Despite its small territory of only 111 thousand square kilometres, Bulgaria is extremely rich in endemic plants, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The endemic seminal vegetables (i.e., algae, mosses, lichens, ferns and horse-tails excluded) that have been registered so far, run to about 170 species and 100 subspecies. By way of comparison, the total number of seminal plant species found in Bulgaria is approximately 3500-3700. Two of the Bulgarian endemic plants are considered to be irretrievably lost; and the preservation of the rest of this vegetable wealth - in conformity with international agreements - is a responsibility of the Bulgarian state.
Furthermore, about 200 Balkan endemic species have been identified in Bulgaria; many of them are found chiefly in this country, or have been discovered for the first time here. Therefore, a considerable number of these plants have designations including the definition of "Bulgarian", or bear the names of Bulgarian scientists, mountains, etc.
The abundance of endemic species in Bulgaria is due to a number of factors, and the most important among them are: Bulgaria's geographical position (the local vegetation here has been enlarged by some species characteristic of Central Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean), the varying climate, and the peculiar geological history of the Balkans. Thus, for example, the icing of the Peninsula during the Glacial Epoch was much more scarce than in the other parts of Europe. Because of this particularly "mild" geological past, a number of plants, which have died out elsewhere, have survived in this region. In this sense, these endemic species are unique also as relicts, as vestiges of far-off ages.
Silivriak (Haberlea rhodopensis)
Although it does not belong to the desert habitat, the Silivriakis a world record-holder in drought endurance. Botanists have established that, dried in a herbarium, it can stay alive for 31 months and then, when moistured, restart its normal growth. That is why, when scientists from botanical gardens throughout the world ask their Bulgarian colleagues to send them silivriak, they receive herbarized plants, rather than seeds, as is usually practised.
Haberlea rhodopensis is a preglacial relict, whose "age" is probably over 2 million years! Spread all over Europe in past times, nowadays it can be found only in Stara planina (the Balkan Range), Sredna gora, the Rhodopes and the Thracian plain.
The silivriak is a beautiful flower and, for this reason, a highly valued decorative plant. However, collectors who have it in their collections, are very few. It grows in tufts - in damp, mainly shady places. Its long, thick leaves are clustered in a ground rosette. In April and May one or more stems, up to 15 cm high, grow out of this rosette, and 1 to 5 pale rose to purple infundibular blossoms open.
This flower became known to science in 1835 owing to the renowned explorer of the Balkans, the Hungarian Imre Frivaldszky.
According to the Novinar daily, Haberlea rhodopensis has aroused scientific interest on the part of experts from the United States (NASA), Russia and Japan.
The Splendid tulip (Tulipa splendens)
The splendid tulip is an extremely rare and really unique flower. It was discovered by the Bulgarian botanist Dimitar Delipavlov in 1976 near the village of Simeonovo in the neighbourhood of Yambol (a town in South-Eastern Bulgaria) and ever since has not been found anywhere else in the country. What is more, in 1979 only as many as about ... 20 plants were counted near Simeonovo.
Tulipa splendens has a brown underground bulb. Its 30-40 cm stalk, with several leaves, stems from this bulb in spring. The tulip opens into large red flowers in May.
Its reproduction is a difficult one, because it takes place only by means of seeds, and the new plants fall into blossom as late as their seventh-eighth year.
It is supposed that in the past the splendid tulip was not so scanty, and its undeliberate extinction was caused by agricultural activities.
In Bulgaria there are six other species of wild tulips. Four of them are Bulgarian endemic species, and one of them - Balkan.
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