Kotýz National Nature Monument

Significant karst phenomena such as caves and rock arches, as well as thermophilous ecosystems of flora and fauna can be found at Kotýz NNM.
 
The national nature monument lies in the parishes of Koněprusy and Tmaň in the Český kras – Bohemian Karst PLA and in the Středočeský kraj – Central Bohemian Region. The monument was declared in 1986 on an area of 31ha and lies at elevations of 380-430 metres above sea level.
 
The protected area consists of a rocky headland above the Suchomastský potok Stream. Rocky cliffs fall from the headlands on the south and west sides, where we can see the dominant “Elephant’s Head Rocks”. The cliffs are built of layered, light-grey biodetritic limestone with a characteristic knotted texture. This is the facies of the Kotýz limestone of the Lochkov Formation (Lower Devonian), which developed in a shallow sea and was strongly influenced by marine currents. The top of the headland is built of overlaying Koněprusy limestone of the Prague Formation.
 
A total of eleven karst phenomena have been documented in the limestone on Kotýz hill. The most notable of these are the Axamitova brána Gate, Jelínkův most Bridge and Děravá jeskyně – “Leaky Cave”.
 
The Axamitova brána Gate is the largest rock arch in the Bohemian Karst. This natural formation was previously thought to be the torso of a collapsed cave. However, we now believe that it formed as an expanded fissure, because the space was formed in a thick seam of coarsely crystalline calcite. It now seems certain that this is a karstified, hydrothermal corrosion cavity. All that is left over from the original fissure is a rock arch (bridge) of 6x4.5x2.5 metres. Now we can see an open space with vertical walls and no ceiling with a floorplan of 10x13 metres. The 16-metre-long Ve vratech abyss cave can be found on the floor of the Axamite Gate. Archaeological research was carried out in the cave several times between 1834 and 1986. The oldest finds from the cave are a set of stone tools from the Middle Paleolithic. Neolithic settlement is represented by the culture with stroke-ornamented pottery. Settlement evidence form the later Bronze Age, early Iron Age, Medieval and Modern historical periods has also been found at the Axamite Gate.
 
Jelínkův most is a double rock arch, which spans a 9-metre-deep cavity with a tilted floor in the southern part of Kotýz. These arches are formed from a karstified calcite seam which is around 1 metre thick. It is probably based on the same calcite seam structure as the Ve vratech Cave.
 
The Děravá jeskyně – “Leaky Cave” has an impressive portal on the south-eastern edge of the Kotýz plateau. The cave is a notable archaeological locality, which was researched by J. Axamita in the 1920s and again by F. Prošek from 1951 to 1958. The richest finds belong to the Late Paleolithic period (Magdalenien) and include the well-known engraving of a horned goat on a shale tablet. Later cultures are represented here by the Neolithic culture with stroke-decorated pottery and several fragments from the Halstadt culture.
 
The forest-free vegetation which is bound to the south-western slopes and cliffs of the Kotýz rocky headland above the Suchomastský potok Stream is of the greatest botanical significance. Pioneer vegetation with basket of gold (Alyssum montanum), stonecrops (Sedum sp.) and therophytes can be found on the rocky outcrops with the shallowest soil cover. Species-rich rocky grasslands with the fescue Festuca pallens and the critically endangered forget-me-not Myosotis angustifolia can be found on deeper soils around the upper edge of the slopes. The forest-free enclaves above the Karmazínova skála Rock and the shaded rocky slopes of the Kotýz rocky headland are covered with moor-grass growths with the saxifrage Saxifraga paniculata. On the plateau the rocky grasslands pass into narrow-leaved fescue grasslands. The majority of the forest stands are degraded by the introduction of non-indigenous Austrian pines (Pinus nigra), false acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) and larch (Larix decidua).
 
Kotýz NNM is also home to a rich fauna. The insect fauna includes an abundance of owlflies (Ascalaphidae), antlions (Myrmeleontidae), beetles and ants. Notable gastropod species live in the oak-hornbeam stands and on the rocky steppe. Smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) represent the reptiles. A total of 68 nesting bird species have been recorded at Kotýz of which the most significant are the jackdaw (Corvus monedula) and the European eagle owl (Bubo bubo). The mammals include the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) and predators such as the pine marten and stone marten (Martes martes and Martes foina), stoat (Mustela erminea), badger (Meles meles) and fox (Vulpes vulpes). Kotýz NNM has been included as a proposed Site of Community Importance for its rocky and dry grasslands, caves which are not open to the public and for the Jersey tiger moth (Callimorpha quadripunctaria).