Part IV of Bucegi Mountains
Before leaving the Bucegi Plateau, one more look at the grassland plant communities in the alpine areas revels associations of Carex, Luzula, Festuca, Sesleria, Agrostis, Nardus,and Poa species – lots of them! In the summer time you’ll also find Campanula serrata another Carpathian endemic, flowering in these alpine and sub-alpine meadows, with typical blue flowers in paniculate inflorescences. Usually when beginning to descend, a cool breeze of nostalgia will come swiping over you. It is time to say goodbye and who knows when you’ll be back – but luckily many other plant species will sweeten the hike down for you. One option to descend from the Bucegi Plateau is to hike down on Jepilor Valley. It is quite steep at times but there is so much to see along the way!
You’ll most surely see the fluffy fruit heads of the alpine pasque flower – Pulsatilla alba (syn. Pulsatilla alpina subsp. alpicola), which forms clumps of finely divided leaves and has large, white flowers, hence the name alba. There is little chance to see it in flower, because conditions are too dangerous in this area in the springtime, but the fluffy fruit heads are enjoyable enough. Loiseleuria procumbens – creeping azalea, was nearby too, so we should assume that this Pulsatilla prefers a lime-free substrate. Not very abundant in the area, scarce would be better said, is Aquilegia nigricans. In late July-August it is past its flowering time, however at high elevations one may get lucky and enjoy one last flower – deep blue, that some describe almost as black, perhaps taking into consideration its name (‘nigricans’). Like with many species growing in somewhat unusual or not too easily accessible places, some descriptions on various websites are imaginary or applied based on the copy & paste function and should be careful considered.
The descending trail follows for a while high rocky walls, adorned with various species, among which a nowadays common garden campanula: Campanula carpatica. Long taken into cultivation, it still has a particular charm when seen growing in its native ‘land’ – rocks that is. Another member of Fam. Campanulaceae, but not as widely cultivated is Phyteuma orbiculare. Does not look like bellflowers, but it is a very interesting genus with quite a few species good to grow in the rock garden. And one more species usually seen in flower from July to September is Aconithum anthora, a yellow monkshood found cultivated sometimes. The really large, showy yellow flowers are easily seen from far away – Don’t forget that it belongs to the Wolfsbane family though! A few more species are presented in the gallery (hard to abstain :) – I am sure Carlina acaulis would raise a few eyebrows. It’s easy to recognize the most beautiful of the thistles, called alpine or stemless thistle. It forms large rosettes with spiny leaves, usually basking in the sun and the equally large flowerhead with silvery-white ray florets is very handsome and attracts pollinators. Its roots were employed in herbal medicine as a diuretic and cold remedy.