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The Dolomites in mid-June 2023 – Day 6: Colfosco and Ru de Pisciadu

July 28, 2023
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The following morning dawned damp.  We spent a couple of hours on our balcony reading and watching the rain before it dried up enough for us to venture out.  We planned to visit a few locations near where we were staying, so that it would be easy to seek shelter if the rain returned.


The chalet owner looked after a number of rescue cats.  Whilst we were on the balcony, one of them decided to come to seek closer acquaintance.  I think it just wanted to get inside out of the rain.

Cypripedium calceolus

Our first port of call was a wood near the hotel, where last year we found two established clumps of the Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), with flowers long since gone over.  This year we couldn’t find those plants – nothing sinister, we were probably looking in the wrong place.  However, we did find one small plant with tired flowers on it, looking rather bedraggled in the rain.

Neottia nidus-avis

Whilst looking for the slipper orchids, we did find a fine clump of Bird’s Nest Orchids (Neottia nidus-avis).  I don’t remember seeing any sign of those last year; this may be a further indication that we were in slightly the wrong place.

Ophrys insectifera

We also found Fly Orchids in the wood (Ophrys insectifera), and Dark-red Helleborines (Epipactis atrorubens) in bud.

Tragopogon pratensis

Leaving the wood, we took a path across the hillside meadows towards the neighbouring village of Colfosco.  There were Roman snails (Helix pomatia) on the grass after the rain, and the Tragopogon pratensis were starting to open as the day brightened.

Silene nutans

We had seen the Nottingham Catch-fly (Silene nutans) before, but not in good condition, so I was pleased to find and photograph this plant.

Hieracium pilosella

A fine clump of Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella).  It was growing in grass so short we could see the leaves clearly, and could be confident of the identification.

Veronica fruticulosa

The wall which retained the higher meadow provided a home for Veronica fruticulosa, and a Thymus, probably T. serpyllum.

Orobanche gracilis

Out on the meadow, we saw fine stems of the Slender Broomrape (Orobanche gracilis).  This is a parasitic plant which feeds on Birdsfoot Trefoil and Horseshoe Vetches.

Campanula species

I’m not sure what species this Campanula was.  Possibly C. scheuchzeri, or C. rotundifolia.  The bells seem very short for C. scheuchzeri.  The photo doesn’t show the leaves, but the upward facing flowers are a little unusual.  Everything was soaking wet, so I wasn’t delving into the grass to photograph leaves.

Carduus defloratus

The flowers on this thistle were just opening, and looked absolutely amazing.

Hieracium aurantiacum

It surprised us that a flash of orange turned out to be Fox-and-cubs (Hieracium aurantiacum), rather than the ubiquitous but lovely Crepis aurea.

When we reached the outskirts of Colfosco, we passed a house with an amazing natural rock garden – a single limestone boulder.  Opposite, this little chap was keeping his eye on us.

Colfosco church

Colfosco has a lovely church, but we missed the path which would have taken us right past it.

Pisciadu waterfall

We crossed the main road between Corvara and the Gardena Pass, and ascended a bit further before turning off to the left.  We had observed the Piscadu waterfalls from our balcony (first picture).  From here we had a better view of that, and of another cascade, both full of snow-melt and the recent rain.

We walked down to the river, across meadows full of flowers.  The valley is almost like Yosemite, with its green meadows, fir trees and limestone cliffs towering above all.

Trifolium pratense

Here we did see Crepis aurea, and many other familiar meadow flowers, in particular vast swathes of Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).

Veronica beccabunga

Among these familiar flowers, in a damp ditch, we found a single plant of Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga).

Dactylorhiza majalis

Crossing a marshy area, we saw fine spikes of Dactylorhiza majalis.

Trifolium badium

The bank by the river held wonderful patches of Brown clover (Trifolium badium).

Lathyrus laevigatus

Along the stream we found a striking clump of Lathyrus laevigatus.

Before long, we had crossed the rushing waters, into the woods, with limestone spires towering above us.

Moneses uniflora

In heavy shade under the pines, the Single-Flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora) was flowering.  Its hanging flowers look like ornate lanterns.

Cypripedium calceolus

But the plant we had come to see grew in more open woodland, quite near the path.  The Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus).  Last year when we visited and photographed it, the flowers were starting to look tired; this year it was in prime condition.

After this excitement, we walked slowly back down the path along the river, watching the clouds swirl around the peaks above.

Clematis alpina

Beside the path, Clematis alpina adorned conifer saplings, ready for Christmas.

Polygala chamaebuxus

Polygala chamaebuxus seemed happily at home in the banks of moss under the trees.

Salvia pratensis

Walking back across Corvara towards our hotel, we came across a meadow full of flowers.  The blue spires of Salvia pratensis glowed in the damp air and overcast conditions.

Despite its limited ambition, this turned out to be a very enjoyable and successful day.  We enjoyed the walking, the scenery, and the flowers we found.  It is always a joy to find a plant like Cypripedium calceolus.

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