”, represented by direct faults with a N → S direction, responsible for the geological and environmental differentiation, which subsequently influenced the direction of the important Giudicarie fault-line;

2) The “Tectonic System of the Valsugana”, which has generated folds with an E → W axis, and with an ample curvature radius;

3) The “Tectonic System of the Giudicarie” (orientated in a N → S direction; then N-NE → S-SW), generated during the most intense phases of the Alpine orogenesis, and which is usually interpreted as a cinematic expression of the two main compressive events of the Neogenic age;

4) The “Scledense Tectonic System”, to which are connected faults of a prevailing translating nature, with a NW → SE direction.

Botanical Expeditions on Monte Baldo

Now, with this, we get to the core motive of interest for this mountain: the flora of Monte BaldoTo define in a dignified way a history of the Botanical Explorations on the flora of Monte Baldo is not an easy task. On the few documents dating before the 19th century much has been written, and there is an ample bibliography concerning them (which often does not add much to what is already known).

Some historic, seminal works on the botanical expeditions on the flora of Monte Baldo are particularly noteworthy, and although it is impossible to list them all – an additional problem being that they are generally either Italian or German publications  for the benefit of those speaking those languages, mention will be made here, in any case, of at least some of them. Still unequalled to this day is the ‘Geschichte der florishtischen Erforschung des Monte Baldo’, published in 1904, as well as the synthetic but well-documented appendix to the ‘Guida di Monte Baldo’, by Ottone Brentari (1893).

There are also more recent reference works, such as ‘La notorietà botanica del Monte Baldo’ (1993), by Franco Ottaviani – a publication which explores from an historical perspective the botanical peculiarity of this mountain; also, the work by Daniele Zanini, ‘Specie baldensis e Spigolature Botaniche’, represents an interesting summa of knowledge on the flora of Monte Baldo (and besides – quite differently from previous works – it digs deeper into the scientific-botanical aspects rather than the historical).

In the 1800s and 1900s the situation is somehow inverted: in the last few years of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century, the progressive circulation of works by Linnaeus and the subsequent freeing of botany from a utilitarian framework set the foundation for a definition of modern floristic knowledge, drawing as a consequence a growing number of naturalists to this mountain, whose fame – notably from a botanical point of view – was already largely established.

If for the 19th century we can rely on numerous publications, together with log journals and compendia, the situation becomes more confused and intricate in the 20th century although one would not expect it. After WW1, Monte Baldo is rarely the field of new discoveries, representing for most botanists and scholars a place of ‘pilgrimage’ rather than anything else; thus, many are the plant hunters who come to walk the trails of this celebrated mountain without leaving a trace of their explorations – if not for the odd specimen, more often than not hidden in some obscure or tucked-away European herbarium.

One also has to bear in mind a substantial difference between the historical data concerning the section of Monte Baldo belonging to the province of Verona and the sector in Trentino. This is not due to a better exploration of the latter, but rather to the Atlas of Floristic Cartography – a project carried out by the province of Trento, which started more than 15 years ago and is now endowed with a constantly updated bibliographic and historical archive. However, also for the province of Verona a systematic work of collection of all the various sighting reports has now been started, and it is expected to grow in the following years.

Notable Flora of Monte Baldo

Here is a list and a brief description of all the main notable plant species that make the flora of Monte Baldo unique.

Anemone baldensis (Monte Baldo Anemone), despite the name, is in fact a species which is quite frequent on the mountains of Europe and North America, but Turra was the first to find it here in 1764. It was so named by Linnaeus, in honor of the first place in which the plant was discovered. 

The names of the following plants are often synonymsHeracleum pollinianum is a member of the Umbelliferae whose locus classicus is in the Valle degli Ossi, and was named after the botanist Pollini, while Moheringia ponae – a species strictly connected with rock ledges, from which it hangs with festoons up to 1 m long –  was first described in 1617 by Pona (hence the species' name), who found it by the Madonna della Corona, where it is still abundant.

Anthyllis vulneraria subsp. baldensis has a white or pale yellow-flowered form which is exclusive to Monte Baldo.

Dianthus seguieri, a beautiful pink with a darker circular pattern inside the flowers, owes its name to Jean-Francois Séguier – the first truly scientific illustrator of the flora of Monte Baldo. 

Gypsophila papillosa (Caryophyllaceaeis an endemic found on arid meadows; it is considered a punctual presence of exceptional phyto-geographic interest, even though it is more widespread now than it was in the past. 

Callianthemum kernerianum (Kerner’s Buttercup) is a strict endemic of Monte Baldo that flowers quite early in the year. It was discovered on Monte Maggiore and mentioned by Pona and Clusius (1601); it grows on rocky terrain in the highest section of the mountain, and it is a frequent presence only locally.

Aconitum anthora (Ranunculaceaeis quite rare on dry meadows and sparse woodland; only two of the historic stations have been confirmed, and both contain just a few specimens. In the past it was often thought that this species was condemned to extinction, as its tubers were collected by shepherds to cure the ailments of their animals.

Alyssum ovirense (Cruciferae), of a grey-ish, hairy appearance – and also with creeping roots that are an adaptation to the scree habitat where the plant lives – has only one station on Monte Baldo. It is an Illyrian species: the population on Monte Baldo, which was only discovered in 1991, lies at the westernmost fringe of its distribution; probably, it had never been seen before because the plant is quite inconspicuous unless it is in blossom (usually in early July), and the specimens are also located away from the main path. An important station for this plant can also be found on the Vette Feltrine.

The Monte Baldo Cabbage, Brassica repanda subsp. baldensis, is a plant that forms rosettes; it is an endemic sub-species typical of protruding rock ledges, discovered for the first time as late as 2004, while Jovibarba globifera subsp. lagariniana (Vallagarina Houseleek) was described as a new sub-species just in 2008, as it differentiates from similar sub-species by its being greyer in appearance, with a preference for warmer locations and also an isolated area of growth – being an endemic of the Valle Lagarina, Monte Baldo and the Lessini.

Saxifraga tombeanensis (Monte Tombea Saxifrage) – a rare Saxifrage with a compact pulvinate form, very small leaves and an early-flowering habit (May-June) – is present on Monte Baldo with two stations, while Geranium argenteum – unmistakable for the color and hairiness of its leaves and the pink flowers with purple veins  grows on rocks rich in clay (other important stations for this species are on the Pre-Alps of Friuli and Alpago).

A rare disjointed station of Cistus albidus (Cistaceae) – a Mediterranean plant whose only station on Monte Baldo is of high floristic value – was discovered for the first time in the area around 1815-20, and the location has retained its importance ever since.

Bupleurum baldense (Small Hare’s Ear; Umbelliferae) grows on dry, arid fields and pastures by Madonna della Corona – the locus classicus for this species, which was first discovered here in 1764 (together with B. veronense (Verona’s Hare’s Ear) more termophilic in nature) – while Primula spectabilis is the only red-flowered primrose to be found among the flora of Monte Baldo, an Alpine endemic that grows between Monte Grappa and the Oglio valley.

Galium baldense (Monte Baldo Bedstraw) is a creeping plant, recognizable for the whitish-yellow appearance of its flowers, profusely scented; it thrives on stony meadows with a low habit of growth in the Sub-alpine band. It was first described by Sprengel (1813-15) on the basis of specimens collected on Monte Baldo; it had escaped being sighted until then for its being quite inconspicuous. It is still present – especially in Cavallo di Novezza  but other stations were found at a later stage. It is an endemic of the area between the Pre-Alps of Bergamo and Claut in the Dolomiti Friulane, withdisjointed station in the Val Sarentina/Sahrntal (South Tyrol).     

Pulmonaria vallarsae (Vallarsa Lungwort) endemic to the Pre-Alps of Veneto and Trentino, has its western limit on the Stivo-Bondone chain, but apparently it is present on Monte Baldo with several stations at Cima Vignola. Nepeta nuda (Labiateaeis quite rare in the Southern Alps, and the only stations known are those on Monte Baldo.

Knautia baldensis (Monte Baldo Knapweed) collected for the first time in 1870 on Monte Altissimo, is an endemic of the Val di Ledro, Val Vestino and the Monti Lessini, where is typical of meadows and shrubby habitats; it is relatively common above 1,000 m among the flora of Monte Baldo. 

Campanula petraea (Monte Baldo Bellflower) has been described as a “species insignis” – that is, a 'distinguished species' – as it is the only Bellflower with non-blue flowers in the area; also, it is a plant which takes several years of growth before blossoming, and that dies down after flowering. It is one of the few strict endemic species of the Lessini and Monte Baldo, having been described for the first time by Pona (in 1617) for the rocks by the Tempio della Corona.

Serratula nudicaulis (Compositaeis a xerophilous (adapted to arid conditions) plant with just another station in the Italian Alps apart from Monte Baldo; here it grows on the rocky ledges of Monte Cornalè, and it constitutes one of the most interesting and enigmatic floral presences in the area, which can be interpreted as a xerophilous relic (i.e. remnant of a warmer climate).

Other endangered presences include Scorzonera hispanica (Compositae– a plant which lives in arid meadows and rocky habitats, and is also quite rare elsewhere in the Alps (it is present only in the western Alps and at Passo san Boldo, near Belluno) – whose populations are very localized and also threatened by the spontaneous expansion of woodland.

Bulbocodium vernum (Liliaceae; Spanish Colchicum  similar to a Crocus) is a very rare species in the Oriental Alps and it is present on the eastern side of the mountain, where it was discovered only in 2003 on Monte Cornalè, one of the “floral hotspots” of Monte Baldo; this is one out of the four stations present in the Central-eastern Alps.

Gagea minima (Liliaceaewas found for the first time on Monte Baldo in 1991; unknown in the Southern Alps until a few years ago, it has now been found in several other locations, but this still remains the only station in Trentino; in Veneto it is also present on the Vette Feltrine.

Tulipa sylvestris subsp. australis (Mountain Tulip; Liliaceae) is the only species of Tulip to have been sighted in the area. It was found for the first time in 1995; its station on Monte Baldo has a consistent number of plants but is nevertheless quite delimited. It is the only station known for the Veneto, and this one location also represents the south-eastern limit of distribution for the species within the whole Alps.

Muscari botryoides subsp. kerneri (Liliaceaeis another critical entity: typical of the foothills of the Pre-Alps of Veneto, it is on the whole quite a complex taxon with many different sub-species; here on Monte Baldo it is present in circumscribed locations, displaying a wide variability.

Iris cengialti (Monte Cengio Iris; Iridaceaeis a species that takes its name from Monte Cengio Alto (locus classicus), a peak (1,899 m) located in the Piccole Dolomiti, north-west of Vicenza. It is a relatively common plant between the Valle Lagarina and Vallarsa in eastern Trentino, with a disjointed distribution across the E Alps from the Pre-Alps of Brescia to the Slovenian karst ('Carso Sloveno'). On Monte Baldo there are several small stations, in natural meadow or rocky habitats, from the valley floors to above 1,500 m; each single population seems to be differing slightly from the others (the taxon gathers at least three different sub-species and more varietes).

Gladiolus palustris (Liliaceaeis a plant generally associated with meadows and wetlands; it is a Central European species threatened with extinction, and is present in three locations on Monte Baldo.

Carex baldensis (Monte Baldo Sedge) is an endemic grass, and it is easy to distinguish it by the inflorescence, with a cluster of white spikes displaying two or three bracts up to 10 cm long at the base. On Monte Baldo it grows on limestone and Dolomite substrate, from the lake shores up to 1,500 m. It is an endemic species with isolated stations from the Lago di Como to the Lessini and the Valsugana; a disjointed station is in Bavaria. The first description of this plant is by Bahuin (1596), from specimens collected on Monte Baldo – hence the name given by Linnaeus.

Cypripedium calceolus (Lady's Slipper Orchid; Orchidaceae) is perhaps the most famous orchid at temperate latitudes for its ‘exotic’ aspect – Cadmium yellow with a brown, slipper-shaped labellum; on Monte Baldo it is a rarity, and is present in very localized stations; the most ancient mention in the area dates to 1617 (Pona), and the species is now severely threatened by the expansion of shrubby vegetation.

In terms of other orchids, Ophrys bertolonii subsp. benacensis (Lake Garda Ophrys) is an endemic plant that has received its name from the ancient denomination of Lake Garda (‘Benacus’); it is found in Northern Italy from the Alps to Liguria and Tuscany, but its locus classicus remains on Monte Baldo, between Nago and Torbole. It grows on dry or arid meadows and sometimes even among olive groves, while Orchis provincialis (Orchid of Provence) is a Mediterranean species typical of dry/arid meadows, growing also in other sunny locations among shrubs and trees on acid soil. It is threatened with extinction and extremely rare; on Monte Baldo it is a localized presence in the southern section of the mountain. 

Other Notable Species to be Found on Monte Baldo Include Also:

Lychnis flos-jovis, a member of the Caryophyllaceae family with a dense wooly hairiness on the leaves and pink flowers; it is widespread especially on Monte Campo: in certain years, the blossoms of this station are visible from as far as Brentonico. The population of this plant on Monte Baldo denotes a remarkable phyto-geographic meaning, as the closest stations are in the Val di Sole, more than 50 km away;      

Ranunculus palaeoeuganeus (Euganeus Buttercup) is a new species (2007) which has a unique, isolated station on Monte Baldo, but it is found also elsewhere in some localities of Veneto and Friuli; in the light of historical research, the discoverer (Dunkel) considers this plant present only in this site and on Monte Grappa;  

Anthyllis vulneraria subsp. baldensis (Monte Baldo Kidney Vetch; Leguminosae): recognizable by the swollen, grayish calyx after blossoming, this particular sub-species is characterized by a whitish or pale yellow corolla – exclusive to Monte Baldo – that distinguishes it from another sub-species (alpestris), even though cases of confusion are also reported;      

Onosma pseudoarenaria subsp. tridentinum (Trento Comfrey; Boraginaceae) grows on arid, stony cliffs and it can be identified with the “Lutea anchusa” described by Pena and Lobelius in 1570.

Knautia persicina (Garda Knapweed; Dipsacaceae) is a critical species collected in 2007, which grows with K. baldensis described above  with which it is sometimes confused – and with K. velutina, a less rare species. This plant is a lot better represented to the east of the Adige – for example on the Monti Lessini;

Carduus defloratus subsp. tridentinus (Trento Thistle; Compositae) is a flowering species that displays a wide variability of color (generally purple), leaf shape and hairiness; the plant is particularly spiny when it grows on pastures, but because of all these subtle differences various sub-species are gathered under this collective name, creating at times some confusion;

Leuzea rhapontica subsp. heleniifolium (Compositae) is a tall plant reaching 1m that grows on stony slopes and scree, and with leaves that display a silvery underside; the flower is also quite conspicuous, 5-7 cm across. It is quite widespread on Monte Baldo, and even though many of its reported stations were never confirmed, it was nevertheless mentioned already in 1554 by Aldrovandi, and later by Pona (1617), for some locations where it can still be seen today;

Taraxacum amplexum. Sonck (Garda Dandelion; Compositae): the discoverer described this as a new species in 1998, belonging to a genus with an incredible variety of taxa, grouped in sections; the current species is classified at the limit between sections Palustria and Ruderalia, so that this taxa may need further investigation. Locally, however, it seems well-marked and easily identifiable, with long narrow leaves, conspicuous external scales and pale yellow flowers. It grows in circumscribed locations, and apparently it has never been spotted outside Monte Baldo, even though its early blossoming and relative scarcity make the observations – and therefore further work on the species – problematic.  


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