Protected plants in Croatia

Protected plants in Croatia

Plants, the green ornaments of our beautiful planet, play a pivotal role in preserving life.

We should keep in mind that the modern lifestyle, air, soil and water pollution, deforestation, uncontrolled building, pesticide and fertilizer pollution, as well as climate change have a significant negative effect on plant life as a whole, which leads to the extinction of numerous species. This is why almost a thousand plants in Croatia have been legally declared strictly protected species, with the aim of preserving a number of natural habitats and the diversity of plant taxa.

 

If you are wondering what this means, the answer is somewhat complicated, because the category may include endangered natural plant species, narrowly distributed plants or wild plants protected under European and international regulations. Regardless of the reason for their inclusion, they have one thing in common – it is prohibited to pick, cut, dig up, collect or destroy strictly protected plants in nature!

 

Out of all the known plant taxa in Croatia, most are restricted or endemic to one area, especially when taking into account the Adriatic islands and mountain regions, which ranks our small country among the most important areas in Europe and beyond when it comes to endemic species.

 

Croatia proudly boasts two mountains, Velebit and Biokovo, as areas where numerous “peculiar” plants, as one might affectionately call these endemic species, grow.

Archive National Park Northern Velebit

The biggest “stars” among them are the Degenia velebitica, an endemic and relictual plant in the mustard family, a symbol of Velebit, as well as Croatia, whose contours adorn the Croatian 50 lipa coin, and the silvery dwarf harebell, a floral beauty with bluish flowers that is distributed on mountain-top cliffs.

Archive National Park Northern Velebit

A large number of endemic species tells the history of a certain terrain and the Sibiraea croatica, a deciduous shrub of the rose family that only occurs on the rocky ground of Mount Velebit, is one of the best-known memorials of the Ice Age.

Certainly one of the most popular, as well as the most endangered protected plants, is the edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum). This symbol of heights and unspoiled nature has distinct woolly hairs and white flowers that are reminiscent of a lion’s paw, from whose Greek cognate the scientific name of the plant is derived. This is a well-known plant, especially among nature and mountain lovers, since it graces the emblems of many institutions and organizations.

Archive National Park Northern Velebit

Although characteristic of tall mountains, the edelweiss also grows in Croatia, on the rocks and in the alpine land of the Velebit, Dinara, Risnjak, Bitoraj and Lička Plješivica mountains.

The Aquilegia kitaibelii  (Kitajbelov Pakujac) , a plant endemic to the western Balkans with deep purple flowers on long stems, is named after Pál Kitaibel, a botanist, chemist and one of the first researchers of the Velebit flora.

This strictly protected plant species in Croatia is included on the list of endangered plants in Croatia and grows in the crevices of the northwest Croatian Dinarides.

The Latin name of an entire genus of plants is derived from the ancient Greek hero Achilles. Legend has it that Achilles, the epitome of courage and strength, was wounded in the Trojan War and came bleeding to Aphrodite, who successfully healed his wounds with the common yarrow. This plant genus comprising approximately 180 species was named Achillea after the myth.

The common yarrow’s “brother”, which is protected by law, is the white yarrow, a turfy perennial plant that grows in rocky grassland and has distinct velvety jagged leaves and a stem with grey-green and white flowers.

The seclusion of islands and rocks, in which the Adriatic Sea abounds, makes them the perfect venues for the development and growth of endemic species. As far as endemic island flora is concerned, boaters will most likely recognize the Brassica botteri (Palagruški Kupus), which has only been recorded on the islands of Velika and Mala Palagruža, making it virtually extinct. The flora on these islands encompasses roughly 260 extremely rare and endemic species, such as the Centaurea friderici (Palagruška Zečina)Muscari speciosum (Palagruška Presličica) and the Ornithogalum visianicum (Visiani’s Star of Bethlehem).

 

The Kvarner region is home to a lovely endemic plant with violet blue bell-shaped flowers that grow in tufts and adorn the crevices of rocks and cliffs on rocky shores. This plant, which is named Campanula istriaca (Istrian Bell), is a symbol of the town of Plomin, where it was first discovered and described.

The Centaurea ragusina (Dubrovačka Zečina) is a plant endemic to the Adriatic, which thrives in dry habitats with a high salt concentration and also grows in the crevices of carbonate rocks and cliffs.

Despite its name referring to Dubrovnik, the Centaurea ragusina also grows along the entire coastline around Cavtat, Split and central Dalmatian islands, in addition to the rocks of the city of Dubrovnik. The yellow-tinted flowers of this unique rock decoration extend vertically on a long stem, resembling small suns surrounded by silver-green velvety leaves.

The Dalmatian cranesbill is a plant with pinkish flowers that has become critically endangered due to excessive picking brought on by its decoratively appealing appearance and can only be found on the Pelješac peninsula.

Archive National Park Northern Velebit

The age of certain plants may exceed 100 years, which makes them highly valuable. One such example is the bearberry, a shrub-like plant with distinct red berries.

It grows in the mountain regions of south Europe, and in Croatia it occurs on Velebit and in Gorski Kotar. It is protected by law and included on the list of endangered plants due to excessive picking brought on by its medicinal properties and edible fruit.

 

When you take a walk in nature, remember that plants look after you. Return the favour! Protected plants belong in nature and not in a vase.