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The Dolomites in mid-June 2023 – Day 13: Lech da Sompunt

August 8, 2023
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The weather on our last day was not as bad as forecast, so we decided to search for Orange Lilies (Lilium bulbiferum), which had eluded us in the higher meadows this year.

There were clearly heavy showers around, so we wanted to stay in the valleys.  We planned to make a bus trip to Badia, and then walk back up the valley across the meadows, past the Lech da Sompunt, to Funtanacia, on the road between La Villa and Corvara.


The clouds were breaking up a little when we arrived in Badia, but heavy rain was not far away. Nevertheless, we followed a Black Redstart and her chicks up a lane on the west side of the valley.

Campanula cochlearifolia

Campanula cochlearifolia was flourishing in a garden wall as we climbed slowly higher.

Forest Orchids

Before long we turned off into the woods, and took a track leading southwards along the side of the valley.  Last year, we saw some exciting orchids here including Dark-red Helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens) and Creeping Lady’s Tresses (Goodyera repens).

This year, these were both still in bud, though we found good specimens of Common-Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia).  Misleadingly, the Lady’s Tresses was shooting from below a pair of Butterfly orchid leaves.

Every time we looked up, we checked the weather.  Clouds still enveloped the mountains, but there was sunshine across the valley on Badia.

Below us, in an area which had been partially cleared, we watched a roe deer doe with a young fawn.

The weather looked foul up the valley to the east beyond St. Cassiano.

We continued out of the forest into meadows leading up to the lake.  On the banks beside us, Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) and a fine Thyme were flowering.

Lilium martagon

The buds on the martagon lilies here were more advanced, but still not open.  We saw distant flowers of Orange Lilies behind fences and buildings, but none we could get close to.

Cirsium rivulare

As we approached the lake we found a number of different thistles.  First, the Brook Thistle (Cirsium rivulare), with multiple flower buds at the top of the stem.

Cirsium helenioides

On the banks of the lake the very similar Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium helenioides) was growing, with single flowers on each stem.

Cirsium erisithales

The Yellow Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium erisithales) hangs its head, and does indeed look miserable.

The woodland around the lake beyond the restaurant proved a happy hunting ground for me last year.

This year, with the late season, it wasn’t quite as exciting.  But I still found a number of orchids including:

  • Twayblade (Neottia ovata),
  • Common-spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii),
  • Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia),
  • Dark-red Helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens) in bud, and
  • first flowers opening on Gymnadenia odoratissima.

Photos of the last two only.

There were strong plants of Hepatica nobilis here, and Moneses uniflora in flower.

Pyrola chlorantha

But the highlight was this plant, which I am pretty sure is the Green-flowered Wintergreen (Pyrola chlorantha).


The lake looked picturesque despite the weather, and we adjourned for lunch on the balcony of the restaurant.  Ham, eggs and roast potatoes with an Elderflower spritzer, followed by affogato – what more could a photographer want ?

When we set off after lunch, the weather was even more threatening.

Melampyrum pratense

But the banks were beautiful – Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense) under trees, and then out in the open the usual valley flora:

  • Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata)
  • Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)
  • Goatsbeard gone to seed (Tragopogon pratensis)
  • Meadow Clary (Salvia pratensis)

Centaurea nigra ?

We passed a very striking knapweed – I think this might be Centaurea nigra.

Orobanche gracilis

Best of all were the broomrapes (Slender Broomrape – Orobanche gracilis) which were flowering in profusion.

Looking up the valley towards St Cassiano, we could see that it was raining heavily no more than two miles away.  But strangely, we stayed dry.

Lilium bulbiferum

And then we found it.  In the edge of the woods, at the bottom of a meadow below the path.  By scrambling about 30 feet down a steep grassy slope, I was finally able to get close to the Orange Lilies (Lilium bulbiferum).  When I eventually managed to get back up, passing walkers gave a spontaneous round of applause.

As we passed through the top side of La Villa, it looked as though maybe the rain was moving a little further away.

La Villa church

We had rounded the corner of the valley, and now had Sassongher in front of us.  But more immediately ahead was this very beautiful little church, consecrated in 1516.


On the path leading up to the gates of the church was this bronze sculpture, created by Lois Anvidalfarei, and entitled “Ipsum”.

Ćiastel Colz

Opposite the church is the back of a huge, square, turreted building, which dates back to 1536, Ćiastel Colz (

Unfortunately, this is not the best side to photograph it from – really, you need to be in the meadows below it, to see how it dominates the valley.

We continued along the lane towards Funtanacia.  Later spring flowers filled the meadows:

  • Geranium sylvaticum
  • Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
  • Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia).

Centaurea jacea ?

This knapweed looked different from the one we saw earlier.  I think it might be Centaurea jacea.

Campanula persicifolia

Among the Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocremis comosa), the white flowers of Campanula persicifolia were opening.

There was chaos and confusion on the road, with the preparation for the big bicycle road race, the Maratona, the following day.  But we had reached the bus-stop in Funtanacia, and before long a bus appeared, allowed to stay on the main road whilst other traffic was diverted.

Sassongher is Angry !

Back in Corvara, thick black clouds hung around the top of Mount Sassongher, which in turn loomed over our hotel.  We hurried down the hill.

To our left, clouds billowed around the Gardena pass, and we only got fleeting glimpses of the top of the Sella Massif.

We hadn’t been back in our room for more than five minutes when the heavens opened, and it did not let up all night.  Dinner was a quick rush across the street in the wet.

The following morning, when we got up early to get the bus back down to Venice Airport, the clouds had descended.  There was no sign of the mountains, or even the Gardena Pass.  It is easier to leave when the weather is like this, without sunlit peaks to lure you back.

That marks the end of this year’s adventures in the Dolomites.  I hope you enjoyed them.  I would like to thank everyone who has helped to identify the plants we saw, and above all my wife Helen, without whom I would never have got to any of these places.

Image of Jon Evans Jon Evans

Jon lives and gardens on the north side of the Hogsback on the border between Hampshire and Surrey, on a heavy clay soil. He is a long standing member of the AGS and has been treasurer of the local group in Woking for many years. He is interested in bulbs of all sorts, particularly those from South Africa, and has recently achieved his Gold Medal at shows.

However, he is best known within the AGS as an enthusiastic amateur photographer. For about 10 years he was responsible for organising the artistic and photographic section of the AGS shows around the country, and also for organising the show photography. During this period, he set up and ran the AGS Digital Image Library. He still visits many shows each year to catalogue the extraordinary achievements of the exhibitors, and is actively involved in other plant photography, both in gardens both public and private, and on outings to view and photograph wild flowers in the UK.

If you have any comments or queries for Jon, you can contact him direct at