“In the wonderful green oasis that today constitutes the National Park of Abruzzo Lazio and Molise, the visitor finds easterly and happy a great wealth of plants, a superb vegetation.”
With these words, the illustrious botanist Romualdo Pirotta celebrated at the beginning of the last century the value of the flora of the mountains of the Park. The flora of the Park is so rich and interesting that it has always been the subject of study. Altogether, it is possible to list about 2,000 species of top plants without considering mosses, lichens, algae and mushrooms. Among the peculiarities of the floristic nature, the dune (Iris marsica) stands out as an endemism of the park, which grows only in some localities and which blooms between May and June.
There are also numerous and colorful orchids, of which the most beautiful, large and rare is undoubtedly represented by the scar of Venus or pianella della Madonna (Cypripedium calceolus), which blooms in the most hidden corners, between May and June.
Another rarity is undoubtedly represented by the black pine of Villetta Barrea (Pinus nigra), a relict species probably dating back to the Tertiary; this is an exclusive variety of the Park, located in some areas of Camosciara and Val Fondillo. Among the spontaneous conifers, we find also the pine pug (Pinus mugo), a glacial wreck that occupies the vegetational belt between the beech and the prairie of altitude; also located predominantly in the area of Camosciara.
Another peculiarity of the park is represented by a small birch station (Betula pendula), located in Barrea in a location called Oscuro Coppo. It is a reletta species, typical of the quaternary glacial periods, which is a testimony of the cold vegetation prevailing on the Apennines.
But the predominant vegetable landscape of the Park is made up of beech forests: the scientific name of this species, Fagus syIvatica, recalls the spontaneous origin of this species on the mountains of Apennine Italy, where the presence of beeches dates back to tens of centuries ago . Beech is in fact the most common tree in the Park and generally grows between 900 and 1,800 meters of altitude. Beech trees occupy more than 60% of the entire surface of the Park and contribute to creating a landscape rich in colors that vary from season to season. The shape and magnitude of the beech varies according to altitude, age and fertility conditions of the soil. The abundant lump in the beechwood carries an important thermoregulatory action: during the summer keeps the soil moist and prevents it from drying, while in winter it protects it from frost. In addition, decomposing itself through insect and microorganism action, it helps to enrich the soil of humus. From the branches of the beech trees also hang on abundant clumps of “beard of wood” (Usnea florida), a lichen typical of this environment of the Apennines.
The beech manifests a variety of aspects: from teak and multi-century specimens, with candle-shaped hairs, trees with tall stems and straight as wax. These trees, if they could talk, would tell long and complex stories, made of heavy human intervention, with irrational cuts and disbursements since the most remote ages. But the most difficult time for these forests was that of the so-called ‘economic miracle’, where industrial cuts were overwhelming. Thanks to the use of more modern means and technologies, forests suffered a dangerous destruction that did not benefit local people and forestry culture. In the park, between 1957 and 1967, over 650,000 tall trees were cut. Since 1969, with the reorganization of the body, all industrial cuts were banned, thus destroying a genuine forest speculation. After years of indiscriminate exploitation, the forests of the Park are now carefully preserved in order to bring them where possible to their original structure, thus promoting fauna, returning to its natural environment, and to the man, allowing the enjoyment of spectacular beauties. In addition to the limit of forests, juniper (Juniperus communis nana), prostrate form, and Nordic wreck wrecks such as cranberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and ursina grape (ArctostaphyIos uva-ursl) are found, which reveal the presence of past times, of a top layer of coniferous vegetation. Altitude meadows – which together with meadows and clearings cover over 30% of the total surface of the Park – are typical of the upper part of the mountains and occupy ridges and summits around the 1,900-2,000-meter-high altitude. Here the vegetation is mainly composed of several species of Graminaceae and Ciperacee accompanied in the beautiful season by the most influential yellow gentian and many other species: gentian, genzianella, primula, cyclamen, violets, anemones, scissors, lilies, orchids, sassifrages, buttercups, asperule, dental, buckthorn, laryngeal, liver.
Beech trees occupy more than 60% Particularly noticeable are the Lily bulbiferum croceum (Lilium bulbiferum croceum), with its sunny and dry slopes, the marigold lily (Lilium martagon), which grows in less thick beech, aquilegia (Aquilegia ottonis), abundant in the pastures and uncultivated lands, the Apennine gentian (Gentiana dinarica), of an intense blue, and the already mentioned Iris Marsica. The most famous flower of the Park is undoubtedly the Venus or pianella of the Madonna (Cypripedium calceolus), a yellow and black orchid located in the heart of the integral reserve and wreck of distant epochs. This plant, which grows also in alpine locations, risks extinction due to vandalism as unnecessary harvesting by uneducated tourists; it should therefore be adequately protected.
After years of intolerance and persecution, it is now defended in its entirety, thanks to the work, both educational and protection, carried out by the Park Authority in recent years. For visitors it’s not easy to spot animals because these are mostly elusive, elusive and circumspect, perhaps in memory of the negative experience with man. However, in some seasons of the year and in particular circumstances (tranquility, silence and respect for the environment), you can also observe the most spectacular and representative animals of the Park, such as the Abruzzo chamois, the Mars brown bear, the wolf , the deer and the real eagle. Today, the Park houses a large variety of animals that once occupied a much larger area in the Apennines: 60 species of mammals, 300 birds, 40 reptiles, amphibians and fish, and many species of insects, including important endemic species.