ORNAMENTAL PLANTS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITATS
Unlike the other center of the FSU, the floras of which have
only recently been explored for ornamental species, the Carpathians
is an old center of diversity, and many of its species have long
been in cultivation.
The Carpathian mountains are situated in central and eastern Europe. Their
total extent and area are nearly the same as those of
the Alps, though their height is much lower. The name "Carpathian"
was listed as early as the 11 century A. D., in Ptolemy's "Guide to
Geography". Czech scientist P. J. Safarik (1795-1861) believed that
it was derived from the Slavic "Kharbat" mountain range.
The Carpathians lie only partially within the FSU. They are situated
on the borders of the Ukraine with Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Hungary and Romania. The ranges stretch from northwest to southeast.
That portion of the Carpathians within the FSU borders is known as the
Forest Carpathians (or Waldkarpathen in German), because it is so densely
forested. The forest belt is now located at 1,200-1,500 m (3,930-4,920
ft), although at the beginning of the century, according to Chopik (1976)
it reached 1,700-1,800 m (5,630-5,900 ft). Subalpine and alpine meadows
occupy the upper zone. In the Ukrainian Carpathians the highest peak,
Goverla, reaches 2,061 m (6,762 ft).
The climate of the Carpathians is a combination of two types: western
Atlantic and southeastern continental. The local climate depends on
exposure and altitude. East-facing slopes have raw winters, where winds
from the Russian plains are frequent. Summer is the rainy season, with
a secondary maximum precipitation in late autumn. There are no places
with a moisture deficit.
Most of the Carpathians are covered by lush forests dominated by
common oak (Quercus robur) and common beech (Fagus sylvatica);
species of ash, lime, and elm are also found. In the understory are trees
of hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and wild apple (Malus sylvestris).
The accompanying herbaceous flora is abundant and diverse. It includes
numerous ornamentals, such as Campanula trachelium, Euphorbia cyparissias,
Lunaria rediviva, Polygonatum multiflorum, Pulmonaria rubra and
Symphytum cordatum. Most of the woody and herbaceous plants of the
forest belt are widespread and well-known in gardens. New discoveries can
frequently be made among local endemic plants. Chopik (1976, 1977) showed
that the greatest number of endemic species (47 or 9.9%) can be seen in the
subalpine belt. The alpine belt (10 species, 2.1%) and the foothills (3
species, or 0.6%) have fewer endemic species. The total number of high
mountain endemics is about 5% of the entire flora, and some are
Most of the herbaceous ornamentals belong to the families Caryophyllaceae,
Liliaceae, Lamiaceae and Scrophulariaceae, each of which contains at least
10 species of interest. The Asteraceae, Campanulaceae, Ranunculaceae
and Rosaceae are fairly abundant. The plants have many different
life-forms with different growth rhythms. Galium odoratum [=Asperula
odorata] can grow continuously throughout the year, as it lacks a
dormancy period. In contrast, there are ephemeroids and species with deep
dormancy, such as Arum alpinum [=A. maculatum], Anemonoides nemorosa
[=Anemone nemorosa] and Crocus heuffelianus. The herbaceous
species include diverse groups, ranging from xerophytes to mesophytes.
Many herbaceous species of the Carpathians also grow in other parts of
the FSU. On the other hand, the Carpathians constitute the eastern boundary
for some European species that do not occur elsewhere in the FSU (e.g.
Colchicum autumnale). The plants that occur in this part of their
distribution area are much more cold-resistant than populations of the
same species ocurring in Western Europe, and the perennial herbs of the
beech forests seem especially promising for cultivation as ornamentals
further north. These include a Christmas rose Helleborus purpurascens
and a lungworts with red flowers Pulmonaria rubra and P.
filarszkyana. The tall leopard's-bane (Doronicum pardalianches)
and the short, odorous pig-salad Aposeris foetida, both of the daisy
family, have bright yellow heads. Other ornamental plants include an
evergreen cranesbill with puple-brown flowers Geranium phaeum, the
beautiful white-flowered Melittis carpatica of the mint family, a
cornflower Centaurea mollis with its very nice blue-pink flowers
and the showy daffodil
Narcissus angustifolius. The most distinctive plants of the Carpathian
alpine and subalpine meadows include Arnica montana, Campanula alpina, Bistorta
major and the common globeflower
Trollius europaeus. Some habitat-restricted
endemic ornamentals, growing only in specific rocky places, are Alchemilla
czywczynensis, A. turkulensis, A. zapalowiczii and Euphorbia
carpatica. Some promising ornamentals can grow under various
environmental conditions, e.g., Centaurea marmarosiensis,
Fritillaria meleagris, Gentiana laciniata and Pulmonaria filarszkyana.
Botanical exploration of the Carpathians can start from nearbay cities,
such as Rakhov, Khust and Chernovtsi, from which one can reach the Golerla
Mts., Chorna Gora, Marmarosh Chain and other mountains. Travelling in the
Carpathians is easier than in Central Asia, the Far East and the Caucasus.
There are many roads, and the mountains are not as challenging. Current
reforestation projects of the Carpathians are introducing Asian, Caucasian
and North American tree species for a diverse mix. In the western "Forest
Carpathians," near the "Rovnaja Alpine Meadow" (Polonina in Ukrainian), one
can find the Siberian pine, Pinus sibirica, of North Europe and
Siberia, Schrenk's spruce, Picea schrenkiana, of Central Asia and
blue spruce, Picea pungens, of North America. Many Carpathians
plants are also grown in the botanical gardens of the FSU, e.g in the
cities of L'vov, Kiev, St. Petersburg and Moscow.
In one final conclusion, one must add that, although exploring the
possibilities of finding new ornamental plants has been restricted herein
to the five richest regions of the FSU, there are other parts with equally
interesting plant species. Therefore let this book serve as an introduction,
and this subject merits further detailed study.