Thursday, 10 April 2014

Italian Spring

We went looking for spring and the sun in Italy, and we found it on the slopes of Vesuvius. We woke to sunshine across the Bay of Naples, but when we looked out of the hotel's back window, we saw snow on the volcano.
It's a bit concerning staying in on the side of an active volcano, with lava in the car park, but we survived. Apart from the infamous eruption in 79AD, Vesuvius has erupted regularly since with the latest in 1944. This gives an interesting habitat on the various lava flows, and near the hotel we found a rich area of mosses, lichens and plants.

Butterfly Orchid (but not as we know it)


Early Spider Orchid (Ssp probably)

This is part of the original cone, taken from the current cone with a 1944 lava flow in between. The original cone was about 8,000' high apparently, but most was blasted into the sky so the centre is now only about 4,200'. You can drive up most of the way to the summit, then fight past coaches and tourist traps to walk the rest of the way to the top, and look down into the crater which is a few hundred yards across.

There was a blue rock thrush singing in there somewhere, making the most of the acoustics.
Steam rises from vents in the crater, giving off a slight sulphurous smell, but mostly it seemed peaceful.

Just one flowering plant was seen on the inside - a dandelion had colonised first, although the dreaded red valerian was making its relentless way up the outside of the cone, a successful pioneer of arid land.

A distinctive lichen has also colonised the lava, Vesuvius Snow Lichen (Stereocaulon vesuvianum).
How do people live here, with the constant threat of eruption?


Nichoid said...

Welcome back

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks - I blame you for making me return to blogging!

Nichoid said...

Tan top at the scrape on Saturday...