Flora on the islands

Island flora

Another characteristic that makes Brijuni even more valuable in relation to other areas of this climate is its vegetation. On Veliki Brijun an extraordinary unity of natural elements and anthropogenesis has been achieved. By taking up the farmlands and by clearing the forests and transforming them into landscape parks with vast meadows, a unique landscape on the Croatian Adriatic coast has been created.
Meadows, parks, maquis shrubland, forests

Plant elements in the Brijuni archipelago

The majority of the flora on the archipelago of Brijuni has the typical Mediterranean characteristics

  • The most important plant species of Veliki Brijun are:
  • Macquis shrubland 261 ha
  • Meadows 124 ha
  • Parks 118 ha
  • Holm oak forests (Quercus ilex) 68 ha
  • Holm oak and laurel forests 48 ha
  • Conifers 18 ha

It is interesting to point out that on the islands there are some plant species that are among the endangered plant species of Istria (marine poppy, wild cucumber, some grass species etc.), but on the islands they are quite widespread and develop freely.

Autochthonous Mediterranean plant elements

Mediterranean plants

Besides the holm oaks, we also find some important autochthonous Mediterranean plant elements, such as: holly, strawberry-tree, myrtle, terebinth, mastic tree, heather and flowering ash.

The forest is from the crowns to the soil interwoven with climbers such as the smilax, the buttercup, the asparagus, the honeysuckle and the briar rose.
 

Strawberry tree - Arbutus unedo

Family ERICEACEA. Mediterranean plant, lovely evergreen shrub or shrubby tree. It grows as an ornament of macquis shrubland all along the Adriatic coast. Beautiful greenish-white flowers bloom richly from October to November. Its orange-red round strawberry-like fruit (berries) have an uneven warty covered surface. The fruit is not particularly delicious, so it is not greatly valued in coastal areas. Consumption of a greater quantity of berries can cause digestive disorders and a state similar to intoxication. Ancient Romans were already well-acquainted with the effects of eating large amounts of these berries. The name unedo, the ancient Roman name for this strawberry-like berry, according to Pliny originates from “unum tantum edo” (I eat only one).

On the Brijuni Islands some of the berries are used for making brandy.
 

Myrtle - Myrtus comunis

Family MYRTACEAE. The myrtle originates in the East, although already in prehistoric times it was introduced to Mediterranean countries. In antiquity this lovely aromatic plant was just like laurel considered sacred and was highly appreciated. It was often cultivated. Myrtle is self-grown only in sunny and warm coastal regions, since it is sensitive to the cold.. In July and August the plant produces white, sweetly scented flowers with 5 petals and numerous stamens. It bears berries that ripen in November.. Myrtle beans have a pleasant, sweet, aromatic and somewhat resplendent taste. In ancient times Athenian's ate them raw, whereas Romans used these berries as a spice or digestif.

Allochthonous species

Imported species

Besides the domestic (autochthonous) genuses, the plant inventory of the parks is also made up of imported (allochthonous) species

  • the stone pine (Pinus pinea)
  • the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis)
  • the brucian pine (Pinus brutia)
  • the black pine (Pinus nigra)
  • the west-Mediterranean maritime pine (Cupressus sempervirens)
  • the Atlantic cedar (Cedrus atlantica)
  • the Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara)
  • the Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani)
  • the Greek fir (Abies cephalonica)
  • the Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo)
  • sequoia (Sequoia sempervirens)
  • bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
  • eucalyptus (Eucaliptus sp.)

Exotic plants are mainly grouped and planted around villas and hotels (palm trees, yuccas, cactuses etc.).
 

Holm oak and flowering ash forests

Forests

Forest communities

The main forest community on Brijuni is a community of holm oak and flowering ash (Fraxino orni - Quercetum ilicis). Since the area of natural distribution coincides with the most populated areas since ancient times, today there are very few parts of forests compared to former areas that are today in the structure and appearance of high forests (originated from seed). The main evergreen species of this community are holm oak (Quercus ilex), Viburnum tinus, strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), holly (Phillyrea media and Phillyrea latifolia), myrtle (Myrtus communis), laurel (Laurus nobilis), heath (Erica arborea), wild madder (Rubia peregrina), honeysuckle (Lonicera implexa i L. etrusca), while the main deciduous species are flowering ash (Fraxinus ornus), downy oak (Quercus pubescens), oriental hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), Coronilla emeroides, elmleaf blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius), garland thorn (Paliurus spina-christi).

Most of this community is located at various degradation stages. The degradation of this community takes place in the following order: holm oak and flowering ash forests (seeds, stumps) - macquis shrubland - garrigue - rocky ground.

Macquis shrubland

Macquis shrubland is a degradation stage of holm oak and flowering ash in which there is no stratification. Macquis shrubland is a few meters tall, with its bushy shrubs where the most dominant species are holm oak, strawberry tree, holly, Viburnum tinus and other species. The composition does not differ from the high holm oak forest, but by its structure and appearance. Macquis shrubland can be found on all the islands on Brijuni. On the smaller islands it is complemented by all the aforementioned species. On Veliki Brijun it is partly modified due to the species of game found on the island. The most beautiful macquis shrubland reaches up to 8m in height and is very thick and as such we can see it on the Peneda peninsula (Veliki Brijun) and the islands of Vanga, Madona and Mali Brijun. This macquis shrubland can be considered the most representative of the species in the whole of the Mediterranean.

Garrigue

Garrigue is caused by grazing, cutting or other negative influence on the macquis shrubland. The garrigues are not as dense as macquis shrubland, they do not grow continuously, which is why they are often without soil. Garrigue are predominantly made up of species such as Cistus sp., heath, weaver's broom (Spartium junceum).

Landscaped during the rebuilding of Brijuni into a modern tourist resort

Landscape parks

The majority of landscaped areas and meadows are to be found on former agricultural land that were used for agriculture throughout history but were abandoned with the decline of population (diseases, migrations…). 

During the rebuilding of Brijuni into a modern tourist resort (from 1894) part of the autochthonous dense green macquis shrubland and lower parts of the forest was reduced, but larger trees and holm oaks were preserved. 

Finest solitary trees

Today some of these trees are finest examples of solitary trees (with their crown tops reaching up to 20m in height) and are landmarks of many open pastures and glades. The unusual shape of their crowns is due to the influence of the deer game that, by browsing the leaves and the young shoots up to 2m in height, has made the specific “Brijuni” crown’s shape.

Fall in love with the harmony of natural and anthropogenic elements that make the Brijuni archipelago unique.
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