The landscape - Orto botanico 'Pellegrini - Ansaldi'

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The vegetable landscape of the Apuan Alps

Pian della Fioba represents an excellent observation point of the central part of the Apuan chain, that dominates the Massa plain. The peaks that from Sagro Mount to NW come in succession towards E to the Sella Mount rise like a sudden barrier from which waters flow tumultuously to the valley, digging deep grooves, that flow into the Frigido River.
The plant cover of this part of the chain is a very significant example of the flora and vegetation of the Apuane, which richness and diversity are due to several factors, like the particular geography, the climate variability of the area and the complex geological nature in which there is the alternation of limestone areas, generally arid, with scarce basic soil, with others predominately siliceous, impermeable, with acid soils and richer in water.

The coastal plains, of alluvial origin, are nowadays very densely anthropised. On the coast, there are still present scarce population of psammophilous species, in wreckly character, that colonise the sandy coasts. In the plain, in the past covered by a single and continuous forest vegetation, of which it remains today some small strip, some places have still names that derive from plant species, like Quercioli, Querceta, Castagnola, Mirteto, and more. In wide parts of the Apuan plain there are pine forests of maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton) and of domestic pine or stone pine (Pinus pinea L.), both planted by man in quite recent times, from mid1700.

On the first mountains, exposed to the sea, the plant cover is Mediterranean: where the soil is calcareous, up to 300 m of elevation, there is the Mediterranean scrub characterised by the evergreen sclerophiles, composed of not only the holm oak (Quercus ilex L.), but also the myrtle (Myrtus communis L.), terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus L.) and phillyrea (Phillirea latifolia L.); this plant cover in large areas was replaced by olive groves. On siliceous soils, up to 600 m of elevation, there is the pine forest of maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton), which undergrowth is made up of Mediterranean shrubs, like the myrtle (Myrtus communis L.), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo L.), and more of sub-atlantic type, such as whin (Ulex europaeus L.). The maritime pine, differently to what happens in plain, always grows naturally on the Apuan siliceous hills. This plant cover was largely eliminated to plant the vineyards that characterise the landscape of the hills of the Candia, between Massa and Carrara.

The oak forest-carpineto
They are widespread on all sunny limestone soils of the Tyrrenhian mountainside of the Apuane from an altitude of 400 meters to about 1400 meters. Here there is the prevalence of the hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia Scop.), followed by downy oak (Quercus pubescens Willd.) and manna ash (Fraxinus ornus L.).
In the oak-hornbeam forest, on the rocks and in the debris, some of the endemic species of the Apuane are frequent: the Globularia (Globularia incanescens Viv.), symbol of the botanical Garden, the santolina (Santolina leucantha Bertol.), the yellow oxeye daisy (Buphthalmum salicifolium L. subsp. flexile (Bertol.) Garbari), the Moltkia suffruticosa (Moltkia suffruticosa (L.) Brand) and more.
The cerreto-carpineti
They are widespread mostly on the cold soilds, especially on the Lunigiana and Garfagnana mountainside. There is always the turkey oak (Quercus cerris L.), black hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia Scop.), white hornbeam (Carpinus betulus L.) and hazelnut tree (Corylus avellana L.).
The chestnut grove
A large part of deciduous forests was transformed in coppice or fruit-bearing chestnut woods: man planted or facilitated the chestnut tree (Castanea sativa Miller) in all slightly acid soils suitable to the plant to obtain chestnuts and wood; it is widely known the importance that the chestnut grove played in the life and in the economy of the Apuan populations, especially in the past.
The Beech woods
At higher altitudes there are the bench woods, with greater extension on the north side of the Apuane, in the Garfagnana and Lunigiana, with altitude from 800-900 m up to 1600-1700 m. In the Tyrrhenian side, especially where the geologic substrate is made up of marble, the beech woods have a lesser extension, and they are mostly between the altitude of 1200-1400 m. The undergrowth of the beech tree is usually poor, mostly composed of thin herbaceous species that bloom in spring, when the beech trees are still bare: the wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella L.), the white anemone (Anemone nemorosa L.), the Cardamine (Cardamine bulbifera (L.) Crantz), and a few more. On Orto di Donna, in the northern side of the Contrario mountain, the beech wood has an interesting aspect of forest mixed with beech and silver fir (Abies alba Miller); it has here a clear wreckly character, and shows a type of forest cover that had to be more common in the postglacial time.

It is not uncommon to see in this altitudinal area conifer reforestation made by man in the last decades; in the sixties this area of the botanical Garden was subjected to a significant reforestation of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco), a plant species mostly removed in the Garden, and still present in a few exemplaries; other plant species frequently used in the Apuan area are the black pine (Pinus nigra Arnold) and the Italian alder (Alnus cordata (Loisel.) Desf.).

The vegetation that characterises the areas of elevation have different aspects on the peaks of limestone nature with respect of those of siliceous nature.
Vegetation of altitude on siliceous substratum
On the highest parts of the peaks composed of siliceous rocks, there are the moors of altitude. They are mostly on the north-central Apuane, like at Passo Giovo (between the Pizzo d’Uccello and the Cresta Garnerone) and on the highest part of the Monte Fiocca. These formations are mostly composed of two different species of blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L. and V. gaultherioides Bigelow). In a few areas of the chain (Monte Pisanino, Monte Contrario, Zucchi di Cardeto) there are rarer species like the crowberry (Empetrum nigrum L.), the alpine rose (Rosa pendulina L.) and the purple colt's-foot (Homogyne alpina (L.) Cass.).
Vegetation of altitude on limestone substratum
The arid limestone peaks, apparently without vegetation, actually host a lot of herbaceous species that live on the rocky walls; they are mostly non-graminoid herbs, bushes and shrubs that determine a type of irregular vegetation, called psammophilous vegetation. This rare plant cover most largely characterises the plant species Apuan landscape of altitude, and it develops on the peaks composed of marble (part of M. Contrario, M. Tambura, M. Sella, part of M. Sumbra, M. Altissimo, M. Corchia), the grezzone (Pizzo d'Uccello, Cresta Garnerone, M. Grondilice, Catena degli Uncini, "Torrioni" ofl M. Corchia), and flinty limestone (M. Sagro, part of M. Contrario, Zucchi di Cardeto, part of M. Sumbra). Here there are a lot of endemic species, like athamanta (Athamanta cortiana Ferrarini) and the silene lanuginosa (Silene lanuginosa Bertol.).

L'ORTO BOTANICO PIETRO PELLEGRINI, Un giardino alpino nel Parco Regionale delle Alpi Apuane
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