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Along the mountain road

Along the mountain road
Somehow it tugs at my heart –
A wild violet.
                                           Basho

A few highlights are warranted from our holiday. Were we could have been if not up the mountains, again? At high altitude, early July equals with a late May-June elsewhere and this made it for lots of flowers to be found. It was a good scouting expedition and lots to talk about during wintertime.

 Various violets were sprinkled everywhere from meadows to high altitude rock ledges.

Viola alpina

Viola alpina between Silene acaulis flowers

Alpine meadows were brimming with flowers; rainbows of colours marked by the towering yellow giant gentian: Gentiana lutea.

Gentiana lutea

Gentiana lutea

Groups of deep blue Gentiana verna acting like an eye-magnet from far away.

Gentiana verna

Gentiana verna

Geum reptans huge flowers scattered over the boulders.

Geum reptans

Geum reptans

A joyous riot of grasses that were intermingling with colourful perennials.

grasses

Veronica spicata between various grasses

Fiery red, fragrant mountain slopes covered with Rhododendron kotschyi (commonly called mountain peony) were a delight to all senses.

Rhododendron kotchyi

Rhododendron kotschyi

And last but not least, tiny, delicate, fringed bells of Soldanella pusilla. This says it all.

Soldanella pusilla

Soldanella pusilla

Now back to work, fruits are ripening and seeds are bursting out!

 

Campanula alpina

Campanula alpina and calcifuge friends

Part III of Bucegi Mountains

 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.