Central European Beech Woodlands

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) woods form the natural climax over much of Central Europe where the soils are relatively dry and can extend well into the uplands in the more southern zones. In the north, however, around Sweden it is confined to the lowlands. Beech woodlands are often open with a poorly developed shrub layer, Characteristic ground layer species may include various helleborines such as Cephalanthera damasonium, C. longifolia and C. rubra and sedges such as Carex alba, whilst in others, grasses like Sesleria caerlea or Melica uniflora may predominate, but in some of the more acidic examples, Luzula luzuloides is likely to dominate. There are also a number of endemic ground layer species. For example, in Carpathian beech woods endemics such as Dentaria glandulosa (Brassicaceae), Symphytum cordata (Boraginaceae) and the fern Polystichum braunii (Dryopteridaceae) may be encountered. Fine examples of primeaval beech woods can be found in the limestone Alps of lower Austria including the famous ‘Rothwald’ on the southeastern slopes of Dürrentein near Lunz. These range in altitude from about 940-1480 m. Here the canopy is dominated by Fagus sylvatica together with Acer pseudoplatanus, Picea abies, Ulmus glabra, and on the more acidic soils by Abies alba. Typical shrubs include Daphne mezereum, Lonicera alpigena and Rubus hirtus. At ground level the herb layer is very rich supporting possibly up to a 100 species of vascular plants. Examples include Adenostyles alliariae, Asplenium viridis, Campanula scheuchzeri, Cardamine trifolia, Cicerbita alpina, Denteria enneaphyllos, Euphorbia amygdaloides, Galium austriacum, Homogyne alpina, Lycopodium annotinum, Mycelis muralis, Paris quadrifolia, Phyteuma spicata, Prenanthes purpurea, Senecio fuchsii, Valeriana tripteris, Veratrum album and the central European endemic Helliborus niger (Ranunculaceae).

Central European Pinus nigra (black pine) Forest

These forests in Central Europe are confined to the dry dolomitic soils of Austria where black pine is represented by the near endemic Pinus nigra subsp. nigra (Austrian pine). The shrub layer typically includes Amelanchier ovalis, Cotoneaster integerrimus, C. nebrodensis and Sorbus aria, while characteristic field layer species include Biscutella laevigata, Daphne cneorum, Erica herbacea, Globularia cordifolia, Polygala chamaebuxus, Sesleria albicans and the Austran endemic Callianthemum anemonoides (Ranunculaceae). The pine trees may be parasitized by the unusual endemic or near endemic mistletoe Viscum album subsp. austriacum, which usually has yellow rather than white berries.

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).


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