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Sardu

Natural environment
by Ignazio Lecca

The rugged hill strip that commands a view over Poggio dei Pini, with Mount Santa Barbara, is part of the wider mountain complex extending from M. Arcosu in the north-east to P.Sebera in the south-west and to M. Santo in the south-east.  A tangled and dense forest covers the backbone of the mountains with a thick maquis and forests of holm oak, with large remnants of primary forest. The geological structure of the whole system is substantially constituted of granites and granodiorites of the Paleozoic, apart from large expanses of paleozoic schists presenting rich fossil deposits.
The soil, with a very rough morphology, gravelly and loose, is one of the most common in Sardinia; not very deep, marked by streaming of rain water. The granitic protrusions of Pauliara,  Mount S.Barbara (615), M.Turneri (695) and, more western, M.Conchioru (740), marked by immense rocky areas and by wide bush clad or woody slopes ploughed by steep channels, trace the characteristic outline of the mountain landscape of Poggio dei Pini.


Holm-oak


Wild cyclamen

The environment overhanging the residential centre is characterized by vegetation typical of the sub-humid zone with a typically bi-seasonal, semi-arid climate: humid-cold in winter and hot-arid in summer. Climate has been the factor that selected vegetation. The environment shows a degenerated appearance because of: fires, continuous pasturing, uncontrolled tree-felling, besides damage from heavy tourist-vandalic traffic. Nevertheless is still possible to find the representative flora of the area.
Before fires, indiscriminate pasturing and cutting ruined it, the dominant species of the wood was the holm-oak, a majestic tree with dense dark foliage, a weak, cracked bark and polymorphous leaves, oblong and green, bright on the top and paler in the underside, with fruits in short pedunculated clusters. It can be often found together with the cork, an
evergreen tree with a globular light-green foliage, a thick and twisted trunk that appears red coloured when just skinned and then becomes almost grey. The bark is corky and the leaves, stalked, leathery, oval, with wide dandelions, are very hairy underneath.

The maquis, the whole of the vegetal species that form the mediterranean woodlands, took the place of the ancient forests. In the hill we can find the so-called "holm-oak maquis", where the holm-oak is accompanied by the lentisco (Pistacia lentiscus); the wild olive tree, an evergreen shrub with thorny branches, entire leaves, coriaceous with a hairy edge,
silvery in the lower page; the filirrea, a bushy shrub with linear lanced leaves  and the phyllyrea latifolia, a shrub or little tree with lanced oval leaves; the alaterno, an evergreen tree with a thick soaring foliage, coriaceous oval-lanced leaves, little unisexual flowers,
gathered in dense clusters, that bloom in spring. The wild pear tree is common. We can also find the madreselva, the creeper honeysuckle, the salsapariglia, the wild cyclamen.

The high maquis is essentially constituted by the strawberry tree, evergreen shrub or tree with a bark that flakes, coriaceous, bright and indented leaves, white or flesh-coloured  flowers gathered in hanging clusters, with a globulous, beautiful red berry. Associated with the strawberry tree we find the arboreus heather, a shrub with a flashy thickening at the log, narrow linear rigid leaves, young branches with white hair, white pendulous flowers with a campanulate crown, forming hanging clusters.


Euphorbia


Carob tree


In the lower lands there are a lot of carob trees, which is an evergreen tree with expanded dark-green foliage, a grooved trunk divided into strong branches. The fruit is made of a big fleshy leathery legume, ripening in autumn. Even the red juniper is found here - an ever-green conifer that can reach a height of 30 feet. It's characterised by a beautiful slender pyramidal shape; the dwarf juniperus is a little tree or shrub with an untidy and expanded foliage.
In the S.Barbara hill there is a mimosa specimen, which was perhaps planted by Earl Grottanelli who worked in the Capoterra area in the '20s-'30s.
The "low maquis" or "cystus maquis" is mainly constituted of different species of cystus: Cystus salvolio, a shrub about 3 feet tall, with starry hair, wrinkled oval and oblong leaves,  white flowers  about 2 inches large, gathered in 2-4, and oval hairy capsule;  Cystus villoso, a shrub growing up to 5 feet, white with starred and long-simple hair, variable leaves, sub-circled-oblong-lanced, with big solitary rosy
flowers; white cystus, shrub or little tree, a viscous plant with linear-lanced leaves, rough, hairy and large, with white flowers in clusters of 2-8 flowers.    Cystus is associated with the stecade, a little branchy shrub with leaves connected to the knots in little bundles, perfectly whole, velvet-white up and down with dense and briefly hooked spikes, with dark-purple flowers, fertile, white-purple,rounded-heart shaped bracts. Another very common plant is
the myrtle, an evergreen shrub with a bark that's reddish at first and becomes ash-coloured, hairless, leathery, oval, bright leaves with a pleasant fragrance, white, middle-sized flowers, solitary on a long and delicate armpit peduncle, an ova blue-blackish coloured berry; Corsican Broom, a hairless shrub with very branchy and tangled stalks, oval leaflets, with yellow flowers rarely solitary, normally 2 -6 gathered on lateral twigs; Efedroide Broom, a shrub that can reach the height of 7 feet, with frail branches, clovered lower leaves with linear leaflets.
The upper leaves are simple and small, the flowers are yellow, fragrant, solitary, alternate and form drooping  twigs;  These vegetal species are seasonally accompanied by specimens of Euphorbia, Leguminosae, Rubiaceae, Scrophulariaceae and umbrellifearae, even species characteristic of the humid areas along the banks of the S. Girolamo river  (Tamus, Selaginella, Asplenium, Polypodium, Lupinus and so on).
In the gravel bank of the river we can find the Oleander, the Alder and the Poplar.
But the flora of the area that surrounds Poggio dei Pini is much richer.
The small wild orchids deserve a special mention. Their small size helped to save them from extinction (until now), even if prevents us from properly appreciating them. We have to say that wild orchids represents the synthesis of a succession of very interesting structural
modifications that changes the ancestral flower in order to help cross pollination through pronotal insects. With this object the modifications concerned especially the labellum.
Another plant that forms low cushions in the areas where the soil is dryer and more degenerated, deserves a special mention: it's the Stachys Glutinosa, a Sardinian-Corsican endemism that can be found even in the Capraia island, and is philogenetically very old.
The most frequent guests of the Poggio dei Pini lake are the Fulicas (sardinian: puliga); it's a squat and black bird that can grow to about 1 foot long. It can be distinguished from the Moor hen by its dimensions, from the beak and from the white and well-visible frontal plate. It is
not a very good flier, using its claws to help gain elevation when taking off from water.
The Moor hens (lat.:Gallinula chloropus - sard.:Pudda de aqua) are very common, 1 foot long, red beak and plate in both sexes; towards evening they get out of the reed-thicket gathered in little groups and, if frightened, they run with a short flight to take refuge in the
reed-thicket, while the Fulicas swim or fly in the direction of the centre of the pool. It has a high song, while that of the Fulica is shorter and more tart.
The Moor hen is a Fulica's close relative, but it has fewer requirements for vegetation and water territory.
Another guest of the Poggio dei Pini pool is the Tuffetto, meaning "little dive"  (lat.: Podiceps ruficollis - sard.:corruxioni de mari). It's small and compact (length 11 inches), with short webbed claws, very awkward on the ground but a real master of immersion. It is a generally
dark bird - in spring it shows a red spot by the side of the head, in winter it can be mistaken for the little Svasso.

These "guests" winter in our lakes and would nest there all year round if they weren't  disturbed by the "sunday tourists" and by  boys. Similarly many others guests would nest there: Garzettas (lat.: Egretta garzetta - sard.: gigetta), Mallards (lat.: Anas platyrhynchos - sard.: Anadi conca birdi), Whistlers (lat.: Anas penelope - sard.: Littariu), Codonis (lat.: Anas acuta- sard.: Carsciau), Mestolonis (lat.: Anas clypeata- sard.: Picca stogu), Alzavoles (lat.: Anas crecca- sard.: Zuzzu). It should be enough not to bother them.  But the waters of the pools hide other animals: Perch-Trouts, Tenches, Carps, Eels.
The only subject left is our sky, where sparrows, buzzards, hawks, grucciones, jays, partridges, hoopoes, trigognolos and owl fly.

(translated by Giorgio Plazzotta and Jenny Setchell)

 

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