Čertoryje National Nature Reserve

The national nature reserve covers a territory of 325.6 ha with a buffer zone of 369.3 ha (Vojšické louky meadows) at elevations between 350 and 445 metres in the parishes of Hrubá Vrbka, Kněždub and Tvarožná Lhota in the Jihomoravský kraj – South Moravian Region.
A complex of meadows located to the south of the village of Kněždub, between the recreational zone of Lučina, the village of Malá Vrbka and the state border with Slovakia Čertoryje represents the most extensive herb rich Bílé Karpaty (White Carpathian) meadows with high landscape value and the occurrence of numerous protected plant and animal species. The name Čertoryje means “Ploughed by the devil” and shows us how the local people explained the frequent landslides which affect the meadows.

The geological basement consists of folded flysh of the Bílé Karpaty unit of the Magura Flysh. The soil types on this substrate are predominantly denser Chernozems with typical cambisol at higher elevations. The reserve only has a 100 m difference between the highest and lowest elevations.

A typical feature of the NNR territory is the scattered groves and isolated oaks, limes and wild service trees. Carpathian oak-hornbeam stands are found around the meandering course of the Járkovec stream. The predominant vegetation type is exceptionally species-rich thermophilous meadows with the dominant species of erect brome (Bromus erectus). In damper places this transforms into growths with the dominant moor-grass (Molinia arundinacea). A characteristic feature of the meadows are the spring resurgences and seasonal meadow wetlands, with a shallow fen layer (up to 20 cm) in some localities.
The rare and protected plant species on the meadows include 20 species of orchids. The most numerous of these are the fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. conopsea), early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), military orchid (Orchis militaris), lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia) and pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), which has its richest population in the Czech Republic here in Čertoryje. Significant species also include bumble-bee orchid (Ophrys holosericea), bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) and lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus). Species found on the wetland areas include early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), broad–leaved marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis), marsh helleborine (Epipactis palustris) and the fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. densiflora). Further rarities which grow in the reserve include the critically endangered 2934 sawwort Serratula lycopifolia and the wild oat-grass Danthonia alpina. Dozens of other protected plant species can be found in Čertoryje, including the gladiolus - Gladiolus imbricatus, bulbil lily (Lilium bulbifera), martagon lily (Lilium martagon), three iris species – grass-leaved flag (Iris graminea), Hungarian iris (Iris variegata) and Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), cross gentian (Gentiana cruciata) and marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe), purple viper’s grass (Scorzonera purpurea) and the cornflower Centaurea triumfettii. In damper areas we can find the small fern - adderstongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum), hairy spurge (Euphorbia villosa), the ragwort Senecio umbrosus and marsh dandelions (Taraxacum sect. palustria). Protected species which grow in the words and groves include bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum), white helleborine (Cephalanthera alba) and narrow-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia). Thermophilous shrubs such as cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) are found in the NNR as well as the very rare white or pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens).
The buffer zone of the NNR – the Vojšické louky meadows are also of botanical importance as the the bastard speedwell Pseudolysimachion spurium has its only locality in the Czech Republic and the marsh gladiolus - Gladiolus palustris does not grow anywhere else in the Bílé Karpaty range.
A rich variety of steppe and forest animal species bound to the extensive meadow complex with a great variety of vegetation cover live on the NNR territory. Many of these species are among the “jewels” of our fauna, such as the daddy long legs Egaenus convexus, which has its only locality in the Czech Republic here and also the harvestman Zacheus crista. Other significant invertebrates are the purse-web spider Atypus piceus and the great capricorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo). Here we can find a rich fauna of ants, wasps, bees and other Hymenoptera. The butterflies are represented by strong populations of twin-spot fritillary (Brenthis hecate) and lesser marbled fritillary (Brenthis ino). The burnet Zygaena cynarae, southern festoon (Zerynthia polyxena), sallow clearwing moth Synanthedon flaviventris and the clearwing moth Synanthedon loranthi all live here. The moths are also very well represented and it is not unusual to attract 130 species to a light source during one summer night. More than 1000 butterfly species have been recorded on the NNR territory.
Diptera species are one of the most numerous elements of the Čertoryje fauna. In 1984, the Protogonomyia species Ellipteroides adrastea was first defined on the basis of findings from this typical locality.
Reptiles and amphibians living here include the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) and common toad (Bufo bufo) and in damper areas the grass snake (Natrix natrix), common tree-frog (Hyla arborea) and yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata). In Čertoryje NNR there are important spawning areas for the common frog (Rana temporaria) and agile frog (Rana dalmatina). The fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) regularly breeds along the Jarkovec stream.
The NNR territory is a significant nesting site for birds which are bound to meadow and open grove biotopes. Birds which nest here include corncrake (Crex crex), quail (Coturnix coturnix), stonechat (Saxicola torquata), great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor), red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio), wryneck (Jynx torquilla), hobby (Falco subbuteo), golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), corn bunting (Miliaria calandra) and the barred warbler (Sylvia nisoria).
Further research will certainly uncover the presence of more important species, especially among the invertebrates.
In the past, feather-grass steppe grew on the territory of the present NNR and on part of the Vojšické louky meadows in the buffer zone, but these growths were destroyed by fertilisation and gradually ploughed up. Between 1999 and 2004 we managed to renew more than 80 hectares of these grassland growths by sowing with a regional seed mixture.
Before the NNR was declared in 1987 the more accessible meadows were fertilised, but most of the significant species survived on areas which were inaccessible for machinery, such as the grove fringes and the steeper slopes. From 1986 onwards and with the assistance of volunteer helpers some of the slopes which hadn’t been cut for many years were gradually cleaned up and opportunist shrubs such as hawthorn were removed. These areas and the surrounding meadows are now cut once a year.
An element of the NNR territory is the thousands of solitary trees and small stands of oak. However, the oaks suffer from diseases called tracheomycosis and are also affected by the semi-parasitic European loranthus (Loranthus europaeus), and as a consequence many of the trees are now drying out. Since 1996, individual dead trees have been removed every year in the winter. Oak seedlings are also protected from damage by grazing or hay cutting to maintain of landscape character of the meadows with groves. The oak stands are regularly thinned out to aid their rejuvenation.