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Flora

     On the steep rocky slopes, on the high mountain meadows, and in the lush forests of Rila National Park one can find about 1,400 different species of higher plants, 282 mosses, and 130 species of freshwater algae.

HIGHER PLANTS

           The most abundant of all plant species are higher plants. They make up 38.35% of the entire flora in the country. The most beautiful among them—the Rila cowslip, the lady’s mantle and the Rila rhubarb — are all Bulgarian or Balkan endemics (species occupying a limited geographical area). The total number of species endemic to Bulgaria or the Balkans in the Park is 57 . Local endemics are Rila cowslip, the lady’s mantle and the Rila rhubarb. The Rila cowslip is the most common locally endemic species within the Park. Bulgarian endemic species are 18 and Balcanic endemic species are 36. Many species of the lakeside and rocky fauna have survived since the Ice Age. These form the rather large group of glacial relicts (pre-dating the Ice Age). Total number of the species in the Park’s territory is 105.

           The Park is a haven for a whole range of rare or endangered species. Of all higher plants identified within the Park, 98 are listed in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria: 8 as endangered, and 90 as rare or about 13% of all listed species. Forty-two plant species or 10,79% are protected by Bulgarian law. This fact shows the huge conservation significance of Rila National Park.

           This conservation significance can also be measured on a continental scale. There are few places in Europe with as many as nine species appearing on the Red List of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), six species on the European List (E/ECE/1249), and seven species listed under the Bern Convention. Another five species are listed under EEC Directive 92/43 on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wildlife. Five are on the list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The imposed restrictions on trade in these latter species have had a favorable effect on plant diversity in the Park.

MOSSES

           Owing to the abundance of water and moisture in its territory, Rila National Park is a veritable “moss kingdom.” A total of 282 moss species of all ecological groups have been identified thus far, representing as much as 41% of the Bulgarian moss flora and a whopping 62% of the moss families known in this country! Though mosses are sometimes exceedingly difficult to tell apart, experts have figured out that 42 species are of conservation significance.

FRESHWATER ALGAE

           The cold, clear waters of high mountain lakes (Babreka [‘kidney’], Salzata [‘teardrop’], and Okoto [‘eye’]) guard a wealth of tiny algae—130 species in all—that are invisible to the naked eye. Rila National Park algae are all glacial in origin. Most can be found in the sub-alpine zone—in mountain lakes and brooks. Five species are endangered, limited in range to one or two lakes only. All these facts contribute to the territory’s exceptional value as a gene pool for different plant groups.

PLANT COMMUNITIES (PHYTOCENOSES)

           Rila National Park boasts the highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula: Moussala, at 2,925 meters above sea level. The structure of the mountain and its geographic location are defined in four distinct vegetation zones: Beech (partly represented), Coniferous forest, Sub-alpine and Alpine. The forests are represented mainly by the phytocenoses of the coniferous species. Principal rooted plant species is dwarf pine, a coniferous shrub, which are wide spread on the Sub-alpine zone and form the basic root vegetation of the zone. The short bush phytocenoses of the Siberian Juniper and the grassy phytocenoses, most of which are Rooty, are significant part of the vegetation of this zone. The grassy phytocenoses hold sway, with an insignificant presence of small shrubs like blueberries and grassy willows are widely spread over the Alpine zone. There are endemic and rare plant species; there are also endemic plant communities like amethyst fescue, the Rila rhubarb, and others.

           The Park vegetation belongs to the Rila-Rhodope subregion of the Illyrian province of the European deciduous community.

 

 

           Mushrooms are members of a specific biotic group, somewhere midway between plants and animals—fungi.

           A total of 233 species of macrofungi have been identified within Rila National Park. They make up 11.6% of all mushroom species in Bulgaria, and half of those known in the Rila Mountains as a whole.

           One species of those growing in the Park, Albatrellus cristatus, is protected in Europe.

           Eleven species of edible mushrooms have been identified that may be of interest to commercial gatherers: Agaricus silvaticus Schaeff.: Fr.; Boletus edulis Bull.:Fr.; Boletus pinophyllus Pilat & Dermek; Cantharellus cibarius Fr.; Hydnum repandum L.; Lactarius deliciosus (L.: Fr.) S. F. Gray; Lepista nuda (Bull.: Fr.) Cooke; Ramaria flava (Schaeff.: Fr.) Quel.; Sarcodon umbricatus (Fr.) Karst.; Suillus luteus (L.) S. F. Gray; Xerocomus badius (Fr.) Kuhner: Gilb.

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