Larch Pine Area
On this area, wide and luxuriant pastures alternate with potatoes, corn, rye, lawn and orchard lands as well as with outstretched forests, whose Calabrian larch pine (picture), also Silan pine, finds its optimum ecological environment reaching, in the most uncontaminated areas, majestic sizes, as in Fossiata and Cozzo del Principe (CS), Roncino and Acqua delle Donne (CZ), Pollitrea (KR).
It’s about pine-woods deriving from the widespread ancient forest, the Greek Hyle and the Roman Silva mentioned by Virgil, Strabo, Dionysus and others. In the central part of this area, the larch pine is uncontaminated, whereas in the south limit it melts with the Turkey oak, the chestnut tree and, to a small extent, to other kinds of deciduous oaks, such as the durmast; there are different broad-leaf associations too, as it is possible to see on the right side of Lese river. On the north limit and in rainy areas which are, for this reason, highly damp, it is possible to find a sporadic rank of melting, or better juxtaposition, of pine and beech. What is important is their exposure, since the slopes facing south are mainly characterized by pine, whereas beech is typical in the ones facing north.
Sometimes, in mild-climate areas, there is a coexistence of both species in the first stage of their growth but later, pine, which has a faster growth, overtakes beech plants. So, the differences in their temperament appear and, in general, the limits between pine and beech woods become clear and are marked by ravines, valleys, ditches and often by damp and cold places where pine is clearly not common, to the good of beech, alder, sometimes found in pure formations in limited places, of aspen and of rare groups of silver fir. The aspen is considered a pioneer species, highly spread in areas where voids, derived from irrational deforestation or fires - causing the degradation of soil - , have been created. The feature of alder is to have knotty roots, deriving from the actinomycete Bacterium redicicola, thanks to which it can absorb nitrogen useful to nourish the soil; its feeding power was known to Silan farmers who, in the past, changed lands, previously took up of this species, to agricultural farming. Along the main rivers and streams, it is possible to see spread rows of alder and, on lower altitudes, of rare plants, isolated or in small groups, like prickwood, hazel and some rhizomatous herbaceous plants, such as cabbage and burdock, whose leaves can reach 80-90 cm. in diameter.
Silan pine-woods are monolith natural formations from which, in their climax environment – having a relatively stable equilibrium, all biotic and abiotic factors included – other woody species are excluded; as for shrubby and herbaceous plants, which are often found with larch pine, it seems that there is any particular association, but just a casual cohabitation of species coming from superior and inferior phyto-climatic areas. In thick pine-woods, the undergrowth is very poor, both because of the overshadow and for the wintry climate, but above all because of the thick layer of pine-needles cumulating on the ground; here you can find only few herbaceous plants, among which the brake predominates, and it is used by Silan shepherds to manufacture mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. In sparse pine-woods, flora increases considerably; together with brake, you can find the Calabrian gromwell. Among shrubs, it is worth to remember the willow tree (whose bark is very much desired by deer in winter-time), the pear and crab-apple tree and cocumilio (very important for feeding roes, wild boards and birds), hawthorn, wild rose (typical in the National Park territory) and some specimens of elder, holly and butcher’s broom (useful for producing seeds to feed birds), raspberry, blackberry brushes and strawberry, cytisus and broom, less common in grassy and stony glades.
On the eastern Ionian slope, there are examples of sorb trees and hornbeams. In this area the “English broom” (Genista anglica, in vernacular “ciciarella”) is common, whose presence is somehow anomalous, being a typical species of Atlantic areas, particularly of Portugal and Denmark coasts.
Anise and oregano are required by local inhabitants, and are common in empty lands. The typical herbaceous flora of pastures and woody glades shows a clear predominance of grass, together with legumes and composites; it’s about good productive pastures which, in the summertime, look like dry lands for the lack of rains and damp. The Calabrian milk-vetch is typical of meagre pastures, whereas the five-finger of Calabria and the Aaron’s beard predominates in damp and fertile pastures.