The arboreal patriarchs of the Pollino.
High-altitude hike to pay homage to the majestic loricate pine tree
What it is and where it is
The Pollino National Park stretches on the border between Campania, Basilicata and Calabria. The territory covered by the massif, a true sanctuary of Apennine nature, has as its symbol the loricate pine, a rare conifer that at two thousand meters above sea level seems to defy the elements. To admire it in one of its most spectacular habitats, follow an itinerary from San Severino Lucano (m 877) to the Porta Grande del Pollino (m 1954).
Why it's special
The Pollino massif is the last stronghold of this majestic tree species, which in some valleys forms forests and elsewhere instead occurs with isolated specimens, the foliage bent by the wind, the trunk often scarred by lightning. Reaching these localities becomes a kind of pilgrimage to pay homage to these arboreal patriarchs.
Not to be missed
Among the various suggestions from the National Park, the route that goes up the valley of the Jannace stream with several changes of slope to the Great Gateway of the Pollino stands out, a spectacular environment, made even more exciting by the presence of large specimens of loricate pine. From here you can lengthen your pace toward the Serra di Crispo, which has earned the nickname "Garden of the Gods" for the grandeur of the trees that endure there.
A bit of history
Due to its rarity, the loricate pine is a species recognized by science only in the second half of the 19th century. One of the classifications adopted calls it Pinus leucodermis referring to the very light color of the bark (from the Greek leukos, white, and dermis, skin). It is a very long-lived plant: recent surveys have established the age of a Pollino specimen at 1230 years.
During the ice ages, when the climate was considerably colder than today, the loricate pine was a widespread plant around much of the Mediterranean. As the ice receded, this conifer saw its suitable habitats drastically reduced, in fact enduring only in the high mountains. This is why botanists call the loricate pine a 'glacial relict'.
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