ags logo

The Dolomites in mid-June – Day 10: Lech da Sompunt

February 3, 2023
Content Sidebar

With visits to higher destinations rained off for the day, we decided to take a quiet walk through the woods and meadows along the valley at Badia to the Lech da Sompunt.

We had planned to visit the rock formations at Cinque Torri, just the other side of the Falzarego Pass.  This plan did not come to pass – at breakfast the overnight rain was still falling heavily, and the mountains were wreathed in clouds.

A New Plan

By midday, the rain had stopped, leaving everything was sopping wet.  We decided on a gentle walk along the side of the valley, towards the Lech da Sompunt, a local beauty spot.  This walk was no more than a mile or so each way, and reasonably level, but it was good to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.


Many of the flowers we had seen in meadows higher up had already gone over in the valley bottom.  However, later, summer flowers were opening.  The long meadow grasses glinted with Campanula:

  • The upward facing bells of C. persicifolia
  • The hanging bells of C. rapunculoides, like a blue foxglove
  • The clustered flowers of C. glomerata.

Campanula rotundifolia

In shorter grass, the little harebells of C. rotundifolia were bobbing gently in the breeze.

Buphthalmum salicifolium

In shadier areas along the path, we saw the striking yellow daisies of Buphthalmum salicifolium just coming into bloom, along with St. John’s Wort (Hypericum) and thistles (possibly Carduus carduelis).

By now the sun was out.  By deploying our raincoats, we could make a dry spot on a seat to sit and have our picnic.

The browning grasses in the meadow around us held other flowers as well as the campanulas.  There were scattered flowers of Centaurea, Arnica montana, Tragopogon pratensis (?), Aquilegia atrata, and a small umbellifer.  Wild thyme topped the loose stone wall along the path.

Prunella grandiflora (?)

On the banks where the grass was cropped shorter, a Prunella (possibly P. grandiflora) was blooming.

Lilium martagon

Where we passed through bands of trees, fine plants of Lilium martagon stood back from the path, accompanied by the woodland grass Luzula luzuloides, and Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea).

On our right, we passed a little path leading off into an enticing, open conifer forest.

We continued past meadows and small hamlets, and eventually a local sawmill.  In the woods behind the sawmill, we could just make out the orange trumpets of Lilium bulbiferum.

Cirsium helenioides

Where the path crossed a wet ditch, we found another clump of Cirsium, growing with Water Avens (Geum rivale).  Again the debate about whether this is Cirsium helenioides or Cirsium rivulare.  This time, I think it is probably the Melancholy Thistle, Cirsium helenioides.

Across the valley, we had a good view of a huge landslip which had occurred a few years previously.

Above us, the limestone cliffs were still wreathed in cloud.

Yellow vetches

Familiar vetches were all around us – Honey clover (Melilotus officinalis) and the yellow Meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis).

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

In more shaded stretches, we saw large patches of Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

Lech da Sompunt

Emerging from this wooded section, we rounded a corner, and saw the picturesque lake in front of us – a carefully manicured beauty spot.

The little bar / restaurant here made an excellent place to stop.  We sat in the shade on the balcony, and had coffee, and a long cold dessert made of fresh peach juice and ice cream.

Cirsium eristhales

Sitting on the balcony, I gazed out at the wooded banks of the lake behind the restaurant.  There were tantalizing glimpses of orchids that I couldn’t make out.

It was not long before I slipped away to explore this wood.  By the lake there were plants of Yellow Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium eristhales), and a scattering of Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

Campanula rotundifolia

As I climbed up the bank into the open woodland, Campanula rotundifolia dotted the ground.

Gymnadenia odoratissima

I was right.  The orchids I had seen from the bar were the little fragrant orchid Gymnadenia odoratissima, and fine specimens they were !  Definitely the best colony of them we saw on our trip.

Ophrys insectifera

Once I got my eye in, it became clear that there were Fly Orchids (Ophrys insectifera) scattered amongst them.

Pyrola media (?)

Also growing in the acidic conditions among the heather, under the conifers, I found flowering spikes of Wintergreen, pretending to be orchids.

Epipactis atrorubens

As I moved deeper into the trees, Helleborine spikes surrounded me.  After extensive research, I have reached the conclusion that these were all the Dark-red Helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens). Mainly because the leaves of the plants were arranged in two opposite rows up the dark stem (see the discussion at the end of Day 9).

This is a plant I have long wanted to see; to find it in the UK I would have to travel a long way north.  Frustratingly, none of the plants were quite out.

Next to this last helleborine, there was another orchid spike in bud.  At the time, I assumed it was a late specimen of Gymnadenia odoratissima. But, examining the photo closely, the stem and bracts are very hairy.  Now, I have realised that it is something much more exciting, which I encountered again, later in the day.

Whilst I was wandering in the wood, completely absorbed, my wife Helen walked around the lake, photographing wild strawberries and the carp which came to be fed by visitors.

On the far side of the lake a little stream ran down, and filled a water trough.

Moehringia muscosa

Here, in the spray of a waterfall, I photographed a plant which I simply could not identify, and had to seek expert assistance.  I thought initially that with four petalled flowers it might be a Galium, or a little crucifer.  But it turns out that it is a little known, four-petalled member of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae), Moehringia muscosa.

Chamaenerion angustifolium

Much easier to identify, as we started our return from the lake, was Rosebay Willow-herb, Chamaenerion angustifolium.  A dreadful weed in the garden, but magnificent where it has space.

There were magnificent views, and a simple stroll back down the track towards Badia.

Orthilia secunda

But when we reached the tempting little path into the wood which I mentioned earlier, we took a diversion.  We thought, correctly, that this trail would take us across to a metalled lane which climbed into the forest behind our hotel.  Almost immediately, we found fine plants of the Nodding Wintergreen (Orthilia secunda), which we had seen and puzzled over on our second day.

Listera ovata

With this, there were Common Twayblade orchids (Listera ovata), and carpets of cow-wheat.  Both the mainly white species (Melampyrum pratense) and the yellow (Melampyrum sylvaticum) grew together.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

In more open glades, there were colonies of Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and Aquilegia atrata.

Goodyera repens

As we traversed a particularly heavily shaded section of the wood, with a high bank on the side of the path, covered in pine needles, my eye fell upon a little group of tiny, upright spikes.  I knew immediately what they were – another on my list of UK plants I have long wished to see – Creeping Ladies Tresses (Goodyera repens).

To see it in the UK, I will have to visit the pine forests of Scotland, or one tiny colony in a coastal windbreak on the north coast of Norfolk, which I have yet to locate.

Sadly, once again, none of the flowers were quite open.  How frustrating !  If only we had extended our visit for a further week.

Delirious with excitement, I danced a happy dance the rest of the way back to the hotel.  En route, we saw an interesting butterfly (I think the Dark-Green Fritillary, Speyeria aglaja), plants growing out of walls (Campanula cochlearifolia) and neglected spots in gardens (Geranium robertianum and Chelidonium majus).

As we rolled back to the hotel, the clouds were still lifting across the valley, where the chair-lift to Santa Croce climbed up towards them.

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. Jon is interested in bulbs of all sorts, particularly those from South Africa, and is progressing slowly towards his Gold Medal at shows, at the rate of roughly one first per year.

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