The Garden of the Appennine Flora of Capracotta was founded in 1963 as experimental field for officinal plants and is one of a few natural botanical gardens in Italy, but also one of the highest ones, at 1 550 m on the sea level. It is situated on the slopes of Monte Campo (1764 m on the sea level), overlooks Sangro Valley and faces the Mainarde, Maiella and the whole Molise. Its symbol is the Lobelius Maple, exclusive tree of mountainous woods. It extends over 10 ha as far as a silver fir wood, extreme bequest of the Quaternary age. A part of it was intended for reconstruction of typical environments of the Apennines.
In 1997, the municipal administration of Capracotta drew up an agreement with the University of Molise, so that the Garden could benefit of scientific support, essential for reintroduction of activities, aimed to didactics, research and ecotourism.
The agreement and profitable activity following the contract stipulation convinced the commune of the necessity to provide the Garden with managerial and financial autonomy. So, in 2003 they founded a Consortium with the University of Molise and in 2005 also the Region of Molise joined in it.
The Garden is a Natural Botanical Garden where vegetable species of autochthonous flora of Centre-Southern Apennines are preserved and protected. Thanks to the different characteristics of the ground, there are numerous natural habitats, from marsh to rupicola, from beechwood to shrubbery.
It is an inestimable property for the community, an extraordinary opportunity to approach the vegetable world, an open-air didactic laboratory, as well as a valuable instrument for researchers of ecologic disciplines of the University of Molise, whom have been carrying out studies about the preservation of biodiversity for much time.
The Consortium works for different projects of research, Conservation of Biodiversity and Didactics.
· In-situ conservation: Reconstruction of natural habitats and recovery of rare and protected wild plants
· Ex-situ conservation: in collaboration with the “Germplasm Bank of Molise”, conservation of seeds and propagation of species of Molise at risk of extinction or useful to environmental recovery
· Typical farming fields: in collaboration with ARSIA Molise, projects aimed to recover and exploit local agricultural and food essences, like lentils of Capracotta and Conca Casale and beans of Riccia, are in progress.
· Farming of officinal plants: realization of thematic flowerbeds and research on officinal plants and their use are in the planning stage
· Didactics and Environmental Education: realization of programs of collaboration and exchange between university students and researchers of this and other botanical gardens; fruition by every level student-body, participating in didactic projects and courses aimed to know the different kinds of Apennine vegetation
· Ecotourism: thanks to easy access, the Garden offers the opportunity of a guided path, finding out the naturalistic peculiarities of Apennines. A “smell path” is being realized for disabled people.
The Garden of the Apennine Flora of Capracotta offers the chance to do an ideal trip along the Apennines, finding out the most peculiar characteristics. The garden is provided also with a path for disabled people, panoramic places, facilities and picnic area.
WALKING THROUGH THE GARDENAlong the path, the visitor finds the beech wood in a small natural zone, the last strip of a wood which extended in the past on the slopes of Monte Campo.
In springtime, the brushwood is rich of multicoloured flowers: liverwort (Hepatica nobilis), the common primula (Primula vulgaris), the snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), the sylvan scilla (Scilla bifolca). In summertime, when the wood is flourishing, you can see the tubular martagon (Lilium martagon) and the ruddy fruits of the fowlers sorb (Sorbus aucuparia).
Going on along the path, you reach the fir-wood, characterised by an anthropic zone, representing the silver fir woods (Abies alba) which, now, are real relicts. In fact, they are distributed fragmentarily in the Apennines because of excessive exploitation by men and climatic changes.
The damp environment is rich of vegetation with hygrophilous species, like cowslip (Caltha palustris), avens-root of the streams (Geum rivale), creeping ranunculus (Ranunculus repens), common valerian (Valeriana officinalis), as well as sedges, reeds, equisetum and rare and protected palmate orchid (Dacthylorhiza incarnata subsp. Incarnata).
Another environment is the rock, recreating screes and detrital layers at high altitude. The species can adjust themselves easily, so they manage to colonize hostile surroundings. Most of them have high environmental value: these are endemic or at risk of extinction like the Italian toadflax (Cymbalaria pallida), the common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), the laciniate daisy (Leucanthemum ceratophylloides subsp tenuifolium) and the Apennine edelweiss (Leontopodium nivale).
The last leg of this ideal trip is the rocky environment with characteristic clinging species like the spatuliform Daphne (Daphne oleoides), the white stonecrop (Sedum album), the alpine saxifrage (Saxifraga panicolata subsp. paniculata) as well as different species of ferns.
It is very nice to see, especially in autumn, the groups of bushes, scattered everywhere in the Garden, with their red, black and blue fruits. The commonest species is the alpine buckthorn (Rhamnus alpinus), the mountain honeysuckle (Lonicera alpigena) and the lantana (Viburnum lantana).