Vyšenské kopce National Nature Reserve

Vyšenské kopce NNR was declared in 1951 on an original territory of 7 ha, but was extended to cover 55 ha in 1992. The NNR territory lies in the southern section of Blanský les PLA about 2.5 km north-west of the town of Český Krumlov in the Jihočeský kraj – South Bohemian Region and lies at elevations between 504 and 609 metres. The main subject of the protection is the species-rich complex of forest, shrub and herb vegetation communities bound to the limestone basement with numerous rare and protected plant, fungi and animal species. The whole territory of Vyšenské kopce NNR was included in the National list of Natura 2000 localities as a part of the proposed Blanský les Site of Community Importance.

In the geological basement of Vyšenské kopce the predominant rocks are crystalline limestone and in places accompanied by calc-silicate rocks, amphibolites and paragneiss. Vyšenské kopce belongs to a mildly damp and damp hill country climatic region. However, the area lies in the rain shadow of the Šumava mountain range and leeward of Mt. Kleť and therefore has relatively high temperatures and low precipitation levels.

The most significant forest types are the open stands growths with predominant Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), which grow on the limestone basement on the southern slopes. On more acidic basements we can find acidophilous beech communities with wood-rush and fragments of acidophilous oak woods. Along the two streams which flow through the NNR territory we can find remnants of alder stands and a mosaic of wetland meadows. Part of the territory is covered with woody vegetation consisting of tall shrubs and low trees with predominant hazel (Corylus avellana) and the typical herb species of oak-hornbeam forest. A small area has the character of talus and ravine forest. Significant herb species in the undergrowth of wooded areas include red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra), white helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium), dark-red helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens), martagon lily (Lilium martagon) and variegated monkshood (Aconitum variegatum). The shrub communities with hazel (Corylus avellana) are extremely rich in rare fungi species.

The most important forest-free vegetation communities on alkaline basements are the broad-leaved dry grasslands and the mesic herbaceous fringes where we can find herbs such as snowdrop windflower (Anemone sylvestris), the St. Bernard’s lily Anthericum ramosum, cross gentian (Gentiana cruciata), thyme broomrape (Orobanche alba), Irish fleabane (Inula salicina) and others. On the small areas of rocky slopes we can find vegetation communities of calciphilous therophytes and succulents as well as chasmophytic vegetation of calcareous cliffs and boulder scree.

Forest animal species which occur on the NNR territory include the butterfly Scotch argus (Erebia aethiops), the timberman beetle (Acanthocinus aedilis), the ground beetle Carabus coriaceus as well as hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) and the red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio). In the forest-free areas we can observe a rich butterfly population including chalk-hill blue (Polyommatus coridon), Meleager’s blue (Polyommatus daphnis), the skipper Pyrgus trebevicensis and the broad-bordered bee hawk-moth (Hemaris fuciformis). We can also see many species of longhorn beetles, leaf beetles and ground beetles and the molluscs living here are also of note. Vertebrates include the slowworm (Anquis fragilis) and occasionally the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca). In damp areas we can find the rare woodland ringlet butterfly (Erebia medusa), the common toad (Bufo bufo), common tree-frog (Hyla arborea) and the otter (Lutra lutra).

The character of Vyšenské kopce has been influenced by human activities for centuries. The open grassland-herbal communities were formed as a result of grazing, which has probably taken place here since the Bronze Age. At present the species-rich grasslands in the reserves are regularly cut by hand or using machinery and opportunist tree and shrub species are removed and grazing by sheep and goats has been reintroduced on part of the territory after a 50-year-long break.

A themed trail with 15 information panels leads through the NNR territory. The trail starts from the Blanský les PLA Administration building in Vyšný and is 2.5 km in length for walkers only (no cycling). Visitors can learn a lot about the natural conditions in the reserve as they walk the trail, but also learn about the importance of cultivation and management in the landscape. The nature trail includes information panels but also an outdoor geological exhibition and a botanical rock garden to show the most abundant plant species on Vyšenské kopce.