Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Flower that Grows on Walls - Cymbalaria muralis, Pennywort

Cymbalaria muralis (Pennywort) on a wall.A wall in the Convento di San Francesco (Bergamo) where pennywort grows.
Left: Cymbalaria muralis (Pennywort) on a wall. Right: A wall in the third cloister of Convento di San Francesco (Bergamo) where pennywort grows. The wall looks north.

To say this plant is ubiquitous is an understatement. It’s one of the first plants I noticed when we landed in Bergamo over a year ago. Today, I'm at the ex-Convento di San Francesco. It's a warm Sunday morning and I'm staring at this plant and its dainty flowers again. It's about time to find out what the plant is called and why it is so ubiquitous.

The plant is called Cymbalaria muralis, and it is native to south and southwest Europe. Some references place C. muralis in the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) and others in the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). The little labiate flowers, usually rose to violet colored, add a happy accent to any wall.

C. muralis has a number of suggestive common names as detailed on the U.S. National Plant Germplasm Site: coliseum-ivy, ivy-leaf-toadflax, mother-of-thousands, Oxford-ivy, pennywort, wandering-sailor, and others. I personally like pennywort. In Italian, it is commonly called ciombolino comune.

The success of pennywort, according to Plant Tropisms: And other Growth Movements (J.W. Hart, p. 101), it due to its curious behavior in respect to light, or phototropism. “After fertilization the previously phototropic stalk bends away from the light to the extent that the ripening seed pod becomes buried in some dark crevice…” That goes a ways toward explaining pennywort's ubiquity.

The Convento di San Francesco dates back to the 13th century and is located in Bergamo’s upper city, Città Alta. I wonder what the friars 700 years ago called this plant?

The third cloister at Convento di San Francesco, looking into second cloister called the Chiostro del Pozzo.View of the main cloister, Chiostro dell Arche.
Left: The third cloister at Convento di San Francesco, looking into second cloister called the Chiostro del Pozzo. Right: View of the main cloister, Chiostro dell Arche.




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Hike from Piazza Brembana to Piazzatorre via Monte Torcola

Hiking route from Piazza Brembana to Piazzatorre.Hiking on snow below Monte Torcola Cabinovia on a day when lifts were not running.
Left: Hiking route from Piazza Brembana to Piazzatorre. Right: Hiking on snow below Monte Torcola Cabinovia on a day when lifts were not running.

Overview

Length: 11.5 km (7 miles)
Duration: 6.5 hours total, includes several stops and long lunch break
Elevation: 1277 m elevation gain total, 1745 m max elevation, 538 m min elevation
Location: Italy, Lombardia, Bergamo, Alta Valle Brembana

Getting There

Linea B (Bergamo – Zogno – San Pellegrino – San Giovanni Bianco – Piazza Brembana) will get you to Piazza Brembana, the start of the hike. Linea B50c takes you from Piazzatorre back to Piazza Brembana. It can be a bit tricky to find the right buses. See Walking around Bergamo for tips on working with the bergamotransport.it site.

The Walk

The routine of the hike is pretty straightforward: we followed Senterio 123 to Sentiero 119 to Sentiero 121.

The hike from Piazza Brembana (123) was steep and not that interesting at first. It starts to get interesting when you reach a saddle at 1200 m between Monte del Sole and il Culmine. From there you get your first glimpse of Monte Torcola.

It was odd to be hiking around deserted ski slopes. Today the slopes were closed. Yesterday, they were open. The barista where we stopped for coffee in Piazza Brembana said that she had hiked the trail the day before and there were very few skiers. The reason we heard: part weather (warm) and part management.

We saw a few other walkers and uphill skiers, and one sunbather who came up on a snowmobile.
Snowshoes would have been nice when we hit snow but not absolutely necessary. All we had were some Kahtoola microspikes, which worked out fine.

Flora

Last week’s walk above San Pellegrino Terme was the first time was saw Spring Snowflakes and Snowdrops. On this hike, we saw them again, but this time pushing up through the snow. The common name in Italian for the Snowdrop is bucaneve, which means “snow piercer”.

We also saw (just one) Daphne mezereum. The clusters of violet colored flowers appear on a naked stem.

[Family] Genus species – {Common names in English; Italian}
[Amaryllidaceae] Leucojum vernum – {Spring Snowflake; Campanellino, campenelle comuni}
[Amaryllidaceae] Galanthus nivalis – {Snowdrop; bucaneve
[Asteraceae] Petasites albus {White Butterbur; Farfaraccio bianco}
[Cyperaceae] Carex caryophyllea {Spring Sedge; Carice primaticcia}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus niger – {Christmas Rose; Rosa di natale}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus viridis – {Green Hellebore; Elleboro verde
[Thymelaeceae] Daphne mezereum – {Common Mezeron; Fior di stecco}

Before hike coffee at Albergo Piazza Brembana Di Ronzoni.Start of the hike in Piazza Brembana.Finally reaching snow around 1400 m. Walking down the Piste del Bosco of Piazzatore.
Left: Before hike coffee at Albergo Piazza Brembana Di Ronzoni. Center left: Start of the hike in Piazza Brembana. Center right: Finally reaching snow around 1400 m. Right: Walking down the Piste del Bosco of Piazzatore.

Two Helleborus niger blooms with an interesting color combination.Helleborus viridis.
How many times can you take a picture of Helleborus?  Many. They are fascinating.  Left: Two Helleborus niger blooms with an interesting color combination. Right: Helleborus viridis.

Petasites albus. Carex caryophyllea.
Left: Petasites albus. Right: Carex caryophyllea.

Silent ski lift at Monte Torcola (closed for the day). Sentiero 119 view south toward Monte Ortighera.
Left: Silent ski lift at Monte Torcola (closed for the day). Right: Sentiero 119 view south toward Monte Ortighera.

Sign pointing to trail 119, Monte Torcola.Panorama looking west from Monte Torcola.
Left: Sign pointing to trail 119, Monte Torcola. Right: Panorama looking west from Monte Torcola.

Daphne mezereum.Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrop or bucaneve.
Left: Daphne mezereum. Right: Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrop or bucaneve.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Hike from San Pellegrino Terme to Zogno via Monte Zucco

Path from San Pellegrino to Zogno.Two fellow hikers on Monte Zucco survey San Pellegrino in the Brembana valley.
Left: Path from San Pellegrino Terme to Zogno. Right: Two fellow hikers on Monte Zucco survey San Pellegrino Terme in the Brembana valley.

Overview

Length: 17 km (11 miles)
Duration: 7 hours moving time, about 9 hours’ (9:30 to 18:20) total time including ½ hour lunch, talking with other hikers, and many flower pictures.
Elevation: 1200 m total gain
Location: Italy, Lombardia, Bergamo, Val Brembana/Val Brembilla

Getting There

We don’t have a car, and therefore, we reach most of our hikes outside of Bergamo by bus, tram, train, or friends with cars. To find the trailhead this time we took a bus from Bergamo to San Pellegrino Terme (of the water fame), in Valle Brembana. We returned to Bergamo from Zogno, a town just a few miles down river from San Pellegrino Terme.

For a summary of hikes around Bergamo and transportation options, see Walking in Bergamo.

The Walk

Sentiero 506 starts and ends in San Pellegrino Terme, making a loop through the mountains. We followed half of 506, but instead of returning to San Pellegrino Terme, we returned to Zogno via Sentiero 505B. Along the way, we detoured up to Zucco (1232 m) and ate lunch there enjoying the view. We chatted with two ladies out for the day from Milan which were 2 of the dozen people we encountered today.

Our lunch spot was supposed to be Trattoria Pesenti, but when we called the day before the hike, we were told that they had no cook and wouldn’t be serving lunch the next day. Plan B, a sack lunch looking out over San Pellegrino Terme and the Valle Brembana wasn’t so bad in the end.

After Zucco, we continued on 506 south to Rifugio GESP, turning west and following the trail, which stays more on the ridge of the hill until we reached Catremerio. From there we headed south to the frazione of S. Antonio Abbandonato. There we stopped for a coffee at a café next to the church. When we walked in, all the locals turned to look at us as we fumbled with backpacks and walking sticks. We sidled up to the bar and ordered. As we sipped our espressos we really felt “watched.” Looking up, we saw what we thought at first was a stuffed owl but turned out to be a real one. The bartender said the owl occasionally makes a flight around the bar. I could think only of talons on my head: time to continue our hike.

Sentiero 505B passes through what are called the Giardini di pietra (Rock Gardens) so called because of the unusual and striking rock columns found in the area. 505B also passes over a rock formation in the shape of a “W”. It is a layer of rock from the Triassic period called Calcare di Zu (Zu Limestone).
On the final bit of 505B we came across a large tunnel penetrating into the mountain. We squeezed through the bit of fence barring entry and went for a look. We had a flashlight with us (always in the backpack for hiking), which was necessary as it was pitch dark and had water running through it. The tunnel was large enough to drive a truck through. We descended until we lost sight of the opening and arrived at a huge cavern. We thought it was a quarry but then realized we were in the middle of some kind of transit tunnel piercing through the mountain. We had come in through a service entry. We followed the tunnel to one of its ends (about .5 km). And lucky for us, that’s when we saw the “W” rock formation that we had been walking above earlier. Happy accident.

Turns out the tunnel is a new valley bypass called the “Variante di Zogno”, as it bypasses Zogno center. Due to cost overruns, it seems the project is on hold for now but due to resume soon.

Flora

It was pleasant hiking weather today: 55 – 60 F, mostly sunny. It seemed like Spring wasn’t far away. On the ground, we were treated to a riot of Easter colors, purples, yellows, rose pinks, and white. The interesting plants on this hike, only because we had never seen them before, were the Leucojum vernum (Spring snowflake) and Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrops). Below is a list of the plants that we saw and that were in significant numbers along the trail.

[Family] Genus species – {Common names in English; Italian}

[Amaryllidaceae] Leucojum vernum – {Spring Snowflake; Campanellino, campenelle comuni}
[Amaryllidaceae] Galanthus nivalis – {Snowdrop; bucaneve}
[Asparagaceae] Scilla bifora – {Alpine squill; Scilla sivestre}
[Asplenianceae] Asplenium scolopendrium – {Hart’s-tongue fern; Scolopendria commune}
[Asteraceae] Tossilago farfara – {Coltsfoot; Tossilaggine comune}
[Boraginaceae] Pulmonaria officinalis – {Common Lungwort; Polmaria maggiore}
[Boraginaceae] Pentaglottis sempervirens – {Evergreen Bugloss; Buglossa ovata}
[Ericaceae] Erica carnea – {Winter Heather; Erica carnicina}
[Ericaceae] Rhododendron peloso – {Hairy Alprenrose; Rhododendro peloso}
[Iridaceae] Crocus spp.
[Liliaceae] Erythronium dens-canis – {Dog’-tooth-violet; “dente di cane”}
[Primulaceae] Primula vulgaris – {Primula comune}
[Ranunculaceae] Anemone nemorosa – {Wood Anemone; Anenome bianca}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus niger – {Christmas Rose; Rosa di natale}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus viridis – {Green Hellebore; Elleboro verde}
[Ranunculaceae] Hepatica nobilis – {Common Hepatica, liverwort; Erba trinità}
[Thymelaeaceae] Daphne laureola – {Spure Laurel; Dafne laurella}

For resources consulted to help identify plants, see the post Resources for Identifying Plants around Bergamo.

Spores of Asplenium scolopendrium.Pulmonaria officinalis.
Left: Spores of Asplenium scolopendrium.  Right: Pulmonaria officinalis.

Erythronium dens-canis.Daphne laureola.Crocus.
Left: Erythronium dens-canis. Center: Daphne laureola. Right: Crocus.

Galanthus nivalisGalanthus nivalisGalanthus nivalis
Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrop.

Green-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.Green-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.Yellow-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.
Green and yellow-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.

Different flower colors of Helleborus viridis, Green Hellebore.
Different flower colors of Helleborus niger, Christmas Rose

Helleborus niger flower.Helleborus viridis.
Left: Helleborus niger flower. Right: Helleborus viridis.

Flowers of Hepatica nobilis.Bud of Hepatica nobilis.Leaves of Hepatica nobilis.
Flowers, bud, and leaves of Hepatica nobilis.

White Hepatica nobilis. Scilla bifora.
Left: White Hepatica nobilis. Right: Scilla bifora.

Pentaglottis sempervirens.Rhododendron peloso.
Left: Pentaglottis sempervirens. Right: Rhododendron peloso.

Primula vulgaris.Tossilago farfara.
Left: Primula vulgaris. Right: Tossilago farfara.

Start of the hike and coffee at Hotel Moderno. Piazza S. Francesco D'Assisi, the start of the trail. Trail signs for 506 in San Pellegrino.
Left: Start of the hike and coffee at Hotel Moderno. Center: Piazza S. Francesco D'Assisi, the start of the trail. Right: Trail signs for 506 in San Pellegrino.

 Immediately you start climbing from San Pellegrino.The spur out to Monte Zucco. Trail and beech trees near Catremerio.
Left: Immediately you start climbing from San Pellegrino. Center: The spur out to Monte Zucco. Right: Trail and beech trees near Catremerio.

Heading down to Zogno below S. Antonio Abbondonato.Giardini di pietra (Rock Gardens) above Zogno.Inside Variante di Zogno.
Left: Heading down to Zogno below S. Antonio Abbondonato. Center: Giardini di pietra (Rock Gardens) above Zogno. Right: Inside Variante di Zogno.