Flora

You’ll find a surprising number of plant species in the Euganean Hills.

The geological origins of the soils, the shape of the terrain (responsible for contrasting microclimates and biotopes), the isolation from other mountain ranges and changing climatic circumstances due to glaciation patterns are the main reasons for the enormous range of Euganean flora. Here, species adapted to the heat and others adapted to mountainous areas live side by side. If you walk round one of the area’s many cone-shaped volcanic peaks, you’ll see how plants that grow in hot dry environments (thermophiles) thrive near others that grow in montane and foothill areas (microthermal climates) depending on changes in sun exposure.


Pseudo-Mediterranean scrub 

Similar to standard Mediterranean maquis scrub, this type of vegetation is typical of the Euganean area and consists of almost impenetrable vegetation featuring shrubs, most of which are evergreen, such as holm oak, arbutus, tree heather, rock-roses, terebinth, broom and wild asparagus. Scattered throughout the area, such vegetation grows on dry, south-facing rocky volcanic terrain in full sun. In some rocky areas near Mount Ceva in Battaglia, Monselice’s Rocca hill and the Oratory of St Anthony the Abbot on Monte della Madonna, you’ll find the Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa), a true miniature cactus originally from the rocky plateaus of Central America.



Chestnut forests

These forests grow on volcanic slopes preferably facing north in cool, deep, siliceous soils. The ground cover, which is normally rich in humus and fairly damp, features many early-flowering herbaceous species such as snowdrops, dog’s tooth violets, hellebores, liverwort, wild garlic, Solomon’s Seal, daffodils, bilberries or rare and valuable Turk’s cap lilies and tiger lilies: enchanting traces of Alpine flora that are almost unthinkable in a hillside environment that has been so profoundly affected by human activity for millennia. Laburnum, mock orange, service trees, beech trees and a few birch trees are found here and there.

 
 


Oak forests

These partly occupy south-facing slopes on shallow, dry, warm, preferably chalky soil that has eroded or is poor in nutrients, though such vegetation is also found in siliceous areas. Oak woodlands are spacious and bright, often featuring clearings populated with a wide range of herbaceous species that prefer dry environments. It looks like mixed scrub land: white oak trees, which dominate, are joined by European hop hornbeams, South European flowering ash, Judas trees, European nettle trees, wild service trees and shrubs such as smoke bushes, whose leaves brighten the hills in autumn with an infinite range of hues. The soft ground, rich in humus, features butcher’s broom, hawthorn, juniper trees, privet, heather and honeysuckle. Currently occupying less land than chestnut woodland, oak forests adapted to hot climates are found in less frequented areas that are more unspoilt from an environmental point of view.



Dry grassland (vegri)

Particularly prevalent in the southern part of the Euganean Hills, on most of the chalky hillsides between Arquà Petrarca, Valle San Giorgio and Baone, these meadows are what remain of abandoned farmland and nutrient-poor pastures and are known as vegri. Such areas are constantly reverting to their original woodland state and feature herbaceous plants that prefer dry areas, particularly grasses and prickly or leguminous composites, while areas that have been left fallow for longer and that sometimes have very dry soil are home

 to scattered bushes that are typically tough, pioneer species, such as hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose, juniper, viburnum and broom, plants that make way for the appearance of white oak, European hop hornbeams and South European flowering ash trees
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There are a handful of valuable sites where you’ll come across Paduan rue (Haplophyllum patavinum), the most important plant species in the Euganean Hills. There are over 20 species of wild orchids with striking, bizarre shapes, including the villosum orchid, bee orchids, lady orchids, monkey orchids, the Adriatic lizard orchid, fragrant orchids and violet limodores.

 

 

 

Black locust tree forests

Black locust trees are not European plants. They originally come from the east coast of North America and were imported in the early 1600s as an ornamental species. Their rapid spread has allowed them to conquer a vast area of land to the detriment of native woodlands. One of the causes of this is the excessive exploitation of land and the neglect of farmland, where black locust trees have spread as quickly as weeds, soon forming quite monotonous stretches of woodland with very few other trees and shrubs, such as elder and other species that usually signal a decline like brambles and old man’s beard (clematis vitalba). The equally poor ground cover encourages the growth of wild garlic, wood anemones, violets, tassel hyacinths, Italian arum and hellebores.