Aosta Valley Rockeries

The rockery, found at the entrance to the garden, immediately welcomes visitors into the typical mountain environment. It is a collection of the rarest and most interesting species of high mountain plants, including numerous endemisms. These are plants which, despite developing in isolated, high mountain areas and experiencing a different climate, have differentiated themselves autonomously from their parent species.

The rockery plants include Leontopodium, the well-known Alpine Star or Edelweiss, mistakenly thought to be the rarest flower in the mountains. There are also a number of lesser known, but even more hard to find flowers, such as Eritrichium, the Alpine forget-me-not of the moraines, or the regal-looking Lilium, also known as”Lady’s Curls” due to the shape of its flowers. This is a striking, easy to spot flower. Making your way around the first rockery, in front of the chalet, you will also see the rare, large cornflower blue mountain Centaurea (or Squarrose Knapweed).

The following are also rare but extremely beautiful: the Lychnis that grows on Alpine pastures at the highest altitudes; Lychnis flox-jovis (Flower-of-Jove), typical of dry environments but grows at lower altitudes; Campanula and the extremely rarePeony, which only grows in two inaccessible areas in the lower Aosta Valley. Finally, not to make the list too long, we have the Aquilegia.
In addition to these we have Genepy, two species of which are used for aromatic purposes: the “male” and the “female” which are used as digestives, and found on the Italian and Swiss Alpine slopes respectively. The picking of these protected species is regulated.

As you move around the first couple of rockeries, you will have noticed the presence of labels in different colours. This garden uses a colour code that reflects some of the botanical features of the plants indicated: yellow for species found in Italy, white for exotic species or those which are not found in Italy, and red for poisonous species or those with medicinal properties, regardless of country of origin.

Cover image: ©Antonio Furingo

 

 

Schede piante: Valle d’Aosta

Family: THYMELAEAECEAE

Common name: Fior di stecco

It is a small shrub that flowers as soon as the snow starts to melt.
The plant grows to between 30 and 70 cm, and has an erect, branched stem and a greyish cortex. The alternating, entire leaves are simple in shape, and grow after the flower has blossomed. The flower has 4 petals joined to the stamen tube at the lower end.

The fruit of the Daphne mezereum is a bright red drupe, which is approximately 1 cm in diameter. It is extremely poisonous for mammals if ingested, but not for birds.

The shrub blooms between April and June. It is found in woods, pastures and rocky areas, between 500 and 2600 metres and is common in the Aosta Valley and Alps.

Family: SCROPHULARIACEAE

Common name: Digitale gialla minore

The perennial Digitalis (foxglove) belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family and can grow to between 50 and 100 centimetres. It has oval lanceolate leaves while the basal leaves have dentate margins and are much longer than the leaves along the stem. The shoot is formed by numerous bell-shaped yellow flowers, almost all of which face in one direction. The yellow Digitalis grows in woodland clearings between 800 and 1600 metres above sea level and flowers between June and July.

This plant has cardio-tonic properties, meaning its active ingredients act on the heart muscle. Medicine extracted from the plant must only be administered on prescription and under continuous medical supervision as medicines derived from digitalis can cause intoxication and poisoning. It contains a substance, digitalin, which has not yet been synthesised in the laboratory.

The biennial Digitalis purpurea is very similar, although slightly taller and with purple flowers featuring inner white spots. The flower only grows wild in the forests of Sardinia and Corsica, but is cultivated as it contains a higher concentration of the active ingredients found in the wild species here in the garden. All Digitalis are poisonous.

Family: SAXIFRAGACEAE

Common name: SASSIFRAGA MUSCHIATA

Synonymous: Saxifraga exarata subsp. moschata (Wulfen) Cavill.

The stalk of this plant can be glabrous or have glandular hairs. In their dry state the leaves are hollow with shallow veins, and may be undivided or subdivided into 3 – (5) linear lobes. The petals are a yellowish-green colour (only occasionally white, pink or dark purple) and flowering occurs from July to August.
The species is commonly found in the meadows and on crags or scree slopes throughout the whole of the Aosta Valley.

 

© 2018 Fondazione Saussurea Onlus