Campanula alpina

Campanula alpina and calcifuge friends

 And after a while, following the trail and botanizing and/or admiring the scenery you’ll make it to the Omu Peak and Omu Chalet. It is time to have a snack, and finding a place to sit down (outside) is easily done. Careful though – because you’ll be surrounded by Campanula alpina, Primula minima, and clumps of Gentina frigida with the occasional Soldanella pusilla among them!

Omu hut

Omu hut

 Campanula alpina (subsp. alpina, to be more precise) is a very small Campanula but with big flowers, which looks as if emerging straight from the ground. It forms 5-10 cm tall flowering stems with lots of hanging bells in various shades of blue, and we also found a white one. Some say it is not strictly calcifuge, but given its choice of plant-buddies, probably a lime free substrate would be best for its cultivation. Luckily we found a few capsules to share, and it would be good to see at least a few of us successfully growing it in our rock gardens. I have never seen it offered, but this Campanula deserves a ‘five-star’ rank among the other rock garden bellflowers!

 There were just a few small clumps of Gentiana frigida, growing only up to 10 cm, with the flowers held in erect, terminal clusters. Apparently, the colour can vary from white to lemon yellow, with blue stripes and spots. Flowering so late in the season, it makes me wonder if ever gets to produce mature seeds as it is not unusual to have snow there in September. It is probably the lack of available seeds that makes it very scarce in cultivation. Primula minima is indeed a minimalist Primula, so little yet forming such large mats that in some areas one has no choice but to step on it. The flowers, which are quite big, were gone and the capsules were just about to mature. Apparently it can be grown from seeds and does well in a gritty, acid, humus-rich mixture, but the big problem in cultivation is managing to have it flower properly. Soldanella pusilla is the only calcifuge from the Snowbells group and has pink to violet flowers. As I don’t have many pictures, I’ll just move forward to another Carpathian endemic: Rhododendron kotschyi. This is a low spreading rhododendron that grows up to 20-30 cm, usually in groups that can occasionally cover large areas. It is an unforgettable sight when in flower, with large, pink, fragrant flowers in late May- June! We were happy enough to see it again, even if just for the glossy foliage.