Crocus biflorus, a native species of the southeastern Europe, appearsfirst at the Cape Kamenjak peninsula and it can be already seen at the end of January. It prefers open sunny spaces of dry grasslands or lighter areas among low bushes which are part of the garrigue.
Orchids are the most evolved of all flowering plants and, at the same time, among the most demanding, thus they can thrive only in optimum conditions. Their presence is good indicator of a healthy and functioning ecosystem.
Warm climate and the presence of various succesional stages within the area of Kamenjak create ideal conditions for orchids. With abouts 30 different species, subspecies and hybrids observed so far, of which two are endemic (Serapias istriaca, Fig. 3, and Serapias x pulae), it is one of the richest site in Istria.
Considered as the queen of flowers, orchid flowers are indeed beautiful and provide a pleasure for careful and appasionate visitors.
Starting from mid March, first orhids, mainly of the species Anacamptis morio (Fig. 1 and 2), appear. The inflorescence is usually purple, however, other colours, such as white and pink, can be observed, see Anacamptis morio colours.
While Anacamptis morio becomes more and more widespread, other appariscent orchids species join, like Orchis papilionacea (Fig. 4) and Ophrys sphegodes subsp. atrata (Fig. 5), which harmoniously merge with the green meadow around.
Other common species that can be found from the end of March are Serapias lingua, Ophrys bertolonii (Fig. 7) and, the smallest one, Ophrys bombyliflora (FIg. 6).
Being common orchid species of Kamenjak, they all can be seen in April without too much effort. Anyway, some of the most beautiful species are also the rearest in this area. Among these is the late spider-orchid (Ophrys fuciflora, Fig. 8) and the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera Fig. 9). Thery can be found only in restricted places, sometimes only one single plant flowers each year.
Bee orchid and other members of the genus Ophrys have evolved a peculiar flower shape which resembles that one of pollinator insects. As a consequence, insects are attracted by this appearance and the attractive scent they produce, and then perform copulation activities which allow them to touch the male rich in pollen organs. The pollen stick to their body which is afterward transfered to the female part of another flower they visit.
Another species which has been recorded in this area, but was very hard to find, is Aceras anthropophorum (Fig. 10). It is also called Man orchid, due to the shape of the flowers that resemble a human figure.Having pale and inconspicuous coloursm, it is usually difficult to notice. Anyway, after years of search, it has been observed by me only in a single location in the area of Kamenjak, more precisely, at the very tip of the peninsula.
Fig. 10 Aceras anthropophorum
Fig. 11 Orchis simia
One really beautiful species is the monkey orchid (Orchis simia), Fig. 11, whose shape resembles a monkey is in this area not very common. Another less common Serapias species is Serapias cordigera, Fig. 12, whose name derive form the latin cor=heart and ergere=carry, due to the heart-like shape of the labellum.
Fig. 12 Serapias cordigera
Fig. 13 Anacamptis pyramidalis
Most of the orchids disappears in June, when the pyramidal orchid or Anacamptis pyramidalis (Fig. 13) appears, whose size and colour contribute to the spring atmosphere. However, as the season gets dryer, most of flowers end theyr life-cycle and enter into dormancy.
At the tip of the Istrian peninsula (Croatia), there is a small peninsula called Cape Kamenjak (Rt Kamenjak), an area of immense beauty which is for good reasons under protection at the level of Protected Landscape. The rugged coastline creates small bays where pebbles and gravels are transported by the waves during windy days. However, most of the coast is rocky, and at the tip forms walls of up to 5m in height (Fig.1).
A stunning view can be seen from the highest point of the peninsula of about 60m, which is created by the crystal blue sea, and the 11 scattered small islands, in one of which dominates a picturesque lighthouse called Porer.
Fig. 2 Porer
Fig. 3 The rugged coastline and the crystal-blue sea
The mediterranean climate of Kamenjak creates the ideal condition for the developement of a rich flora community. In fact, in this small area there are about 500 plant species. Thypical vegetation that can be found here are dry grasslands combined with garrigue and macchia, a degradation stage of an once-existing mediterranean forest.
For nature lovers, spring is the best season to visit. The first flowers appear very early, since the very beginning of February where Croculs biflorus (Fig. 4) emerges first, followed by Romulea bulbocodium, both members of the Liliaceae family. About two weeks later, Ranunculus ficaria will emerge, a small Ranunculaceae with bright yellow flowers and flashy heart shaped leaves. Leaves of this blant ar eadible and vitamin C rich, and are better consumed before flowering; later on, nutrients are realesed for the blooming.
As the days become longer and warmer, more flowers come up. Among numerous yellow Taraxacum sp., the fuxia of Anemone hortensis (Fig. 5) brightens the meadows in April. A close up vew of the inner part of those flowers, formed by the stamens and blue anteras, attracts various insects and sometimes offers a temporary shelter for the nymph stage of green grasshoppers.
Spartium junceum (Fig. 11) and Erica arborea (Fig. 6 and 7) create a spectacular combination in May, when both are in full blossom. However, Erica shows its tiny beautiful flowers already in April.
Fig. 6 Erica arborea
Fig. 7 Erica arborea usually attended by various pollinators
Fig. 8 Cistus incanus
Fig. 9 Cistus monspeliensis
Fig. 10 Macchia with bushes of Cistus monspeliensis