A ‘relict’ that contains a treasure
In the Muzzana woods, springwater and groundwater create micro-thermal conditions that allow ‘glacial relicts’ species to survive and thrive.
Such microclimatic conditions and the evolutionary path of these lowland forests create a suitable environment for a variety of species, many of which are considered endangered or even extinct in the entire Po Valley area. It is worth noting how cryptogam species such as moss and lichens are particularly numerous.
The Muzzana woods are identified as an “oak-hornbeam forest”, with reference to the oak tree (Quercus robur subsp. robur) and the common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). They are two lowland mesophilic woods, a few hundred metres apart, that are remnants of the large ‘foresta Lupanica’ (wolf forest) that in ancient times completely covered the low plain between the rivers Livenza and Isonzo.
Alongside the tree species that characterise them, other trees found here are the claret ash (Fraxinus angustifolia subsp. oxycarpa), the manna ash (Fraxinus ornus subsp. ornus) and the European ash (Fraxinus excelsior subsp. excelsior). The most common is the claret ash. You can also find the field maple (Acer campestre subsp. leiocarpum), the rarer Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and the North American box elder (Acer negundo), which escaped cultivation and is now naturalised. In wetter areas or close to the water it is easy to spot the black alder (Alnus glutinosa). The field elm (Ulmus minor subsp. minor) is also accounted for, albeit in strong regression, like the oak. Among the trees and saplings that get noticed because of their fruits, so different from the cultivated ones, are wild cherry trees (Prunus avium subsp. avium), as well as wild apple trees (Malus sylvestris) and pear trees (Pyrus piraster).
There are a remarkable number of shrubs: the cornel (Cornus mas), the common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea subsp. hungarica), the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa subsp. spinosa), the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna and, less frequently, Crataegus laevigata), the hazel (Corylus avellana), the spindle (Euonymus europaea), the European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), the wayfarer (Viburnum lantana), the guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus), the alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), the goat willow (Salix caprea), the fly honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum), the elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and many others.
The Natura 2000 Network
Natura 2000 is a network of protected ecological sites stretching over the European land area and marine territory. It was established with the Habitat Directive of the European Union to ensure long-term maintenance of natural habitats and protect threatened or rare species of flora and fauna at European level.
The Natura 2000 network consists of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs). These are then designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and also includes Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
The Muzzana woods are a Special Area of Conservation, listed as ‘SAC IT3320034 Boschi di Muzzana‘ with a dedicated management plan.
It is herbaceous plants that best characterise the undergrowth, as well as the clearings and the meadows in the changing seasons. The flowering starts as early as February, with snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), abundant in a vast area of the Coda di Manin woods but strangely scarce in the municipal wood Baredi-Selva di Arvonchi, and the fragrant mezereum (Daphne mezereum), as well as the crocuses (Crocus heuffelianus). March sees the blossoming of the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum), the toothwort (Lathraea squamaria subsp. squamaria), the lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), the lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor), the primrose (Primula vulgaris subsp. vulgaris), the anemones (Anemone nemorosa, A. trifolia subsp. trifolia, A. ranunculoides), the violets (Viola alba s.l., V. hirta, V. odorata, V. reichenbachiana, V. riviniana), etc.
Between April and June more beautiful species offer their flowerings to the visit of the insect pollinators. Among them the wild garlic (Allium ursinum subsp. ursinum), the asparagus (Asparagus tenuifolius), the lemon lily (Hemerocallis lilio-asphodelus), the plum iris (Iris graminea), the Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), the yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus), the white hellebore (Veratrum lobelianum), the wild gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus) and many orchids, such as the sumptuous lady orchid (Orchis purpurea).
The peculiarity of this part of the woods is the considerable number of cryptograms (as many as 14 species), which is unparalleled in the anthropized plain. We would like to cite the hart’s-tongue fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium subsp. scolopendrium), the maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes subsp. trichomane) and the oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris).