Orchid meadows
in the White Carpathians
Orchid meadows
in the White Carpathians
Exceptional in many ways.

The landscape of the White Carpathians consists of a mosaic of small fields, forests, and flowery meadows—the richest orchid habitat in the Czech Republic and Central Europe. It’s therefore one of the most picturesque examples of what the environment could look like if treated with respect over many centuries.

White Carpathians,
(not just) orchid meadows
Refugium owns several dozen plots of land in the White Carpathians. Most are small lots scattered over a relatively wide area around the village of Nová Lhota near Veselí nad Moravou, close to the Slovak border.

6 hectares
Wildflower meadows
Tufa springs
Forests and ravines
Within these islands in the landscape, four continuous sites deserve a closer look. Totaling 5 hectares, they include the most precious natural wealth that the White Carpathians have to offer—the famous White Carpathian orchid meadows, i.e., in the words of an expert, “semi-natural dry grassland and scrub on calcareous subsoil, an outstanding habitat for orchids.”

This site was the first acquisition we made in the White Carpathians in 2022. It consists of a roughly two-hectare area located within the protected zone of the Jazevčí National Nature Reserve.

With one of the richest botanical areas in the White Carpathians close at hand, this piece of land is home to an extraordinary amount of orchids. Their total population, consisting of more than 10 species, includes about 2.000 plants.
Orchid meadows that slope down into a narrow valley with a small, cascading stream are part of our land by the Jazevčí National Nature Reserve.

The area between the meadows and forests is filled with anemochory trees, but you only need to walk a few steps to see it turn it into a healthy deciduous forest with an undergrowth of groves of herbs.

There is also a well that we restored in the winter, and below it a forest tufa spring with pools.

Species that thrive on the site:

Burnt orchid (Neotinea ustulata)
Early purple orchid (Orchis mascula)
Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)
Globe orchid (Traunsteinera globosa)
Military orchid (Orchis militaris)
Lesser butterfly-orchid (Platanthera bifolia)
Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Approximately one kilometer from the first site, there is a significantly smaller, overgrown and seemingly more neglected piece of land that we’ve nicknamed the “gentian meadow.”

You guessed correctly! We started to call it this due to the thriving population of the endangered star gentian (Gentiana cruciata). Within it, we’ve also sighted the Alcon blue (Phengaris alcon), a critically endangered butterfly that, unfortunately, is teetering on the edge of survival in the Czech Republic.

Gentian meadow
“This small site, less than a hectare in size, definitely deserves to be further expanded to include a large continuous area where we could achieve a sustainable good condition through appropriate management.

In addition to the star gentian and blue, we also confirmed the presence of the burnt orchid and the cutleaf selfheal. Just a few steps from the boundary of the property is a small pond with a tiny pool where the yellow-bellied toad is thriving.”

Filip Lysák, Refugium's chief ecologist
If you walk another few hundred meters and then cut through dense mixed forests, you will emerge onto a roughly 1.5 hectare meadow that lies above the crossroads by Meg’s Cabin, sometimes also called Megovka.

Meg's Cabin
This charming spot is sheltered by forests on all sides. From the top, it’s shaped like a rectangle, which slopes along its entire length into a valley, through which Hrubý Brook, with its crystal clear, sparkling water, flows.

The meadow looks like a fairy tale. Thicker vegetation alternates with meager strands of tufa springs that are surrounded by striking hare’s-tail cottongrass, gladioli, and many different types of orchids. A true botanist’s paradise.

It is worth mentioning that the uniquely great shape this location currently finds itself in is the result of a long-term care provided by the local branch of the Czech Union for Nature Conservation. As the new partial owners of the meadow, we have already reached out, hoping for close cooperation.

Meadow tufa springs are rare nowadays. These biotopes are formed when highly alkaline and extremely mineral-rich water flows up to the surface. Condensed calcareous “lumps,” so-called incrustations, form in areas where it springs up.

The vegetation typical of tufa springs includes low and high sedges, eriophorum, and certain types of mosses. Orchids also thrive in these areas. You can see all of this in our site as well. In the spring and summer of 2023, we confirmed the presence of the following plant species:

Broad-leaved bog-cotton (Eriophorum latifolium)
Common cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium)
Dwarf milkwort (Polygala amarella)
Early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata)
Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)
Holuby spider orchid (Ophrys holoserica subsp. holubyana)
Lesser butterfly-orchid (Platanthera bifolia)
Military orchid (Orchis militaris)
Marsh helleborine (Epipactis palustris)

The fourth and final site lies in the protection zone of the Porážky National Nature Reserve. The boundaries of this extensive, 50-hectare complex of White Carpathian meadows, here and there supplemented by solitary oaks, are only a few hundred meters away from our land.

It was only natural then that we began to call our site, which is shaped like a narrow, gently sloping strip and spans an area of approximately 1.5 hectares, just “Porážky.”

However, we could just as well name it the gladioli meadow (in the same way we did it with the gentian meadow). In the summer, it’s covered by thousands of highly endangered Turkish marsh gladioli (Gladiolus imbricatus). Here, they form pink carpets that are a real feast for the eyes.

But the list of exceptional plant species found in this site is far from exhausted. Thanks to the botanical surveys carried out in June and July 2023, we now know this piece of land is home to 174 meadow species.

We would like to mention the discovery of the highly endangered marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe) and pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), the endangered martagon lily (Lilium martagon), the highly endangered burnt-tip orchid (Neotinea ustulata), marsh helleborine (Epipactis palustris), and other orchids. We were also very pleased to observe the highly endangered bristly bellflower (Campanula cervicaria).
The importance of the White Carpathians lies not only in the diversity of the endangered plants that have found refuge here. This area is a great example of how human behavior can co-create incredible natural value.
of the area
The White Carpathians are located on the Czech-Slovak border and follow the boundary ridge. They lie in a remote space and thus have mostly escaped human attention for a very long time. Today, in addition to a number of preserved cultural traditions, they also boast an extraordinary level of biodiversity that attracts local and international scientists. Many have acknowledged the primacy of this picturesque area.

The White Carpathians owe their uniqueness to many factors, including–surprisingly–human activity. Humans have played a role in the development of orchid meadows from the 15th to the 18th centuries. This was the time of the Valaš colonization of the area, before the continuous forested land was parceled out, cleared, and turned into not very fertile fields. The higher and less accessible areas were then used as meadows and pastures.

“What we now call rare flowering meadows have a much longer history in the White Carpathians going back to prehistoric times, when these forests covered warm, somewhat humid parts to the southwest. Afterwards, in the Middle Ages, during the Valaš colonization, their biodiversity expanded to the higher positions of the border forest, where they can still be admired today.”

Filip Lysák, Refugium's chief ecologist
Plants of the orchid family thrive in the flowering White Carpathian meadows. More than 40 species grow here, including the rarest ones. The diverse flora is also the natural home of a wealth of various animal species.

“The current fauna of the White Carpathians is very rich and unique in our sites in many respects. Based on the findings of academic groups, we can estimate that at least 20 thousand species of animals, including at least 16 thousand species of insects, can be found in White Carpathians.”

Source: Nature Conservancy Agency of the Czech Republic
The forests of the White Carpathians, especially on the Slovak side of the mountain range, are also the home of our largest carnivores: the lynx, brown bear, and wolf.
The uniqueness of the White Carpathians is further evidenced by the high amount of research (it’s one of the most botanically well-studied parts of Central Europe) and the protected areas related to them.
Categories of protection:
The White Carpathians Protected Landscape Area. The PLA was established by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Culture in 1980. It covers an area of 747 sq. m. On the other side of the border lies the Slovak protected area with the same name.

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Sixteen years later, the White Carpathians Protected Landscape Area was included in UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme.
Natura 2000. This system of protected areas, which is created by all EU countries according to set principles, protects the wealth of the White Carpathians through 13 sites of European importance.
Small specially protected areas. The PLA has 52 of them in total—five are national nature reserves, one is a national nature monument, 16 are nature reserves, and 30 are nature monuments.
Our first steps therefore led to the employees of the Protected Landscape bureau who have been taking care of most of the meadows we own for a long time. We would like to support their efforts.

We will plan small projects on our own, such as the restoration of the well and the construction of pools below the forest tufa springs in the area near Jazevčí.

We are also planning joint projects in which we will transform lower quality land in our portfolio into areas that will better complement the character of the landscape of the White Carpathians.

Moreover, Refugium’s role is to protect environmentally valuable land through private ownership. This ensures that the interests of these habitats and their plant and animal inhabitants always come first.

Our vision
Nature protection in the White Carpathians has long been ensured by the state through the regional office of the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic. Its employees not only take care of the so-called core zones where the primary objective is to intervene as little as possible, but they also manage areas completely transformed by humankind yet have maintained an exceptional natural character that needs to be further encouraged.
We completely understand that we’re dealing with an area that has experienced decades of good governance, an area that already has a high natural value, that doesn’t urgently need to be rescued or restored.

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