Why Bulgaria

Why watch plants in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has been known as tourist destination for a long time, mostly for its seaside and mountain resorts. A little is known however that Bulgaria is a wonderful place for plantwatching, harboring some 4000 plant species. This place is among the richest countries in Southeastern Europe, despite of its relatively small area. The habitat diversity of the country is enormous, thus providing a wide variety of ecological niches – from coastal cliffs and sand dunes to alpine meadows and cliffs.

During the Ice age the country’s territory had remained relatively far from the great ice shields and was therefore a refuge for the vegetation in the east of Europe. After the snow melted it is from here, where the vegetation started colonizing back the barren by the glaciers land. That is why here many plant species survived, which cannot be seen elsewhere in Europe. An excellent example is the flora of Strandzha mountain, known for its relict plants, a remnant of the tertiary vegetation, rich in evergreen shrubs.

Although spared from complete devastation by glaciers, the local flora did experience the cold influence during the Ice age and some small glaciers were formed in the high mountains. Even now those places remain as refuges for the cold loving northern and alpine vegetation. Also the harsh conditions during those times invoked an intensive process of speciation, which had given rise of new plant species, many of which cannot be seen elsewhere in the world. The number of Balkan endemics is about 270 and the plants seen only in Bulgaria is estimated at 170. In addition, there are numerous subendemic plants, which grow in isolated localities in adjacent areas.

The number of orchids is spectacular and even if it is impossible to compare with the extremely rich southern countries, there are many species, which are not easy to see elsewhere. Finally, although not strictly Mediterranean country, the southern parts of Bulgaria experience the strong influence of the warm and dry Mediterranean climate and as a consequence, many southern species could be seen in these lands as well.