Velký vrch National Nature Monument

Velký vrch Hill is a low cone-shaped hill (308m) with steppe vegetation, which lies around 1km north of the village of Vršovice and not far from the town of Louny in the Ústecký kraj – Ústí nad Labem Region. The hill is the only locality in north-western Bohemia which was declared to protect the habitats of thermophilous fungi of a Mediterranean type, especially boletes and agaricales. The protected area was declared in 1989 on an area of 24.99ha.
 
This cone-shaped knob of a relative elevation of 60-100 metres is not of volcanic origin. The form is due to the bed of porcelanite (baked firm Tertiary clays of Miocene age) under the summit of the hill. Porcelanite represents the denudational remnants of rocks of the North Bohemian Brown Coal Basin. The slopes of Velký vrch Hill are formed of a basement of Mesozoic marlstones and sandstones of the Coniacian and Upper Turonian of the Bohemian Cretaceous Basin. On the surface the marlstones are disturbed by erosional gullies and landslides. The soil covering is clayey and limey.
 
A total of 166 macromycete fungi species have been recorded at the locality. Among the rarest fungi are the solitary amanita (Amanita echinocephala), Becker’s ringless amanita (Amanita beckeri), warted amanita (Amanita strobiliformis), rooting bolete (Boletus radicans), devil’s bolete (Boletus satanas) and lurid bolete (Boletus luridus). The majority of the protected area is covered by oakwoods, with rare plant species occurring in the undergrowth, including fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) and broad-leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine), with purple mullein (Verbascum phoenicum), lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), purple milk-vetch (Astragalus danicus) and the Austrian milk-vetch (Astragalus austriacus) growing on the forest fringes.
 
The fauna of vertebrates in the protected area are the common species in a cultural landscape. The invertebrate fauna is of special note as Velký vrch NNM is one of the last sanctuaries for the critically endangered butterfly species – the Damon blue (Polyommatus damon) in the Czech Republic.
 
Velký vrch Hill is covered by acidic oakwoods with scattered limes and ash. The eastern slopes also have Scots pines and a high proportion of non-native Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) and false acacias (Robinia pseudoacacia).
 
Management activities in the protected area are targeted towards suppressing non-native tree species and supporting the development of the mycoflora. The locality is visited by mushroom collectors and it is necessary to educate them as they often mistake edible and poisonous fungi, or unnecessarily destroy inedible fungi, especially agaricales.
 
Note: The coat of arms of the nearby village of Vršovice includes the symbolic profile of Velký vrch Hill and the devil’s bolete.