Daniela Brescia Botanical Garden

Daniela Brescia Botanical Garden

The Daniela Brescia botanical garden is located in Sant’Eufemia a Maiella in the province of Pescara within the visitor center of the Majella National Park.

Description –
The Daniela Brescia Botanical Garden was dedicated to a young employee of the Maiella National Park Authority who passed away prematurely.
This Botanical Garden is located Sant’Eufemia a Maiella which is an Italian town of 257 inhabitants in the province of Pescara in Abruzzo. The town rises on the western slope of the Majella massif, inside the upper Orta valley, and was part of the mountain community of Majella and Morrone.
It is located about one kilometer from the town of Sant’Eufemia a Maiella, along the State Road 487 towards Passo San Leonardo. The impressiveness of the fence that encloses about 5 hectares of land is immediately striking.
The Garden has an area of ​​43,000 square meters and represents one of the largest conservation structures of the ex-situ plant heritage built in our country.
It is divided into 22 sectors, some in turn divided, which represent homogeneous plant formations or in any case botanical collections characterized by similar essences due to biological and morphological-structural peculiarities.

History –
The “Daniela Brescia” Botanical Garden, located in Sant’Eufemia a Majella (PE), about 900 m asl, in the Majella National Park, was built in 2001 thanks to funding coordinated by the European Union within the FERS Project . In 2003 it was recognized by the Abruzzo Region as a Garden of Regional Interest pursuant to L. R. n. 35/97 on the protection of plant biodiversity and the management of gardens and botanical gardens.
It currently houses about 500 floristic entities on an area of ​​43,000 square meters. The symbol of the Garden is the Samnite Soldanella (Soldanella minima Hoppe subsp. Samnitica Cristofolini & Pignatti), an endemism of the Majella that is found in very few stations, at high altitudes, on dripping cliffs. The Garden is one of the Park’s Visitor Centers which welcomes visitors from both Italy and abroad in spring and summer.

Structures and Collections –
This botanical garden is home to around 500 entities. It houses examples of some mountain environments of the central Apennines, such as cliffs and scree slopes. A part of the garden is also dedicated to educational environments, such as the field of agricultural biodiversity. The garden is also crossed by two streams which are home to a rare crayfish.
Associated with the garden is a herbarium with over 1000 plant samples and a laboratory for drying plants. Finally, the structure houses a nursery for the reproduction of native plants.
Along with the typical environments of the Majella, flower beds have also been prepared for exclusively educational purposes. Currently in the garden there are about 500 species for a total number of over 2000 specimens including herbaceous, arboreal and shrubby essences. When fully operational, the structure will be able to offer a catalog with over 2000 species.
Together with the botanical sectors there is a nursery (1450 square meters) which, in addition to guaranteeing the supply of seedlings for the garden, will be able to ensure a certain availability of material, of certain local origin, for environmental recovery interventions in the Park.
In support of the nursery there is the acclimatization sector, of about 2500 square meters, with a shady area equipped for the preparation of young plants for subsequent transplants. The visit to the garden is enriched with suggestive contents such as those offered by the small lake on the banks of which a peat bog has been recreated with its typical flogistic court.
The Daniela Brescia Botanical Garden is divided into several sectors.

Mixed deciduous oak –
It is the typical formation of the altitudinal range included, mainly between 300 and 800 meters above sea level, characterized by the presence of downy oak (Quercus pubescens) accompanied by numerous other tree species such as maples (Acer campestre, Acer monspessulanum and Acer obtusatum) , hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia). At the margins and in the parts with more light, there are lianas such as clematis (Clematis vitalba) and ivy (Hedera helix) as well as shrubs such as the priest’s hat (Evonymus europaeus), the citiso (Cytisus sessilifolius), the rocking horse (Coronilla emerus) ) and numerous others.

La Cerreta –
The oak forest dominated by Quercus cerris is mainly located between 500 and 1200 m of altitude, generally on acid soil. It constitutes an environment very rich in fruiting species such as apple trees and wild pear trees (Malus sylvestris, Pyrus pyraster), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia, Sorbus montana, Sorbus torminalis), hazel (Corylus avellana) and other fruit trees. The undergrowth is very dense, rich in ferns and especially geophytes such as snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), squill (Scilla bifolia) and crocus (Crocus vernus) which appear at the end of winter.

La Faggeta –
It represents the most evolved forest formation of the Majella, where in addition to beech (Fagus sylvatica) there are maples (Acer pseudoplatanus), yew (Taxus baccata) in the more shady and cool areas, lime trees (Tilia cordata), while on the edges and in the clearings there are belladonna (Atropa belladonna), lilies (Lilium martagon and Lilium croceum), laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides) and common columbine (Aquilegia magellensis) are rare.

The Mugheta and the Prostrate Shrubs –
Dominated by mountain pine (Pinus mugo) accompanied by other prostrate shrubs, such as dwarf juniper (Juniperus communis ss. Nana), sabina (Juniperus sabina) and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). Due to its characteristic of alpine relict nature, the mugheta is one of the most typical and exclusive plant formations on the Majella.

Abetina –
The silver fir (Abies alba) is present in the central Apennines in a relict form.
At one time (post glacial hot phase) the populations of silver fir must have been much more consistent. In the following cooler and wetter period, the silver fir was replaced by the beech. Today residual nuclei of silver fir are located in the nearby fir of Rosello, currently a Regional Reserve.

Chestnut –
The chestnut grove is located in the submontane belt, mainly between 600 and 900 m of altitude. Like Turkey oak, the chestnut tree (Castanea sativa) prefers acid soil, for this reason it is quite rare on the Majella, a limestone mountain by definition. The presence of sparse specimens, sometimes of monumental size, dates back to the Middle Ages, when they were planted in place of Turkey oaks.

Arid Pasture –
They are pastures of secondary origin, that is, deriving from the destruction of the woods and include a very numerous and varied floral court, depending on the profile of the soil. In these environments the grasses dominate, including the seslerieto with dominance of Sesleria nitida, the brometo erected with Bromus erectus and the Stipe pasture with dense tufts of Stipa pennata, a typical species of arid soils. They are pastures of secondary origin, which originated as a result of the destruction of the forest by man to obtain surfaces to be used for flocks.
In addition to the presence of the typical associations of the basal plane, we find numerous other forms of pasture: from the brachipodieto (Brachypodium rupestre) to the Apennine seslerieto (Sesleria tenuifolia). They are meadows usually grazed by sheep.

Mesophile Mountain Pasture –
It is characterized by the presence of numerous floristic entities, including Hoermann’s Pedicular (Pedicularis hoermanniana), various orchids such as the orchid (Anacamptys pyramidalis) and the rosea hand (Gymandenia conopsea) and numerous other species. nIn this section, plants from hygrophilous grasslands have been planted, where the selective factor is water: which abounds in spring when the snow melts, while it is scarce in summer during hot days.

Altitude Rock Habitat –
It is these very selective environments that host plants adapted to live in extreme conditions.
In addition to their beauty, the plants that are found are characterized by their phytogeographic interest, in fact there are numerous endemic species: eg. the Majella columbine (Aquilegia magellensis), the Cavolinii bellflower (Campanula fragilis ss. cavolinii) and numerous others. Rock walls and stony ground have been rebuilt in the sector.
Biological Diversity of Flowers and Fruits –
This is a didactic-ornamental sector in which different types of plants have been chosen that differ in the shape of the inflorescence (flower head, umbrella, spike, corymb, etc.).
It also houses plants that differ in the different type of shape, color and flavor of the fruits.

The Peat Bog –
The peat bog constitutes a very peculiar humid environment, characterized by the constant presence of water that accumulates due to rainfall or capillary rising from the ground. In these cases the decomposition of organic matter is slowed down and remains incomplete, accumulating the so-called “peat”.
The vegetation consists mainly of sphagnum which are accompanied by sedges (Carex paniculata and Carex davalliana), the eriophore (Eriophorum latifolium), the fibrin clover (Menyanthes trifoliata) and other plants.

Typical Regional and Territorial Cultivars –
In the sector there are plants of alimentary interest cultivated once in our region and in particular in the peligna basin. Today these plants remain sporadic individuals in complete abandonment. For this reason the ex situ cultivation in botanical gardens could be an important stimulus for the recovery and rescue of these ecotypes. Particular attention was paid to apple, pear, cherry, rowan and others.

Gymnosperms Arboretum –
It is a demonstrative collection of arboreal essences belonging to the gymnosperms, ie those species characterized by the “naked seed”. Within Gymnosperms, the CONIFER group is the richest in species and is characterized by generally small leaves (needle-like or scaly), often impregnated with resins. The group includes two orders: Taxales and Pinales.

Food Plants –
The plants used by man for food are grown in the sector. Such are the plants with edible parts used in many human activities. Many of these have considerable economic importance and are intensively cultivated, others have only local importance. Of the 250,000 plants known throughout the world, about 12,000 are used as food or for other uses, of these only 20 plant species provide 85% of human food needs. There are numerous beans (bread bean, coffee bean, forty day bean, etc.), cereals including solina and marzuolo and numerous other varieties.

Medical plants –
The sector groups the classic medicinal plants used for herbal preparations. The term officinal derives from the fact that once these plants were processed and transformed in workshops called “workshops”. Today for medicinal plants we mean not only medicinal plants but also aromatic, cosmetic ones, etc. Of note are the milk thistle (Sylibum marianum), elecampane (Inula helenium), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) and numerous others.

Arboretum of Angiosperms –
It collects a demonstrative collection of arboreal essences belonging to the Angiosperms, that is to plants characterized by seeds enclosed in a structure, ovary, which protects them. The group includes the most evolved and most widespread plants on earth. Within the Angiosperms we distinguish the Monocotyledons and the Dicotyledons. In the arboretum there are maples (Acer obtusatum, Acer campestre, Acer pseudoplatanus, Acer platanoides), hornbeams (Carpinus betulus and Carpinus orientalis), ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), poplars (Populus nigra, Populus alba and Populus tremula) etc. .

Felceto –
In the sector there is a collection of ferns, typical plants of the undergrowth or in any case of environments characterized by poor lighting. Ferns constitute the most evolved and largest group of all Pteridophytes and are characterized by their reproductive strategy. The bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), the maidenhair fern (Adianthum capillus veneris), the scolopendria (Phyllitis scolopendrium) and numerous others are worthy of note.

Specialized Botanical Collections –
This is a demonstration collection where you can admire a wide assortment of roses, from the Gallic rose progenitor of the first cultivated European roses (originating from the East) to the numerous cultivated hybrids. The processes of domestication carried out by man are highlighted. Examples of cultivated roses are the centifolia rose, cultivated in ancient times and which was brought to Europe at the time of the Crusades together with the Damask rose. Rose oil is extracted from the petals of the latter (4 tons of rose petals are needed to distil a liter of oil).

Butterfly Garden –
In this purely demonstrative sector, exotic species of ornamental interest are cultivated. Part of this sector is dedicated to the “Butterfly Garden”, where there are plants particularly appreciated by moths; many of these plant species allow the development of the entire biological cycle for some species of butterflies. The visitor can thus enjoy the spectacle of butterflies intent on feeding on the flowers and by carefully observing the plants, you will be able to notice all the transformations, from the caterpillar to the butterfly.

Shrub Collection –
The sector is dedicated to shrubs in their diversity of shapes and colors. Species adapted to the Mediterranean and mountain environment and ubiquitous species are hosted. Among the numerous cultivated species we note the vesicaria (Colutea arborescens), the yellow salvion (Phlomis fruticosa), the cytisis (Cytisus spinescens, Cytisus sessilifolius and Cytisus scoparius) and numerous other species.

Plants of Abruzzese Phytotherapy –
Abruzzo is one of the richest Italian regions from the point of view of medicinal plants and where the tradition of using plants for healing purposes has always been maintained. In particular in the territory of the Majella, especially on the eastern side, the collection of certain spontaneous plants was in the past a widespread practice, in particular for species such as gentian (Gentiana lutea), camedrio (Teucrium chamedrys) marrobbio (Marrubium vulgare), savory (Satureja montana) and numerous others.

Forage Plants –
The sector cultivates plants used for feeding livestock with particular reference to Leguminosae. The most represented species belong to the wild and feral forage crops such as the wild sainfoin (Onobrychis alba), the on (Edysarum coronarius), the sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) etc.
Plants Protected by L. R. Abruzzo N ° 45/79 –
Educational sector where the species already reported by the Abruzzo Region are collected as to be protected with Law R. 45/1979, and for which, since the 1980s, collection and damage has been prohibited for over 30 years. There are mainly plants that are often collected by citizens by custom: for example. holly and butcher’s broom for the Christmas holidays, gentian for liqueur use or peony for the showiness and beauty of the flowers.

Low Altitude Rock Habitat –
This sector hosts the vegetation of the cliffs, where the plants have adapted to extreme ecological conditions, such as prolonged summer drought, scarcity of soil, richness of salts. In these situations, species with particular adaptive mechanisms have differentiated, such as various Crassulaceae with tissues rich in water such as Sedum and Sempervivum and plants with widespread hairiness such as the peverina (Cerastium tomentosum), the centaureas (Centaurea tenoreana, Centaurea ambigua), or the eliantemi (Helianthemum apenninum, Helianthemum nummularium).

Seedbed, Nursery, Experimental Flower Beds –
The sector covers a total area of ​​approximately 1700 square meters, of which 850 are equipped as a nursery. The whole area is intended for the production of quality material with particular attention to the cultivation of local origins to be used above all in the interventions to be carried out in the Park. The nursery activity is mainly aimed at the recovery of traditional cultivars and the multiplication of indigenous forest seedlings. The procurement and protection of local fruit trees, which in many cases have become quite rare today, allows planning the construction of plants that can, among other things, offer an important contribution to the nutritional needs of valuable wildlife. The plants of forest essences produced allow, with material of certain genetic origin, the implementation of renaturalization interventions and, more generally, the improvement of biodiversity conditions in the Park area.

Guido Bissanti

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