Jump to content

Pinguicula leptoceras in Austria


Recommended Posts

Hello all,

Here are some old photographs of an alpine tour which I made on the last week of august in 2004. My main aim was to botanise in the central European Alps, where the soil is neutral to acidic, because of the underlying intrusive rocks. This results in many endemic plants of high montane meadows in the main Alpine divide, which don't grow outside this range, on the calcareous soils of the northern and southern Alps. One of these central Alpine endemics is Pinguicula leptoceras (with only a few remote populations in the southern Alps on slightly calcareous soils, which escaped from the usual range).

The following photographs were made in Obergurgl, Tyrol, Austria, mainly in the Rotmoosache valley below the glacier “Gurgler Ferner”. It is in the Ötztal Alps (Ötztaler Alpen) on the Italian/Austrian border (where they found that old mummified Ötzi the Iceman).

Pan03.jpg

Pan02.jpg

You can well see the U-shaped glacial valley of Gurgler Ferner (which is the snow and ice-covered area in visible the 2nd photo) in these 2 views. The area on the bottom of this valley is an acidic seepage swamp, and entirely covered by a dense population of thousands of Pinguicula leptoceras!

Pleptoceras_1.jpg

P. leptoceras growing in the Rotmoosache valley, at about 2700 m a.s.l.

Pleptoceras_2.jpg

You can even spot the glacier in the background.

The flowers of P. leptoceras are reminescent of P. vulgaris. However they are larger in size, and the 3 big white spots on the lower lip are characteristic in P. leptoceras as well:

Pleptoceras_4.jpg

Pleptoceras_3.jpg

Pleptoceras_7.jpg

Pleptoceras_6.jpg

Last but not least, P. leptoceras has a long narrow spur (origin of the species’ name!), whereas the spur of P. vulgaris is shorter and more wide. And both species are well separated by their ecological needs, too: P. leptoceras is a plant of the main Alpine divide, where it grows on neutral to acidic soils (except those few Italian populations further South, which break the rule ;)), where as P. vulgaris is usally confined to alkaline calcareous soils.

Pleptoceras_5.jpg

Pleptoceras_8.jpg

The rosette leaves of P. leptoceras are identical to those of P. vulgaris, but usually turn maroon red in full sun.

Some plants of P. leptoceras grew on the mountain sides of the valley, where snow water was seeping through. On these sites, they grew among taller grasses, accompanied with many orchids:

Pleptoceras_habit.jpg

The orchids in the foreground (out of focus ;)) are frog-orchids, Coeloglossum viride (“grüne Hohlzunge” in German).

Cviride.jpg

Another plant which usually grews along with P. leptoceras is the Snow Bell, Soldanella pusilla (primrose family, Primulaceae), which is confined to the silicate soils of the central Alpine crest, too:

Spusilla.jpg

Another primrose endemic to the silicate Alps of Austria and Italy, which often accompanies P. leptoceras, is Primula glutinosa:

Pglutinosa.jpg

Pan01.jpg

In the rubble at the base of the glacier, a few plants which are perfectly adapted to the rough conditions thrive well. Usually they are growing as small rosetted perennials or low cushions, to give less contact to wind, cold and snow. Many of them have huge flowers compared to the overall size of the plant. They bloom as soon as the snow cover melts, to increase the size that they get pollinated by the few insects living at these high altitudes. Almost all high alpine plants are pollinated by flies (in Europe as well as in Asia, America, Australia and New Zealand, interesting, isn’t it? ;))

Androsace alpina, another member of the Primulaceae. (pygmy Drosera lovers will recognise the similarity of those flowers with flowers of Drosera androsacea ;))

Aalpina.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rglacialis.jpg

Sarachnoideum.jpg

Gorbicularis.jpg

All of these plants pictured above did grow at nearly 3000 m a.s.l., on this ridge I'm standing on (called "Königsjoch"), which is the border between Austria and Italy. The snow that you can spot behind me is already Italian snow ;-).

Pan04.jpg

View of the glacier “Gurgler Ferner” from the opposite mountain top:

Pan08.jpg

And this is how we did descend the glacier: on the plastic bags we used to collect plants for herbarium specimens. I didn’t collect any this day, as I wanted to bobsleigh down the glacier ;-) Quite risky, but a lot of fun as well! ;-)

Pan06.jpg

On calcareous rock disseminations you can even find THE standard alpine plant: the Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum). Recent molecular analysis did show that the genus Leontopodium actually is part of the genus Gnaphalium, and therefore the correct name now should be Gnaphalium alpinum, the Alpine Cudweed (how boring that sounds! ;-)).

Lalpinum.jpg

An interesting orchid, Nigritella: the flowers are usually dark red or black, and the flowers have a strong chocolate-scent. You can even notice the strong chocolate odour of these flowers when they are in bloom several metres distant!

Nrhellicani.jpg

Where Nigritella rhellicani (syn. N. nigra) was growing sympatrically with the orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, the rare hybrid between the two genera can be found:

The other parent plant:

Gconopsea.jpg

And the generic hybrid:

Gymnigritella.jpg

What makes this orchid hybrid so interesting is the positioning of the flower: In Gymnadenia, the flowers are resupinate (i.e. twisted, with the lower lip (labellum) pointing downwards), whereas the flowers of the other parent plant, Nigritella, are not resupinate (lower lip pointing upwards). And in the hybrid it is pointing.... sidewards!

Finally, an uber-trashy photograph of the rusty-leafed alpenrose, Rhododendron ferrugineum (Ericaceae, heath family), another plant endemic to silicate soils:

Rhferrugineum.jpg

I hope you enjoyed,

All the best,

Andreas

Edited by Andreas Fleischmann
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Andreas,

What a Fantastic Place! It's amazing!

For me, the most interesting plants were P. leptoceras (obviously), Gentiana orbicularis and Nigritella rhellicani.

Thanks for sharing.

Now I'm going to buy some chocolate. :smile:

Kind regards,

Vitor B.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Andreas,

must have been a great trip, really fantastic shots. The landscape is amazing.

What a big population of Pinguicula, a real Pinguicula field. :P

Most i like the Pinguicula (of course), but the Gentiana orbicularis (really fantastic colour) and the "chocolate orchid" are also very interesting. :wink:

The Primula glutinosa, Rhododendron ferrugineum and the Soldanella pusilla are also very nice. I had not known that Rhododendrons are growing in the Alps too.

The plastic bag ride for sure must have been big fun. :smile:

Thanks for sharing these pictures.

Best regards,

Dani

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very nice and interesting- particularly the field of P. leptoceras, but much too cold for my liking!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Andreas,

This has got to be one of the most breath-taking CP habitats anywhere!

Best Wishes,

Fernando Rivadavia

P.S. What were you doing so high up on the Austrian - Italian border? Looking for bronze-age mummified human bodies? :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

WoW ... These Photographs are Soo-Beautiful They Beg-The-Question: "What 'Made'-You Wait-Four-Years" in-Order to Bring-Them to Our Attention!!!??? >(*~*)< / >(*U^)<

'Did'-R-PhD Kind'a' Get-in-The-Way or Something!!!???

Hello all,

Here are some old photographs of an alpine tour which I made on the last week of august in 2004. My main aim was to botanise in the central European Alps, where the soil is neutral to acidic, because of the underlying intrusive rocks. This results in many endemic plants of high montane meadows in the main Alpine divide, which don't grow outside this range, on the calcareous soils of the northern and southern Alps. One of these central Alpine endemics is Pinguicula leptoceras (with only a few remote populations in the southern Alps on slightly calcareous soils, which escaped from the usual range).

The following photographs were made in Obergurgl, Tyrol, Austria, mainly in the Rotmoosache valley below the glacier "Gurgler Ferner". It is in the Ötztal Alps (Ötztaler Alpen) on the Italian/Austrian border (where they found that old mummified Ötzi the Iceman).

Pan03.jpg

Pan02.jpg

You can well see the U-shaped glacial valley of Gurgler Ferner (which is the snow and ice-covered area in visible the 2nd photo) in these 2 views. The area on the bottom of this valley is an acidic seepage swamp, and entirely covered by a dense population of thousands of Pinguicula leptoceras!

Pleptoceras_1.jpg

P. leptoceras growing in the Rotmoosache valley, at about 2700 m a.s.l.

Pleptoceras_2.jpg

You can even spot the glacier in the background.

The flowers of P. leptoceras are reminescent of P. vulgaris. However they are larger in size, and the 3 big white spots on the lower lip are characteristic in P. leptoceras as well:

Pleptoceras_4.jpg

Pleptoceras_3.jpg

Pleptoceras_7.jpg

Pleptoceras_6.jpg

Last but not least, P. leptoceras has a long narrow spur (origin of the species' name!), whereas the spur of P. vulgaris is shorter and more wide. And both species are well separated by their ecological needs, too: P. leptoceras is a plant of the main Alpine divide, where it grows on neutral to acidic soils (except those few Italian populations further South, which break the rule ;)), where as P. vulgaris is usally confined to alkaline calcareous soils.

Pleptoceras_5.jpg

Pleptoceras_8.jpg

The rosette leaves of P. leptoceras are identical to those of P. vulgaris, but usually turn maroon red in full sun.

Some plants of P. leptoceras grew on the mountain sides of the valley, where snow water was seeping through. On these sites, they grew among taller grasses, accompanied with many orchids:

Pleptoceras_habit.jpg

The orchids in the foreground (out of focus ;)) are frog-orchids, Coeloglossum viride ("grüne Hohlzunge" in German).

Cviride.jpg

Another plant which usually grews along with P. leptoceras is the Snow Bell, Soldanella pusilla (primrose family, Primulaceae), which is confined to the silicate soils of the central Alpine crest, too:

Spusilla.jpg

Another primrose endemic to the silicate Alps of Austria and Italy, which often accompanies P. leptoceras, is Primula glutinosa:

Pglutinosa.jpg

Pan01.jpg

In the rubble at the base of the glacier, a few plants which are perfectly adapted to the rough conditions thrive well. Usually they are growing as small rosetted perennials or low cushions, to give less contact to wind, cold and snow. Many of them have huge flowers compared to the overall size of the plant. They bloom as soon as the snow cover melts, to increase the size that they get pollinated by the few insects living at these high altitudes. Almost all high alpine plants are pollinated by flies (in Europe as well as in Asia, America, Australia and New Zealand, interesting, isn't it? ;))

Androsace alpina, another member of the Primulaceae. (pygmy Drosera lovers will recognise the similarity of those flowers with flowers of Drosera androsacea ;))

Aalpina.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great pictures, Andreas! All of them are fantastic, the plants as well as the panorama pics.

The bobsleigh thing looks like much fun - though I think you were quite lucky that there was no bigger stone in the ice. May have turned out into a quick end for any family planning :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

Hello,

A very disappointing update on this fantastic site where P. leptoceras grew:

I have just re-visited Obergurgl with my Pinguicula-nuts CP buddy Markus Welge ;). We went there on friday (which was right on the day 4 years after my first visit to this site in 2004). Apart from the fact that most of the plants we found this year have already finished flowering (all plant species that I have seen in full bloom in late july 2004 had now already past flowering and had set seed for this season), this area has suffered from dramatical changes by human interference!

Obergurgl turned into a touristic winter sports town, four (!) huge new luxury ski hotels have been built within the last 4 years only, two more of them are under construction now (to be finished right in time for ski season 2008 in november!). The small warped open chairlift I used to see the stone-pine forests from above has been replaced by a new shiny huge modern ski lift which carries hundereds of tourists on top of the surrounding mountains. And the stone-pine forest has been cleared for ski slopes (including some massive lampposts, so that you can downhill until midnight in brightest floodlight, of course!). Obergurgl turned into a new "ski paradise".

And this means the end of these Pinguicula populations! The huge carpest of lilac flowers in the Rotmoosache glacier valley that you can see on my photos above have now dissapeared, as a water reservoir has been digged into the hillside above the valley bottom where the P. leptoceras grew. As the water is now stored in this large reservoir, the seepage site on the valley bottom dried out. No more Pinguicula left there! (Well, except an estimated 200 plants growing at a few more moist spots, but that's peanuts compared to the ten thousands of plants I encountered at the same spot only four years ago!)

We found a few more Pings growing in wet cavities (where the snow remains for a long time in spring. BTW, does any of the native English speakers in this forum know if there's a special term describing these habitats? There's a special vegetation growing in these "snow cavities", which are covered by snow much longer than the surrounding vegetation. In German they are called "Schneetälchen"). But in these cavities, the snow and melt water had gathered all leavings of the previous ski season: the Pings there grew amoung loads of plastic rubbish, cans, bottles, etc.

Thus, another sad report about irretrievable habitat loss. And just remember that the biogeograpical region of the European Alps as a whole is protected as an "area of unspoiled nature"! Of course that does not mean anything as soon as some profit can be made.

Happy winter sports season 2008 in Obergurgl! :tu:

Resigned,

Andreas

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wonderful species and pics.

That's a real problem here in the Alps. Where mens can make benefits, they don't care about nature. Many bogs are converted in little lakes and others are dried in order to store water for winter season. That's the industry of skiing and winter sport, Money is more important than saving nature. But they forget that their money directly comes from this nature they don't care about.

@ Carlos: yes I have some Leontopodium alpinum in my garden ;-) They can be easily found in garden centers here in France.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's horrible news!!! Don't even know if I want to see pics...

I don’t want to show you the depressing photos of habitat destruction I made (I think I don’t want to see them again either :D ).

But now for some more pleasing news: I have had the chance to observe the natural pollinator of P. leptoceras in habitat this time (while Markus Welge took a few hundred photographs of P. leptoceras in habitat, haha ;) Sorry Markus for my overstatements. It might have been just one hundred, wasn’t it? ;))

P_leptoceras_poll01.jpg

This Empid fly (“Dance flies”, family Empididae) with a very prominent proboscis was frequently visiting the flowers of P. leptoceras. Empids are well known as pollinators of high alpine plants, but I haven’t found any notes on P. leptoceras pollination yet.

P_leptoceras_poll03.jpg

It landed on the lower lip of the flower and then fully entered the corolla. I assume its long proboscis is perfect for sucking the nectar at the bottom of the long narrow spur of P. leptoceras.

P_leptoceras_poll04.jpg

I have caught a few of the pollinating flies and made alcohol specimens for proper identification of the species. I noticed that there’s even some Pinguicula pollen sticking on the insect’s backs!

All the best,

Andreas

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Andreas. Stunning photos and a sickening loss!

We found a few more Pings growing in wet cavities (where the snow remains for a long time in spring. BTW, does any of the native English speakers in this forum know if there's a special term describing these habitats?

Nivation hollow could be the term you're looking for...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really sad what had happened there :Laie_97: , i hope the others will survive somehow.

Andreas, i really like the pictures with the pollinator. :happy:

Have you been lucky with the pollinator or have you waited a very long time to take the pictures?

Best regards,

Dani

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...