Děvín – Kotel – Soutěska National Nature Reserve

The NNR covers an area of 380.76 ha and includes the northern section of thePavlovské vrchy ridge with the peaks of Děvín (554.4 m), and Kotel – also known as Obora (483 m), between the villages of Pavlov, Dolní Věstonice, Horní Věstonice, Perná and Klentnice, at elevations between 257 and 554 metres. The NNR lies in the parishes of Horní Věstonice, Pavlov, Perná and Klentnice, within the Pálava PLA and in the  Jihomoravský kraj – South Moravian Region. The reserve was declared in 1946

The subjects of the protection are rocky, steppe, shrub and forest ecosystems on a limestone basement with exceptionally rich flora and fauna.

There is an inversion of the regular vegetation levels on Děvín hill and this is also a significant geological locality.

The reserve covers the two most distinctive klippen or peaks of the Pavlovské vrchy range of hills divided by the depression of the Soutěska gorge, which follows a tectonic fault line. Two separate bodies of Ernstbrunn limestone can be found on the peak of Děvín with calcareous claystones and glauconite sandstones of the Klement and Pálava strata from the Upper Cretaceous between them.

The flora on the NNR territory displays very high species diversity and between 1992 and 2002, 630 vascular plant species and subspecies were recorded in the reserve, of which 50 are specially protected. The dwarf pansy (Viola kitaibeliana) which grows on the slopes below the Děvičky castle ruins is found nowhere else in the Czech Republic. The large-flowered sandwort (Arenaria grandiflora) also has its only locality in the Czech Republichere. The summit of the southern peak of Kotel hill plays host to the strongest population of the rock sand iris (Iris humilis subsp. arenaria) in Moravia. The violet bird’s-nest orchid (Limodorum abortivum) grows in the open thermophilous oak forest on the south-eastern slope of Děvín hill and the hairy flax Linum hirsutum grows on the nearby open areas. As well as these specially protected species we can also find the following taxons in the reserve: common fumana (Fumana procumbens), Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), white or downy oak (Quercus pubescens), buckler mustard (Biscutella laevigata), yellow pheasant’s eye (Adonis vernalis), cross gentian (Gentiana cruciata), the aster - Aster amellus, goldilocks aster (Aster linosyris), Lumnitzer´s pink (Dianthus lumnitzeri), the squarrose knapweed (Centaurea triumfettii subsp. axillaris), the feather-grasses Stipa pennata and  Stipa pulcherrima, greater pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis), the dwarf iris Iris pumila, Hungarian iris (Iris variegata), grass-leaved flag (Iris graminea), the globe daisy Globularia bisnagarica, the milkvetches Astragalus austriacus and Astragalus onobrychis, the helleborine Epipactis microphylla, narrow-leaved flax (Linum tenuifolium), martagon lily (Lilium martagon), the toadflax Thesium dollineri, livelong saxifrage (Saxifraga paniculata), rue-leaved saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites), bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum), the hyacinth Muscari tenuiflorum, white helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium) and red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra), the yellowhead (Inula oculus-christi), wolfsbane (Acontum vulparia subsp. vulparia), the clematis - Clematis recta, the buttercup Ranunculus illyricus, snowdrop windflower (Anemone sylvestris), snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), fleawort (Tephroseris integrifolia), basket of gold (Aurinia saxatilis subsp. arduinii), burning bush (Dictamnus albus), the violet - Viola ambigua, moonwort (Botrychium lunaria), lady orchid (Orchis purpurea), military orchid (Orchis militaris), and the bellflowers Campanula bononiensis and Campanula sibirica.

Děvín hill is also one of the most notable zoological localities in the Czech Republic. Rocky steppe, forest steppe, forests and rock cliffs play host to hundreds of vertebrate and invertebrate species. On the sun-warmed slopes we could encounter the ground beetle Carabus hungaricus, the grasshopper Oedipoda caerulescens, the praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) and the very rare steppe cracker grasshopper (Saga pedo). Butterflies include the clouded apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne), lesser clouded yellow (Colias chrysotheme) and the great peacock moth (Saturnia pyri).

The south-facing rocky steppe is a suitable habitat for the emerald lizard (Lacerta viridis) and the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), whereas the slowworm (Anguis fragilis) is common in the forested sections. Birds which regularly nest in the reserve include the hoopoe (Upupa epops) and there are plenty of middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), collared flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis) and spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) in the forest growths. The only localities where the wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) overwinters in the Czech Republic is in the Soutěska gorge and the former quarry on Kotel hill. The bi-coloured white-toothed shrew (Crocidura leucodon) is relatively abundant on the steppe. A colony of the rare parti-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus) was discovered in a fissure in the rock walls, and a colony of Liesler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri) was found in hollow trees. Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii) and the barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) occur regularly over the territory and gravid females have been observed, indicating that they breed nearby.

The reserve was more deforested and more intensively cultivated in the past. The forested areas were previously maintained as a low or coppice forest in the past as a source of firewood in the past and animals were probably grazed here too. The reserve´s forests are classified as special purpose forests and partly as protection forests and nature conservation interests take precedence over commercial forestry. Our main aim is to replace the non-native tree species with autochthonous tree types and especially to remove the black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima).

The NNR territory was previously used much more intensively for economic purposes. Several smaller quarries were opened on Děvín and Kotel hills from medieval times. The vineyards on the south-eastern slopes formerly reached up on to the current NNR territory. A themed nature trail runs through the territory and was rebuilt in 2005.

Human settlements were already found at the foot of Děvín hill in the Early Stone Age. A fortified settlement from the Early Bronze Age has been covered on the ridge below the Děvičky castle ruins and the defensive earthbanks can still be seen today. The Děvičky castle, from the Late Romanesque to Early Gothic periods was first mentioned in the early 13th century. On the rocks near the northern peak of Kotel we can find remnants of the Neuhaus castle, dating from the 14th century.