Zahrady pod Hájem National Nature Reserve

Meadows and extensive orchards on the western slopes of Háj hill (573 m) above Velká nad Veličkou in the Jihomoravský kraj – South Moravian Region. The NNR territory covers an area of 162.3 ha at elevations of 300 – 480 metres and lies in the parish of Velká nad Veličkou.

Zahrady pod Hájem represent the last remnants of meadow growths on a marlstone basement in Bílé Karpaty (The White Carpathians). Numerous endangered species of thermophilous plants and animals occur on the NNR territory.

The geological basement is formed of Flysh layers with calcareous claystones, marlstones and calcareous sandstones and belongs to the Bílé Karpaty Unit of the Magura Flysh. On these substrates medium-grained typical Cambisol and Pseudogley Cambisol have formed.

The surface of the territory is varied and comprises grassland growths with belts of trees, orchards, isolated trees and shrubs. There are also 13 hectares of deciduous and pine forests and a number of small fields in the lower areas of the reserve. The undeveloped marl loams are covered with sparse growths of thermophilous vegetation with the fescue – Festuca rupicola, the fleabane Inula ensifolia and glaucous sedge (Carex flacca). Elsewhere the thermophilous meadows predominate with the erect-brome grass (Bromus erectus) and heath false-brome (Brachypodium pinnatum). In a few places we can find wetter meadows with the moor-grass (Molinia arundinacea).

The territory is rich in protected plant species, including the orchids – early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), military orchid (Orchis militaris), pale-flowered orchid (Orchis pallens), the globe orchid Traunsteinera globosa and lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia). The population of bumble-bee orchid (Ophrys holosericea) is the richest in the Czech Republic. Other orchids which occasionally occur here include pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), burnt orchid (Orchis ustulata). The reserve also plays host to two types of the fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea), as well as the dense-flowered subspecies (Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. densiflora).

Other protected plant species which grow on the meadows and forest fringes include Hungarian iris (Iris variegata) and grass-leaved flag (Iris graminea), cross gentian (Gentiana cruciata) and marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe), yellow flax (Linum flavum), purple viper’s grass (Scorzonera purpurea), erect clematis (Clematis recta) and purple milkvetch (Astragalus danicus). Species bound to the damp biotopes are early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) and 2 species from the marsh dandeliongroup (Taraxacum sect. Palustria). A humble sign that spring is on its way is the Alpine squill (Scilla bifolia subsp. vindobonensis). Woody species represented here are oak-hornbeam groves with cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and secondary growths of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in places. In the undergrowth we can even find bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum) and the orchids: narrow-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) and greater butterfly orchid (Platanthera chlorantha).
Butterflies which inhabit the reserve include the swallowtail (Papilio machaon), scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius), nicklerl’s fritillary (Mellicta aurelia), great banded grayling (Brintesia circe), chapman’s blue Plebicula tersipes, turquoise blue (Plebicula dorylas), purple hairstreak (Quercusia quercus), the webworm moth Hyphoraia aulica, the Lasiocampid moth Eriogaster catax and several rare species of Geometridae. Herbivorous beetles which have been recorded here include the flea beetle Dibolia foersteri, rare leaf beetles, weevils and apion weevils, the ceutorrhynchid beetle Mogulones curvistriatus and the pea weevil Bruchus brachialis. In addition, 25 Orthoptera species, 14 kinds of ants and 31 kinds of spiders have been recorded here.

Birds in the reserve include the wryneck (Jynx torquilla), stonechat (Saxicola torquata), red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) and corn bunting (Miliaria calandra). Occasionally the slowworm (Anguis fragilis) or the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata) can be seen in the area.
Before the NNR was declared in 1987, a part of the reservation had been seriously damaged by grazing. However, the unfertilised and regularly cut meadows displayed very quick regeneration. Most of the grasslands on the meadows and in the orchards are cut once a year and the hay is collected and taken away. A gene fund for regional varieties of fruit trees was established in 1991 on 3 ha of the territory. Dozens of varieties of plum, apple and pear trees from the Horňácko district were planted here and will be maintained.