Kralický Sněžník National Nature Reserve

The Králický Sněžník NNR is located in the north-east of the Pardubický kraj - Pardubice region and the north-western part of the Olomoucký kraj - Olomouc region between the municipalities of Malá Morava, Velká Morava, Stříbrnice and Sklené and the border with Poland. The reserve covers a territory of nearly 1700 ha with a buffer zone of approximately 1400 ha and lies at elevations between 800 and 1423.7 metres. The NNR territory represents a complex of montane and sub-alpine biotopes to which unique plant and animal communities are bound. These preserved biotopes are scattered among the secondary spruce growths and include remnants of natural mountain spruce forest, beechwoods, talus maple stands, peatbogs, springs and Arctic-Alpine grasslands at the highest elevations. Further notable elements are the karstic features along a seam of limestone and the boulder-filled channels of the Morava river and other streams.

The summit areas were intensively modelled by periglacial processes during Pleistocene period, especially nivation, with the formation of nivation hollows of which the most distinctive is the spring amphitheatre of the Morava river. Frost weathering led to the formation of castle koppies, frost-riven cliffs, rocky ridges, talus lopes and boulder fields. The largest rock formation which could be classified as a castle koppie is the Vlaštovčí kameny – Swallows’ Rocks which rise out of the western ridge 1 km SW of the summit of Mt. Králický Sněžník at elevations of 1230 – 1310 metres. A number of karstic features, including caves (Tvarožné díry and Patzeltova jeskyně cave), a sinkhole (on the Poniklec stream) and resurgences (Mléčný pramen) can be found in the crystalline limestones and dolomites in the upper part of the Morava river valley.

Within the system of the Sudetic mountain ranges, Mt. Králický Sněžník is more closely related to the Hrubý Jeseník range to the east than to Krkonoše range to the west. This is shown by the representation of flora elements such as the lovage Ligusticum mutellina, the oatgrass (Avenula planiculmis), the leopardsbane Doronicum austriacum and the bearded bellflower (Campanula barbata) which grow in the Jeseníky range but not in Krkonoše. Swiss mountain pine scrubs (Pinus mugo) which were first planted in Krkonoše about 100 years ago are not found here or in Jeseníky. Unlike the forested Orlické hory mountain range, Králický Sněžník also hosts groups of characteristic species which are normally found above the upper tree line, such as three-leaved rush (Juncus trifidus), hedge-garlic adenostyle (Adenostyles alliariae), starre sedge (Carex bigelowii) and the cat’s-ear Hypochaeris uniflora. A rare fungus species which has been recorded here is the stinkhorn fungus Anthurus archeri.

One of the richest botanical localities on Mt. Králický Sněžník is the avalanche slope below the spring of the Morava river, where the occasional avalanches have maintained a forest-free area, which is surrounded by the spruce forest vegetation level. Species growing here include moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina), yellow star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea) and the lungwort Pulmonaria obscura as well as rock redcurrant (Ribes petraeum) and Alpine rose (Rosa pendulina). A rarity is a single bush of the rhododendron – Rhododendron ferrugineum), which otherwise grows in the Alps, but this species was introduced here by Members of the “Alpine Beautification Society” at the beginning of the 20th century.

A number of mountain peatbogs can be found in depressions along the Mokrý hřbet ridge, with typical bog species such as bog whortleberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), hare’s-tail cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), few-flowered sedge (Carex pauciflora), bog sedge (Carex limosa) as well as the orchid lesser twayblade (Listera cordata).

The current fauna composition includes many of the typical montane species, with the exception of large predators. The water pipit (Anthus spinoletta) nests on the summit areas and the rare Alpine accentor (Prunella collaris) can be found on the boulder fields. Many bat species hibernate in the Tvarožné díry and Patzeltova jeskyně caves. Montane insect species such as Glacies alpinatus of the Geometridae and the false oil beetle Oedemera monticola inhabit the alpine meadows. The Carpathian blue slug species Bielzia coerulans has the western boundary of its distribution here.

The summit of Mt. Králický Sněžník is accessible from the Czech and the Polish sides and a themed trail leads from Dolní Morava across the summit to Stříbrnice, providing visitors with information about the history and nature of the area.