Flora and natural growth of the nature park

Nature of Valaam is unusual and beautiful. Here pines and fir-trees grow directly on rocks, which are above the water for tens of meters. In other parts of the island the rock go under the water. Sometimes nice sandy beaches and stony areas can also be seen. In the shoreless expanses of Ladoga there is the archipelago of Valaam. Its fifty islands make up only 1/5000 of the territory of Karelia. Though Valaam is small, it is very popular.

Tourist from all the parts of the country rush to walk along its reserved paths. They are attracted not only with the ancient monuments, but also with a variety of flora. We are used to the thought that Karelia is a severe and north country…But on Valaam one can see amazing combinations: pines close to lindens, fir-trees near oaks and so on. And if one walks to the most distant corners of Valaam’s forests, one will see even more!

There are about 480 species of flowering plants on Valaam. That is almost half of all species, which grow in Karelia. A quaver of them (60 species) is rarely met on Valaam, more than 30 species are rare for the whole Karelia. The northern border of the natural habitat of south-taiga plant is on Valaam.

This relic complex has formed thousands years ago when climate on the island (not on the shore) was favorable for growing heat-loving plants. The border of natural habitat of south-taiga plants is on the Valaam Island and partly - on the Ladoga shoreline. There are some south-taiga specimens which are especially rare on Valaam. Some plants demand special conditions for growing. They need favorable soils, enough moisture and light. But all these factors in complex in the North are very rare, that’s why the plants don’t appear just north of latitude 62` North. Some plants grow only on Valaam and even in two places.

The other flora peculiarity of reservoir is the fact that so called “unmoral” specimens adjoin to arctic specimens and the arctic-alpine - to the Siberian. On Valaam there is the south border of natural habitat of some arctic and arctic-alpine specimens; the southern bound of its spread is the northern Priladozhie and lakes of Finland and the northern shoreline of Ladoga Lake. Valaam is the western bound of natural habitat for the Suberian specimen and the eastern bound for some Scandinavian specimens.

 In general flora on Valaam is characterized for the north-west of European part of Russia. Geographical position, history of forming, soil peculiarities and geological conditions of archipelago and divided landscape structure characterizes all peculiarities of the island.

Natural growth covered all space as soon as the last glacier had receded. Alternating of warm and cold climate changed flora from time to time. So, 7-8 th. years ago there were birch forests in Priladozhie and on Valaam; such deciduous trees as oak, lime-tree, elm, alder-tree dominated among them. The most popular plants were lily of the valley and others. Warming caused moisture reducing and moving steppe and forest-steppe growth to the north. Relicts of this flora complex are preserved on Valaam: fescue sheep, thyme, sage and others. These plants are stable to lack of water, and maybe it is the main reason for the fact that major grow places are rocky outcrops which are very warm from early spring till late autumn.

 4 th. years ago birch deciduous forests alternated piny and fir trees because of falling of temperature. The other plants were heather, bearberry, cowberry; Spreading of the fir caused the growth of other grassy plants. So, taiga dominated at that period of time. Fall of temperature led to spreading some arctic-alpine specimens.

Some plants which grow near the water – reed, cattail, rush, sedge, water-lily – appeared in inland lakes which formed after glacier’s thawing. A man considerably influenced the flora on this territory: he’d brought weed. Physical and geographical condition peculiarities determined archipelago’s originality and diversity of its verdure. We have already mentioned that the main riches of Valaam are its forests. Pine forests are spread in a high degree. It is very rare to meet only bilberry-bushes when only bilberries are seen. It is more ordinary for pine trees of Valaam to have different bushes: 50 - 95 various shrubs, herbs, taiga motley grass cover ground. It takes about 70-100%. Except bilberry there is cowberry and stone berry (which is usually called “the north pomegranate”) but they are not in large quantity.

In bilberry motley grass you can meet some forest specimens. Most forest flowers are noticeable and it is easy for insects to find them. An embellishment of bilberry pinery is bellflower which is met here very often. This plant has quite firm straight stem (50-100 cm). Blue flowers (3 cm) are close to each other and form cluster. Sometimes the flowers are separated. The plant is very beautiful and visitors try to pick it what can lead to destruction.

Here you can meet lily of the valley, geranium and other light-requiring specimens. Among them there are some so called “unmoral” specimens: pine, copse and others. The peculiarity of such kind of forest is presence of almost continuous moss surface. On the hills of landscape where soils are poor dry kind of pinery are met very often: heather, cowberry, rocky and moss pineries. But openly moss pineries are very rare on Valaam. They are on small rocky hills with poor sandy or meager soils (10 cm). On the ground you can meet some specimens which are fit to dry places. They are heather, cowberry, bearberry bushes and some kinds of motley grass. But bush mosses form continuous surface. 

Bilberry pineries are twice as many than cowberry and heather pineries. Plants feel lack of moisture on hills and slopes for pineries occupy these places. That’s why heather and bearberry dominate here. Different kinds of motley grass and herbs are above other plants, so they form special colour background. From a distance it seems that violet pieces are around the forest. In general complex of specimens is poor and only in often visited places this complex becomes diversify because of meadow specimens and weed. You can see this color picture from special place which is on the right of the road to farm. But during several years of observations they revealed changes in ground surface: forest specimens alternate meadow.

On rocky places of Vallam especially on the shoreline rocky pineries are formed. Grass and shrubs are very rare to meet here continuously. Plants strike roots in the places with soil. There is no specimen diversity among shrubs and herbs. How it’s already mentioned there are specimens of heather, bearberry and other sorts of herbs. For instance the fescue covers the rocks forming tough like brush surface. But at the same time specimen diversity makes up poorness of other tiers. Here is a great variety of specimens. Most of them are rare specimens of Karelia.

Blooming plants embellish rocks from spring till autumn: some are fading already and the others just begin to bloom; one blossom-time alternates the other. And many-colored carpet on the rocks disappears just in late autumn. We can’t compare violet to other flowers: it has almost all kinds of colors and tints – white and yellow, blue and violet, dark blue or almost black. On the slopes the other specimen of flower is booming: it has curved stem with sharp leaves which reminds question-mark, and with little bells on the end of a stem. In autumn black and blue berries replace white flowers. This flower is met in Priladozhie.

The other flowers form white and pink carpet because they have white, pink or red flowers gathered in cluster. The third specimen of flowers has yellow-green-white or white-pink flowers gathered in cluster.

Sandy carnation blooms with white and pink flowers.

Thyme is in blossom while carnation is blooming. Thyme is not tall shrub but has nice tart smell because of ethereal oil. Little pink and lilac flowers are gathered in compact inflorescence. On Vallam rocks thyme sometimes forms quite great brushwood.

But other plants don’t form brushwood. These grassy plants (30-70 cm) grow separately on rocky outcrops or dry glades. They have some adaptations which help them to protect from evaporation. The peculiarity of this plant is its sticky upper part of stem. It protects them against small insects. And in night noticeable white flowers are pollinated by night butterflies.

 But not all plants grown on rocks attract you with their beautiful flowers. For instance small ferns are not visible for anyone. More over they usually take roots in cracks and splits. They grow on vertical part of the rock.

And now some words about fir-wood. Sometimes you can find here larches, asps, pine-trees, and in lowlands – alder-trees. Maples and lime-trees are rare here. Among bushes there are willows, mountain ashes, snowball trees and others. The forest is so thick that sun rays appear not everywhere, that’s why it is very gloomy and moist here. Not all plants can live without light. So there is no great specimen diversity in fir-woods. In most rich fir-woods we can meet maximum 50-60 specimens. Bilberry fir-wood is widely spread. There is quite rich soil. But sometimes cowberry and stone berry are met here. There is more diversity in bilberry and motley grass woods where soil is more fertilized and dewy. In such woods moss tiers of typical green mosses are well developed. And how we have already mentioned there is great number of white flowers like in ordinary forests.

Copse is blooming in early spring when not all plants have already been aroused. Blue flowers of copse are visible well on the background of old last year leaves. And during its blossom it seems that there are small lakes under fir-trees. Leaves of copse appear after the plant has bloomed. There is a great number of copse on Valaam and occasionally it seems that this south-taiga plant has found here the second native land. But if you move to the north shoreline of Ladoga you will not meet this plant in large abundant. And all this is the peculiarity of Valaam.

There is one specimen of legumes which blooms in May – June. It has very interesting leaves: large and sharp. About 3-7 flowers are gathered in cluster and have extraordinary color. Color changing depends on flower’s age. The youngest flowers have crimson, purple tint. The older flowers become blue and by fading moment they are pale blue and even with green tint. One such cluster looks like many-colored bouquet. Its bright color attracts many insects.

 Landscape of Valaam is billowy. This is the richest places: here rain precipitations flow down the slopes washing out nutritive materials. Here is also enough moisture and cold winds can’t gain this place. Here are usually larches, alder-trees, and maples. In thick grass tier large fern dominates.

When you come out of dark dewy fir-wood you feel contrast. Sudden sun rays and many-colored tints are amazing. Meadows on Valaam take not large area: it is about 160 hectares. However meadow specimen complex is very various.

Here are about 170 specimens: it is about 1/3 from the whole flora of Valaam. Dryness or dampness of meadow depends on its geographical position and moisture. For instance not large hills and gentle slopes are covered with dry herbs and motley grass. There is abundant of clovers. In summer meadows are many-colored. It has almost all colors of rainbow: yellow, red, pink, white, blue, gold and crimson.

In low places where is lack of moisture there are motley grasses or marshy meadows. In more dewy places the reed is spread.

Dewy places in high degree are marshes. But openly there are not so much them on Valaam; they take about 37 hectares, which is 1% from the whole area. Marshes are met in 3 forms of massifs – the upper, the transitional and the lowland marshes. In marshes of the upper type different shrubs dominate, for instance – cranberries.

 In richer lowland marshes the sedge and marshy motley grass dominate. In rivers very beautiful flowers bloom.

The transition type of the marsh represents transferring from the upper type to the lowland. Here you will meet the plants which are characterized for both marshy types. Micro marshes attract greatly. They are met in the low east shoreline which differs from the south one by gentle rocks so called “barany lbi” disappearing in the water. Water gets to dents and splits and stands there too long. Gradually these cavities are overgrown with moss in which sedge and other grasses set down and form typical marshes.

 Water flora is represented with 45 species. There are typical water and floaty plants. Riverside shoal is occupied with large plants: their underground and lower parts are under water. They are the reed, rush and others. More deep-water area is represented with leaves floating on the surface of water. Inland lakes and channels are connected with beautiful white water lilies.

 Moist or dewy shores of the inland lakes are blooming with flowers of iris in June. This flower blossoms with 3-7 large yellow flowers. Unfortunately, this plant is blooming for a very short time. Here also you can see tall plant (2 meters) with long leaves and black and brown ear. This plant they call “reed” although the plants don’t look like each other and are referred to different families. And in shallow bays of Ladoga you will meet the other wonderful flowers.

Plant world of Valaam is beautiful and diversify. You should not only know it and admire it but also do everything in order to use it correctly to preserve all this.

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