Our trees and forests: learn how to recognise them
The geographical relief of our mountain valleys can be divided into four large strips, each of which is home to some highly specific species. The mountain level, which ranges from altitudes of 800 to 1,500 metres, is completely covered in forests, largely made up of beech, pine and larch trees. Between altitude of 1,500 and 2,000 metres, it’s the sub-Alpine level. The vegetation there is less dense but also tall. Alders, shrubs and junipers thrive there, as do rhododendrons and clusters of blueberry bushes, growing together on vast heaths where the snow lasts longest. Higher up, reaching altitudesof 3,000 metres, stands the Alpine level. From here onwards, there are no longer any shrubs and the snow that’s built up throughout the winter remains in valleys for part of the summer, forming firns. In good weather, little flowers mingle with the Alpine grasses while lichen grows on the rocks. At altitudes of more than 3,000 metres, vegetation stops growing. That’s because the summits are covered with glaciers!
The eech: able to reach up to 40 metres in height, the beech has smooth, light grey bark. Its leaves are oval, with a smooth outer edge and four or five rounded lobes. It flowers in April or May, depending on the region.
The larch: can also reach up to 40 metres, and, along with the bald cypress, is the only resinous tree to drop its needles during winter. As it grows older, its bark turns red and develops large splits. You can easily recognise a larch because of the little cones it produces, and the light green, short and soft needles on its numerous branches.
The swiss Pine: the ultimate high mountain tree, also known as the Alpine Pine, takes around thirty years to become a 1.3 metre shrub! However, it can live up to 600 years and reach a height of 25 metres. Its bark is smooth and grey-green when it is young, flaking off with age. Its branches retain their remarkable green-blue colour all year round.
Illustrations: Morgane MLYNARSKI