Špraněk National Nature Reserve

The Špraněk NNR was declared in 1949 and lies to the south-west of the village of Javoříčko in the Olomoucký kraj – Olomouc Region and its current area is 28.7 ha. The reserve covers the forested Špraněk hill with formations of karst origin and an extensive network of richly decorated caves and rare thermophilous vegetation. The reserve lies at elevations between 388 and 539 metres (Špraněk hill) above sea level.

Špraněk is a typically developed karst territory with swallow holes, karren, sinkholes, rock gates, an abyss and an extensive cave system. The Devonian limestone cliff is built on the culm (Lower Carboniferous) shales, greywackes and conglomerates.

The majority of the reserve is forested. Calciphilous beechwoods cover the largest area and in the undergrowth we can find the fingered sedge (Carex digitata), white helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium), dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), the bedstraw Galium sylvaticum, ivy (Hedera helix) and others. The tree layer is dominated by beech (Fagus sylvatica). In addition to the herb-rich beechwoods we can also find ravine and talus forests, where the beech trees stand alongside Norway maple (Acer platanoides), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos). A small area of herb-rich oak-hornbeam forest with the typical species hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), spring pea (Lathyrus vernus) and cowslip (Primula veris) is found here. The flora on the walls of the rock massif includes species of chasmophytic vegetation of calcareous cliffs such as brittle bladder fern (Cystopteris fragilis) and blue moor-grass (Sesleria caerulea). Rue-leaved saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites) grows in sunny localities with a shallow soil profile. Of the 300 vascular plant species which have been recorded here, a great many of them are specially protected, rare or endangered not only within the region but also within the Czech Republic. These also include common cotoneaster (Cotoneaster integerrimus), red spire grass (Melica transsilvanica), swallowwort (Vincetoxicum hirundinaria), martagon lily (Lilium martagon), the fescue Festuca pallens and the wonder violet Viola mirabilis. More than 40 species of liverworts (e.g. the earworts Scapania aspera and Scapania calcicola) and mosses (e.g. hair-pointed feather moss (Cirriphyllum piliferum), Homomallium incurvatum and Taxiphyllum depressum) have been identified here.
The caves are also a very important hibernating site for bats and especially the critically-endangered lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros). The highly-endangered barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) and greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis), the endangered Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii) and brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) and others all hibernate in the caves. Among the most interesting molluscs is the rich population of Delima ornata, a species from the south-eastern Alps. Other gastropods which live here include the column snail Pupilla sterri, Granaria frumentum, the glass snail Vitrea diaphana, Pyramidula rupestris and others.
The underground system of the Javoříčské jeskyně consists of a complicated network of passages, chambers and abysses. This was all formed in an “island” of Devonian limestone and by the flow of the Špraněk stream. The caves are beautifully decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, which is especially rich in two large chambers – the Suťový dóm (Boulder chamber) and Dóm gigantů (Hall of the Giants), which are among the largest and most richly decorated cave chambers in the Czech Republic. A major part of the cave system was discovered in 1938 and other sections were discovered during the 1950s. Currently, about 4 km of passages are known, of which 788 metres are open to the public. Many palaeontological finds have been made on the territory.

Marked tourist trails lead through the area and the nature trail has been reconstructed. The rock arch under the Zkamenělý zámek (Fossilised Castle) is the largest formation of its kind in Moravia. Špraněk NNR is included in the proposed Špraněk Site of Community Importance under the Natura 2000 system.