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Comune di Duino Aurisina

Friuli Venezia Giulia - Parchi e riserve naturali

Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia

FVG Live

There are two principal environments in the Reserve: a) the cliffs with rock walls and screes; b) the flat part on the plateau. The two environments differ in terms of both climate and soil conditions. The part of the Reserve on the plateau is colder, as it is exposed to the Bora, the cold east-north-east wind. The cliffs enjoy a warmer climate as they face south towards the sea and are sheltered from the wind.

As a consequence, the two environments have different types of vegetation. On the warmer cliffs there is Mediterranean vegetation, while on the flat area there is an artificial wood of black pine with Illyrian-Balkan species (from the East) widespread on the whole Carso plateau.

The passage from one environment to the other takes place along the edge of the cliffs, where the Rilke path was built. From the path both types of vegetation running into each other and intertwining and meshing can be observed.
The two environments are also distinguished by their soil types. The cliffs are characterised by vertical or inclined rock walls, towers and screes. The soil is poor in water and earth and undergoes strong summer insolation. The flat plateau has a more evolved soil which withholds humidity, thanks to the protective action of the black pine foliage. As a consequence, woods developed here, whereas on the cliffs there are only few strips of scrub alternating with screes, scantily covered by grass and shrub.

Vegetation on the cliffs

On the cliffs there is Mediterranean maquis, whose main species is the holm-oak (Quercus ilex), an evergreen oak of Mediterranean origin. On the Trieste coast, alongside the holm-oak is the european hophornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), a thermophile deciduous species of Illyrian- Balkan origin. This plant combination is called holm-oak and hophornbeam wood (Ostryo-Quercetum ilicis) and includes both Mediterranean and Illyrian-Balkan plants. This plant association can also be found on the eastern Adriatic coast, from Greece to the Limski Kanal in Istria. It disappears from the Limski Kanal to the Gulf of Trieste and reappears on the Trieste coast from Grignano, near Miramare Castle, to Duino – the northernmost limit of diffusion of this type of vegetation. The holmoak and hophornbeam wood between Grignano and Duino is isolated from the main body of this vegetation on the eastern Adriaticcoast and is considered a separate body, which has survived thanks to the favourable local climate, its leeward position, the heat-reflecting effect of limestone rocks and the temperate influence of the sea.

The species of Mediterranean origin found in the holm-oak and hophornbeam wood of the Trieste coast grow on the cliffs till the edge and, apart from some individual holmoaks, do not spread on the plateau, where the climate is too severe. The following are some species of plants found in this wood, which are considered the most representative and easily observable in the Reserve. The first is the holmoak (Quercus ilex) which can grow to considerable heights. Another tree on the cliffs is tree phillyrea (Phillyrea latifolia), while shrubs include the turpentine-tree (Pistacia terebinthus) and Christ’s-thorn (Paliurus spina-christi). Along the Rilke path it is easy to spot sarsaparilla (Smilax aspera), a Mediterranean creeper. The thermophile Illyrian-Balkan species living in this plant association and growing both on the plateau and the cliffs are the hophornbeam, manna-ash (Fraxinus ornus), Montpellier maple (Acer monspessulanum) and mahaleb cherry (Prunus mahaleb).
It is to be noted that some black pines (Pinus nigra) grow even on the cliffs closest to the sea. Besides strips of holm-oak and hophornbeam wood, there is the characteristic rock vegetation, growing on compact rocks and screes. Limestone soil is poor in water and earth and the heavy summer insolation implies high temperatures. Plants growing on rocks and screes have adapted to survive these extreme ecological conditions: leaves are wax-coated or hairy to protect plants from high temperatures and insolation. In order to retain water, some plants have succulent leaves. These include sage (Salvia officinalis), Sedum montanum ssp. orientale and Teucrium flavum. A plant that can be noticed on the Rilke path for its late summer-early autumn blooming is the Campanula pyramidalis, an Illyrian-Balkan species widespread on the eastern coast of the Adriatic sea. Its stems can be over 2 metres high.
The endemic plant of the Duino cliffs, the blue-bonnet Centaurea kartschiana, is also found in this rocky environment. A plant is endemic when it grows spontaneously only in a given region of which is characteristic. Centaurea kartschiana can only be found on a limited part of the Trieste coast.
Along the Carso edge, where there is the passage from Mediterranean to Illyrian-Balkan vegetation, there are rock fields derived from the crushing of limestone and compact limestone rocks, where bushes are starting to grow: mainly Illyrian species characteristic of Carso wood, such as hophornbeam, manna-ash, smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) and mahaleb cherry and some Mediterranean species, such as the turpentinetree and Christ’s torn. Rock fields on the most exposed side still lack vegetation, but the mahaleb cherry and a few single black pines have started to grow on their edges.

Centaurea kartschiana (Scop.)
The blue-bonnet Centaurea kartschiana was described for the first time right on the coast between Sistiana and Duino by Giovanni Antonio Scopoli in Flora Carniolica, published in 1772.
It belongs to the Compositae or Asteraceae family on the basis of its flower characteristics. The name of the family shows that the species have many flowers joined in a flower head. The single flowers of the head are tubulous or ligulate according to the type of corolla. Centaurea kartschiana only has tubulous flowers.
The plant reaches 40-50 cm, its stem is lignified at the basis, erect and branched. The pink-purple flowers bloom from June to August. It lives both on the rocks by the sea exposed to sea sprays and in the cracks of limestone rocks which are higher above the sea.


The flat part of the Reserve comprised between the cliff edge and the A 14 road is covered by a large pine-wood which was planted at the beginning of the 20th century. It is mainly made of Austrian black pine (Pinus nigra ssp. austriaca) and some examples of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis).
Today the pine-wood has reached its mature stage and some trees are already dying. Dead pine-trees are replaced by local species, mostly helm-oak (Quercus ilex) and mannaash (Fraxinus ornus) which have been able to settle thanks to the protection of the pine-trees foliage. There is a natural replacement of the man-planted species with local species, which was the objective of the reforestation with coniferous trees carried out on the whole Carso more than 100 years ago.

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