Plants that have a story to tell
Endemic and rare species in the Park
The Maritime Alps are situated at the end of the Alpine chain and are subject to the mitigating effect of the sea. They were only touched marginally by the ice cap that covered the Alps on several occasions in the Quaternary period. So, a number of plants managed to survive, taking refuge right here on these mountains.
After surviving the glaciations, many of these plants were unable to recover lost ground because the environmental conditions had changed and they faced fierce competition from species that had differentiated in the meantime. So, they remained confined to the Maritime Alps where we still find them today.
These species are endemic, that is they only grow in the Park. "Endemic" doesn't necessarily mean "rare": for a species to be endemic it has to be found only in a limited area, there are some rare botanic species that are spread over a very wide area. If the distribution of an endemic species is very limited, we talk about a strict endemism.
Strict endemisms are precious, living witnesses to past eras, they tell us the story of the climate in remote times. It is paramount to protect them, as their disappearance would mean the extinction of the species from the planet. There are also endemic species with a slightly wider distribution area: they way they are found in little "islands" on a particular territory gives us information about the evolution of the plant cover in a given area as influenced by geological and climatic events. There are ten strict endemisms in Alpi Marittime Nature Park, and around fifty endemic species with a wider distribution.
The ancient king (Saxifraga florulenta) is a perennial plant from the paleozoic era, that has survived to the present day in a few small areas of Alpi Marittime