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Flora and Vegetation

Mixed forests of pubescent oak, European hop hornbeam and manna ash grow along the more shady slopes and at the bottom of the dolines, together with the service tree, field maple and, less frequently, the linden and common hornbeam. For the most part, these are coppice woods, which have been frequently and excessively cut. There are few tall mature trees in the area, whereas two invasive alien species, the black locust and the tree of heaven, are commonly found here. The forest underbrush supports numerous shrub species: hazelnut, European cornel, common dogwood, crown vetch, common hawthorn and European spindle, to which the climbing vines of the honeysuckle and old man’s beard get entangled. The grass layer is particularly striking in early spring, when it becomes brightly colored with the blossoms of primroses, common violets, common hepaticas, dogtooth violets, wood anemones, buttercup anemones, two-leaf squills and common lungworts. In fall, the cyclamen’s bright pink flowers stand out amid the evergreen patches of butcher’s broom. Cold air tends to pool at the bottom of the dolines and at the entrances to the swallow holes, creating a cool and humid microclimate for plants that normally grow at higher Apennine altitudes: the snowdrop, Martagon lily, orange lily, hart’s-tongue fern, wild garlic, the rare rue-leaved isopyrum and the extremely rare larkspur (Delphinium fissum)