Kostoľany Educational Trail

Xerotherm Meadows

South-east of Gýmeš Castle the educational trail crosses smaller meadows, which in the growing period display a considerable variety of blooming plants. The high biodiversity is caused especially by the limestone bedrock with a shallow soil, which is called rendzina.

From Gýmeš Castle we follow the green markers (5129) on an old hollow way along a bend around the rocks, gently descending to the meadows with station No. 8 in their centre. Time: 7 min., in the opposite direction 9 min., length: 0.4 km, easy

Xerotherm meadows below Gýmeš Castle
Xerotherm meadows below Gýmeš Castle /(J. Košťál)

The slope faces south and therefore this site is not only sunny, but also dry and warm. Vegetation preferring these conditions is called xerotherm (they like dry and warm conditions) and corresponds to steppe vegetation. It developed on a spot of former xerotherm oak forests that have been cleared and replaced by meadows or pastures. For many centuries plants of different origin spread over the cleared areas. They entered Europe through the Balkans from the Black Sea area, as for example Pontic-Pannonian species. These are species tolerating continental conditions with large temperature amplitudes and long-lasting dry periods, as for example Festuca valesiaca or Stipa capillata – typical steppe grasses, dominants of xerotherm meadows. Of Pontic-pannonian origin is also the pheasant’s eye (Adonis vernalis) or the Greater Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla grandis), the first xerotherm flowers in the spring.

Stipa capillata
Stipa capillata /(J. Košťál)
Pheasant’s eye (Adonis vernalis)
Pheasant’s eye (Adonis vernalis) /(J. Košťál)
Poniklec veľkokvetý (Pulsatilla grandis)
Poniklec veľkokvetý (Pulsatilla grandis) /(J. Košťál)

Later on, in May, the Scorzonera purpurea blooms. 04 Its blossom smells like chocolate. Large white blossoms are typical of the snowdrop anemone (Anemone sylvestris). Contrary to its name, it does not grow in the forest, but rather in open sites on its border. The meadow fringes and sparse oak forests are similarly bordered by bloody geranium (Geranium sanguineum).

Scorzonera purpurea
Scorzonera purpurea /(J. Košťál)
Bloody geranium (Geranium sanguineum)
Bloody geranium (Geranium sanguineum) /(J. Košťál)

Pontic-Pannonian plants are mixed up with species that spread from the Mediterranean. This is the case of sub-Mediterranean species, as for example the lady orchid (Orchis purpurea).

 Lady orchid (Orchis purpurea)
Lady orchid (Orchis purpurea) /(J. Košťál)

This majestic orchid, comparable to the other species of orchidaceae, blooms irregularly, dependent on the weather in the foregoing year: if the year offers conditions for the orchids to blooms, the meadows are bestrewn with them, in other years there are none. Also other orchids bloom here, for example the three-toothed orchid (Orchis tridentata). In the summer, when the xerotherm vegetation is dried out by the summer heat, the fragrant yellow onion (Allium flavum) blossoms out, one of a few summer species. At the end of summer, when the vegetation period ends, it is possible to see the bloom of yellow monkshood (Aconitum anthora), one of the rarest species.

 Fragrant yellow onion (Allium flavum)
Fragrant yellow onion (Allium flavum) /(J. Košťál)

Xerotherm meadows below Gýmeš are gradually overgrown especially by manna ash (Fraxinus ornus). Environmentalists therefore regularly remove the wind-dispersed woody plants. This way the meadows and their variability are preserved for the future.

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