Thursday, 17 June 2010

.... and a lump of limestone

The Serene Republic of San Marino consists mainly of a large lump of limestone, towering 2,500 feet up from the plain of the Adriatic coast. It seems to pride itself on its natural assets, and has five or six nature parks in its few square miles. Being on limestone, this is great for finding different species of plants and insects.
We stayed for four nights and were lucky enough to have a room with a view - in clear air we could see for miles over the Apennine foothills, and to the Adriatic coast. On the first morning, I walked around the nearest park of Turkey Oaks and pines, finding Italian Catchfly and Butchers' Broom in profusion, but also plenty of unknown plants that have had me poring over reference books and the net. I expect I've got some wrong, and some (like the knapweed above) I've not found at all.
Below the main town, the land levels out a bit, although the hairpinned roads are still treacherous. Agriculture is necessarily unintensive, and the verges are filled with wild flowers like Italian Sainfoin, while it seems that every tree and bush holds a singing nightingale.
Starry clover (also found on Shoreham Beach in the UK)

Most of the area is fascinating, but one particular patch of short turf held a profusion of orchids - including this one which I first assumed was a Late Spider but was corrected by a little research. I'm now assuming that it's a Woodcock Orchid, although there are many similar species in this group. [Fortunately there are readers who know about these things, and John of Banstead Botany Blog kindly informs me that they were Bertoloni's Orchids (Ophrys bertolonii) - Ed]
Now, I understand the concept of Bee Orchids (attracting bees), Fly Orchids (pollinated by flies), Spider Orchids etc, but woodcocks? The point eludes me.
Also in the clearing were serapias - tongue orchids - one of which I believe caused consternation in the Minster chalk pit in Kent one year.
This may be a bug orchid or a scented orchid (probably the latter, considering the habitat).

Violet Limodore / Violet Bird's-nest Orchid

?Oxtongue broomrape


Field Cow-wheat

Bastard Balm
But best of all, one of the parks is on the edge of the sheer precipice of Mount Titano, giving fine opportunities to scramble and climb. It's not near the usual British holiday haunts, but if you get the chance to visit please do so. Furthermore, if you stay overnight, the trippers soon depart for the coast, leaving the town quiet and peaceful.


Greenie said...

Steve ,
Fantastic collection of Orchids and other plants .
With that number of Orchids , ID must be a headache .
Looks like my kind of place .
Nice one .

Mary said...

Beautiful photos!Looks like a great trip.

John said...


Great plants. Your orchid is I think Ophrys bertolonii, not Woodcock orchid (O.scolopax). Like you I have always wondered about the latter common name!!

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks for the help John - it's a minefield.

Fred, Mary, thanks for your comments, and yes it's a great place.