The highest, pre-alpine parts of Kozjansko park – Vetrnik, Oslica, Bohor – are at a height of 600m to 1000m. Environmentally-friendly agriculture resulted in one of the most beautiful and richest habitats – highland dry grasslands boast extreme biodiversity.
Unfertilized highland dry grasslands for traditional use (mainly for one-time mowing and autumn pastures) are a real natural treasure that changes its appearance on weekly basis through the seasons. Individual trees or scrublands and hedgerows contribute to the additional diversity. Orchids, butterflies, and gilled fungi are especially common. In a single walk through a meadow on Vetrnik, one can find as many as 17 species of gilled fungi, which indicates the importance of protecting nature on national level. The following species can all be found here: numerous orchids (green-winged orchids, common-spotted orchids, fragrant orchid, long-bract frog orchid, pyramid orchid, etc.), Carniolan lily (Lilium carniolicum), wind flower (Pulsatilla nigricans), arnica (Arnica montana), Thor’s buttercup (Ranunculus thora) accompanied by star gentian (Gentiana clusii), as well as the unprotected Hungarian clover (Trifolium pannonicum) or Hladnik pincushion flower (Scabiosa hladnikiana). The quite common gentian cross (Gentiana cruciata) is host to the protected butterfly species of Alcon blue butterfly (Phengaris alcon). Among the more than one thousand butterfly species, there are numerous marsh fritillaries (Euphydryas aurinia).
Due to the colourful flowers, meadows shine in their full glory from May to August, while in October, a variety gilled fungi can be found here.
You can experience the diversity of dry grasslands by taking the Travnik science educational trail, which starts from the Vetrnik peak (708m) in the village of Vetrnik.
Meadow orchards belong to the habitat type of agricultural landscape or agrarian habitat type, which feature extensive use of agricultural surfaces maintaining traditional agricultural landscape and essentially contributing to preserving the biodiversity. This kind of habitat type is also one of the most endangered, which is due to changes in the use of agricultural land, a decrease in agricultural production and the consequent overgrowing, economic changes, as well as changes in the social structure of the owners. Meadow orchards belong to a group of important Natura 2000 European nature protection areas, since they are home to some rare and endangered bird species. This is why human activities must be adapted in a way that does not harm these species.
Meadow orchards are orchards with tall native and traditional fruit trees, under which the grass is mown and livestock is put out to pasture. Fruit species in such orchards include apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, walnuts, hazelnut and elderberry. Tall species are more resistant to diseases and pests, which means that no phytopharmaceutical agents are required.
Meadow orchards with traditional fruit varieties are a guarantee for an excellent gene bank of numerous not yet recorded varieties. Meadow orchards are places where the Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla), common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), scops owl (Otus scops), and red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) still nest. Their presence also results from the presence of numerous species of insects (ants, grasshoppers, butterflies, beetles, etc.). There are insect hotels being built in order to help solitary bees, such as the red mason bee and mason bee (Osmia rufa, O. cornuta). Similar help is also being provided for ladybirds and earwigs, which also enables the owner to be able to pick abundant and healthy food crops in the autumn.
Due to the increase in environment-friendly food production, meadow orchards are one of the most successful good environmental practices.
More than 50% of the area is covered in forests, especially forests of various types of beech, while in more southern areas, oaks and other thermophilous forms are more frequent. The holly tree (Ilex aquifolium), European yew (Taxus baccata), Blagay daphne (Daphne blagayana, D. cneorum), as well as mouse thorn and butcher’s-broom (Ruscus hypoglossum, R. aculeatus) are woody forest species that should be mentioned in terms of importance to nature conservation. Hellebores, especially the very rare narrow-lipped helleborne, are orchid species that stand out the most (Epipactis leptochila). The area is also known in other regions for its healthy fir forests and high-quality maple wood. In the forest undergrowth, groups of dark black hellebore and purple hellebore (Helleborus niger, H. atrorubens), winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), and both snowdrop varieties (Galanthus nivalis, Leucojum vernum) grow. Two animal species should be mentioned: the red goral (Rupicarpa rupicarpa) and edible dormouse (Glis glis). Two bird surveys have shown that the area is densely populated by middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), Ural owl (Strix uralensis), as well as by collared flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis) and black stork (Ciconia nigra). Numerous protected species of beetles, such as the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) and Rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina) are present – this is proof of the level of forest preservation and adequate percentage of annual dry wood mass. Bushes and herbs growing near the forests are a convenient living space for numerous Jersey tiger moths (Callimorpha quadripunctaria).
Wet grasslands (the largest being the Jovsi lowlands), though quite rare, still provide a habitat for marsh-living orchids (Orchis palustris), adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum), and bird species nesting in grasslands, such as the corncrake (Crex crex), whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), and grasshopper warbler (Locustella naevia). Among the numerous butterfly species, several representatives of the large copper (Lycaena dispar) and Stethophyma grossum species of grasshoppers can be found here.