Friday, March 11, 2011

Mont Blanc Winter Flora

Usnea- Old Mans Beard
During the summer the hills are alive with an abundance of flora of un-imaginable proportions. Last year on one Tour du Mont Blanc Trek we recorded approximately 50 different types of alpine flowers. 

But what is there to see whilst trekking (on snowshoes) around the Mont Blanc massif during winter? I suppose this winter you can see a little more than usual because of the limited snowfall and the warmer than usual temperatures but you would be surprised what you can see & identify.

Reindeer Lichen

No flowers but plenty to see... lichens, mosses, trees & animal tracks. Its a fairly complex task identifying things in the midst this winter wonderland but a camera whilst out and about and the internet in the comfort of your own home when you return most things can be identified.

Norway Spruce
The Pine family: the Mont Blanc region of the french alps has lots of them! & there are 7 species throughout made up of Firs, Spruces, Larches & Pines. The Norway spruce can be identified by the thin feathery needles and long cones that hang down. Larch is fairly common in the valley easily identified as it looses its needles in autumn and has small round cones that are left on the branches after the needles have dropped. Arrola pine found in abundance down the far end of the valley towards Le Tour & Vallorcine, sorter in height thick bushy branches with needles in 5's and slightly blueish on the inner surface with cones are large & round. Silver fir can be seen around with smooth white-gray bark, needles are flat and on one plane with white stripes underneath & their cones are upright.

Grey Alder 
Deciduous trees are a little harder to work out, the valley is full of a whole host of species Beech, Birch, Ash to name a few. Birch family: The green Alder is not that noticeable in winter although it comes to good use, it grows up to 3m tall branches are flexible and can withstand the weight of the winter snow, these can often be found in slopes, gullies and stream banks and act as a natural avalanche barrier. A good one to look out for in the winter is the Grey Alder, It can be identified by the small cones that are dotted around the branches, strange for an deciduous to have cones. 

More on Flora when the weather gets warmer!

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