1902 Encyclopedia > The Alps > Flora of the Alps

The Alps
(Part 32)


(h) Flora in the Alps

In describing the several regions which are found in ascending from the low country to the snow-clad summits of the Alps, and whose existence is due to climatal differences, it was necessary to refer to the characteristic vegetation of each zone, in as much as this affords the chief apparent distinction which climatal conditions impress on the earth’s surface. The most cursory observation suffices to show that within each of the zones thus broadly sketched out there exist marked differences in the vegetable population, so that a comparison of the local floras in two spots possessing a similar climate as regards temperature may exhibit but few points of agreement along many marked contrast. This partly depends on external conditions, of which the most important are differences in the amount and distribution of moisture in the air and the soil, and differences in the composition and state of aggregation of the soil itself. But a more important element in determining the flora of any particular district depends upon the caused that have operated throughout the whole period since it has become dry land to facilitate migrations for certain species, and to impede it for others. The subject of the distribution of Alpine plants, so far as regards the eastern half of the chain, has been very well discussed in any essay by Dr. A. Kerner in the 1st vol of the 2d edit. Of Schaubach’s Deutsche Alpen, although some of the conclusions of the writer may not bear careful critism. He divided the natural floras of the Alps into four --- named respectively Arctic, Baltic, Pontic and Mediterranean, the term Baltic referring to the region that includes Germany, Southern Scandinavia, and North-Western Russia; while Pontic comprehends the region north and west of the Euxine --- the northern provinces of Turkey and the whole space between the Carpathians and the Crimea. It does not appear that the writer holds that the plants existing in the Alps have actually migrated to their present homes from the geographical regions corresponding to the above denominations, but merely that they belong to the types of vegetation characteristic of each of them. It must be borne in mind that the Alps, and especially the mountain and sub-Alpine regions, produce a large number of peculiar forms,. Many of which have no near allies in the other mountains regions of Europe, while at the same time the differences are seldom so wide as to place these in distinct generic groups; and it seems quite inadmissible to suppose that the flora has been altogether formed by colonization from surrounding districts,. No space can be here found for details, but it may broadly be said that while the highest zone of all, lying close to the limit of permanent snow exhibits throughout the whole chain as approach to uniformity, several of the most conspicuous species being common to thus and to Arctic flora, the zone immediately below this, as well as those lower down, shows a large admixture of quite distinct elements. This is especially true of the southern slopes. In truth, but a very few of the well-marked endemic species of the Alps are confined to the north side of the main chain. A considerable number are common to both slopes, and a still larger proportion are restricted exclusively to the southern side. Of the larger groups which are represented in the Alps by numerous well-marked endemic species, the genera Alsine, Androsace, Arabis, Campanula, Crepis, Gentiana, Pedicalaris, Primula, and Saxifraga may be especially noted. Without attempting to enter into details, it may be said that, along with a general Alpine flora, which extends throughout the entire chain, there are three large districts where, along with species common to all, we find a considerable number of others wither absolutely local and endemic, or else representative in the Alps of the floras of other distant mountain groups. Only few of the more remarkable species characteristic of each can be cited. The West Alpine Flora is found in Dauphine, South Savoy and Western Piedmont, as far north as the group of the Graian Alps. In the following list of the mot remarkable species those which are either identical with or nearly allied to Pyrenean forms have an asterisk prefixed: ---

Arabis pedemontana, Huguenina tanacetifolia, *Dianthus neplectus, Silene cordifolia, *Saponaria lutea, * Hypericum nummulariafolium, Astragalus alopecuroides, saxifrage florulenta, S. diapensioides, *S. pedemontana, *Asperula hexaphylla, Cephalaria alpine, achillera Herbarota, Berardia subacaulis, Campanula Allionii, C. elatines, Peimula marginata, P. Allionii, *Erinus alpinus, Veronica Allionii, Thymus piperella, and Alopecurus Gerardi.

The Lombard Flora is marked by a considerable number of very distinct species that are limited to the southern declivity of the Alps, between the Lago Maggiore and the lake of Garda. Most of these are absolutely confined within these boundaries, but a few extend some distance east of the lake of Garda. The following deserve to be specified: ---

Viola Comollia, V. heterophylla, Silene Elizabethœ, Arenaria gribeebsis, Cytisus glabrescens, Sanguisorba dodecandra, Saxifraga Vandellii, S. arachnoidea, Laserpitium nitidum, Telekia speciosissima, leontodon tenuiflorus, Hieracium porrifolium, Campanula Raineri, C. elastinoides, Daphne repustris, Euphorbia variabilis, and Carex baldensis.

The East Alpine Flora, extending through the region east of valley of the Adige, is characterized by a large number of peculiar species, and by a perhaps equal number of plants not seen elsewhere in the Alps, but also natives of the Carpathians, or of the region lying between Servia and the Adriatic. In the following list those included in the latter category are marked with an asterisk: ---

Arabis vochinensis, * A. Scopoliana, * Cardamine trifolia, Braya alpine, Cochlearia brevicaulis, Silene pumilio , S. alpestris, Dianthus alpinus, *Genista sericea, Medicago Pironœ, *Potentilla Clausiana, Saxifraga Burseriana, S. tenella. * S. petræa, *S. hieracifolia, * Hacquetia Epipactis, Astrantia carniolica, Hladnikia golacensis, Anthemis alpine, achillea Clusiana, *Senecio abrotanifolius, Centaurea alpine, C. reputris, * saussurea pygmæa, Phyteuma comosum, Campanula pulla, * C. alpine, C. morettiana, C. Zoysii, Rhododendron chamæcistus, Gentiana imbricata, *G. frigida, G. Froshlichii, *Primula minima, P. glutinosa, Androsace Hausmanni, Pœderota Bonarota, P. Ageria, Wulfenia carinthiaca, Sesleria sphœrocephala, and S. microcephala.

It is worthy of remark that the central and highest part of the Alpine chain, including the Pennine and Bernese groups, the Lepontine Alps, and those of North Switzerland, produce scarcely a well-marked species ---with the doubtful exceptions of Rumex nivalis and of Potentilla grammoprtala, which is confined to a small district south-east of Monte Rosa --- that does not spread throughout the rest of the chain.

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