CARSIANA Giardino Botanico - Botanični Vrt

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Italy - Friuli Venezia Giulia - Trieste

Institution Code: CARS

International Agenda Registration: No

BGCI Member: Yes

Logo of CARSIANA Giardino Botanico
Logo of CARSIANA Giardino Botanico

About the CARSIANA Giardino Botanico - Botanični Vrt

The Carsiana Botanical Garden is located in the Municipality of Sgonico, 18 km from Trieste, along the provincial road that connects the village of Sgonico to that of Gabrovizza.

Carsiana was created in 1964 through a desire of the founders, Dr. Gianfranco Gioitti, Dr. Stanislao Budin and Prof. Livio Poldini. Dr. Gianfranco Gioitti purchased and provided the land, oversaw the preparation of the botanical garden for over 40 years and was Horti Praefectus. Dr. Fabrizio Martini and Mr. Eliseo Osualdini also contributed to its development and its floristic enrichment, initially making use of the help of Mr. Giovanni Kocman of Sgonico. The garden was conceived with the aim of collecting, conserving and illustrating the spontaneous flora and vegetation of the Karst, but set in a natural context. The garden contains the native plant species of the Karst, located in their respective environments, which are laid out along the slopes of the doline that characterizes it.

In 2002 the Garden was purchased by the Province of Trieste and from 1st July 2016 it was transferred to the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Maintenance activities, those connected to the use, interpretation and promotion of the Garden are assigned to an external service and since 19th December 2018 the management of Carsiana has in fact been entrusted to the Rogos Cooperative.

The Classical Karst (Matični Kras in Slovenian) is a plateau of carbonate rocks running in a north-west south-east direction and covering an area of almost 700 square kilometres, divided between Slovenia and Italy. To the north-west the boundary is the flood-plain of the Isonzo (Soča) river with the reliefs of Redipuglia as its westernmost point as far as the Timavo springs while to south-west to the south-east the limit is naturally represented by the north-eastern Adriatic coast of the Gulf of Trieste and the lithological contact with the Flysch (sandstones and marls) in the south-west, continuing in the same direction, up as far as the Val Rosandra (Glinščica). From here towards the northeast, the perimeter is less clear, passing around Mount Carso (Griža / Mali Kras) up to and beyond the area of the Škocjan Caves, where the Reka River (the upper Timavo) disappears below the limestone, omitting (to the southeast) its flyschoid basin, while; to the north the boundary runs from the southern slopes of Mount Vremščica (Auremiano) continuing in a north-westerly direction towards the Raša torrent, the Branica river and the contact between the Flysch of the Vipava Valley (Vipacco) and the cabonatic rocks until they meet again at the confluence of the Vipacco and Isonzo rivers.

The calcareous substrates are very permeable resulting in a widepread aridity that can be locally exacerbated by the heat-reflecting action of bare rocks. The high permeability of this substrate is due to the fracturing of the calcareous rocks which encourage the infiltration of the water network that is now totally hypogeal, leading to a hydrography that develops at a depth of 200-500 m (Poldini, 1972). The hypogean Karst also manifests itself with caves that generally follow the position of the layers and with pot-holes that are formed in correspondence to subvertical fractures.

The karst lakes of Doberdò and Pietrarossa and the Rosandra torrent are almost the only example of surface waters.
There are about 600 floristic species gathered in the 5000 square metres dedicated to the botanical gardens. The area was chosen because, in this small piece of land, are found all the main geomorphological conformations of the Karst with their respective associated plant formations naturally present. The natural conformation of the garden has allowed the structuring of the botanical displays following an interpretation of their ecological characteristics and not according to systematic rules, thus allowing a more intuitive understanding of the link between the Karst’s vegetation, climate and geology. Carsiana therefore seeks to be a “synthesis of the Karst landscape” that provides the visitor with an exhaustive picture of the main ecological aspects of the area.

The environments that the visitor encounters in Carsiana are:
> Karst scrubland
> screes
> Karst woodland
> dry Karst grassland
> coastal cliffs
> sinkhole woodland
> mountain Karst
> water bodies
> karstic pot-hole

The displays are completed by some flower beds dedicated to the spontaneous medicinal plants of the Karst.

In 2018 the Regional administration of Friuli Venezia Giulia established the “Carsiana” interdisciplinary work group, in order to provide technical and scientific support for the definition of the operational guidelines for the management of the Garden. This work group thus has the function of providing the technical and scientific guidance needed to ensure uniformity and continuity in the management of the garden, including from a strictly natural history perspective.

The work group is composed of Fulvio Affatati (expert in garden management), Giuliana Renzi (administrative coordination), Michela Tomasella (botanist expert) and Marco Valecic (expert in garden management), and also makes use the collaboration of Laura Sgambati.

The activities carried out by the Group can be summarized as follows:
- the continual verification of the botanical collections
- the development of project proposals for extraordinary maintenance interventions aimed at the sustainable remodeling of the Garden, with particular attention to the use of the water resources, the use of phytosanitary techniques (only those involving biological control are allowed) and for the production of its own compost
- the setting out of specific management guidelines for each habitat represented in the Garden and operational indications for the maintenance and management with a view to a historical-philological restoration of the Garden
- the drawing up of guidelines and criteria for updating the functions of the Garden, in accordance with the provisions of the Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in the European Union prepared by Cheney et al. (2000) for European Botanic Gardens Consortium
- the development of guidelines and criteria for educational and interpretative activities

From 19th December 2018 the management service of Carsiana has been delegated to the Rogos Cooperative which carries out garden maintenance activities, connected to the garden’s use, its interpretation and promotion.

The logo of the Carsiana Botanical Garden
The identity of the Garden goes hand in hand with the relaunch of its mission and its cultural role, precisely because (as written in 1980 by the authors Poldini, Gioitti, Martini and Budin in the book “Introduzione alla flora e alla vegetazione del Carso” ("An introduction to the flora and vegetation of the Karst”), “Carsiana is an environmental education tool that, by influencing the conscience of the population, can contribute to a correct use of the local environment and its resources”. With this direction indicated by the founders, a logo was therefore sought to identify the most threatened and precious element of the Karst today: the landa carsica. These dry grasslands have always been perceived as not very productive and therefore of little value, but in reality they constitute an enormous patrimony of biodiversity, protected by Regional, national and European Union legislation and of which the whole community should feel themselves the guardians.
The words of the writer Scipio Slataper: “My Karst is hard and good. Each of its blades of grass has split the rock to sprout, each of its flowers has drunk of the heat to unfold.” echoed in the minds of the Working Group. Thus a flower was sought that represented the perseverance and tenacity of life that emerges from the rock and after careful consideration, the choice thus fell on Rock Knapweed (Centaurea rupestris), a humble and inconspicuous flower, disheveled by the Bora wind and yellow like the summer sun.
It is perhaps not the most “beautiful” flower in the Garden, but it is certainly the most representative of the conservation and protection objectives of this area. Centaurea rupestris is in fact a characteristic species of the vegetational association (which it takes its name from) the Carici-Centaureetum rupestris, a plant community better known as “landa carsica”.
Today Centaurea rupestris also represents the Region's commitment to protecting the most sensitive and unsusual environments of the Karst and to continue, in the footsteps of the founders of the Garden, in the work of raising awareness and education. This is the hope and commitment of the entire Carsiana staff.

Main Address:
CARSIANA Giardino Botanico - Botanični Vrt
Sgonico-Zgonik 55, 34010 Sgonico-Zgonik (TS)
Friuli Venezia Giulia Italy

Telephone: +39 389 5870090
Primary Email:

Staff Details

  • Director's Name: Luciano Sulli
    Curator's Name: Tina Klanjšček
    Plant Records Officer's Name: Tina Klanjšček
  • Total Staff:
    Horticultural Staff Number: 4
    Educational Staff Number: 3
    Research Staff Number:
    Administration Staff Number: 6

About the Garden

  • Institution Type: Botanic Garden
  • Status
  • Status: Private: No
    Status: State: No
    Status: Educational: Yes
    Status: Municipal: No
    Status: Satellite: No
    Status: Trust: No
  • Date founded: 1964
  • Physical Data
  • Natural Vegetation Area: Yes
    Natural vegetation area: Size: 1 Hectares
  • Landscaped Area: No
  • Total Area: 1 Hectares
    Latitude: 45.7370
    Longitude: 13.7492
    Annual Rainfall: 1000 mm
    Altitude: 250.00 Metres

Features and Facilities

  • Herbarium: No
    Arboretum: No
  • Micropropagation/ Tissue Culture Facilities: No
    Seed Bank: Yes
    Published Plant Catalogue: No
    Computer Plant Record System: Yes
  • Open to public: Yes
    Friends society: No
    Retail Outlet: Shop: No
    Retail Outlet: Plant Sales: No
    Disabled access: No
  • Number of Visitors: 3000

Plant Collections

  • Cultivation Taxa Num: 600
  • Special Collections:Karstic scrub
    Scrub is the most widespread habitat on the Karst plateau, quickly establishing itself after the Second World War with the abandonment of grazing. This formation is the product of the degradation of the ancient Karst forests, which must have consisted mainly of Sessile and Turkey Oaks, of which a few specimens survive in the Karst away from the coast (Poldini et al., 1980). Its composition reflects the geological and environmental characteristics present across most of the Karst, where the reduced soil thickness and permeability of the rocky substrate represent some of the factors that determine the development of a sparse tree cover, made up mostly of specimens with a tall shrub rather than an arboreal habit and low quantities of woody biomass. The arboreal layer is in fact represented by rather short and slender trees. Illyrian species such as Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), Flowering or Manna Ash (Fraxinus ornus), Field Maple (Acer campestre) and Montpellier Maple (Acer monspessulanum) are dominant. The shrub layer, influenced by the considerable amount of light reaching the ground consists of species such as Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas), St. Lucie’s Cherry (Prunus mahaleb) and Smoke-bush (Cotinus coggygria). The sparse tree density which characterizes Karstic scrub, allows the development of a rich herbaceous layer dominated by Autumn Moor-grass (Sesleria autumnalis) but there are also showy species such as Wild Peony (Paeonia officinalis) and Dittany (Dictamnus albus).
    The limestone scree habitat is characteristic of some areas of both the Karst close to Trieste (Val Rosandra) and Slovenian one (Mount Nanos and the Forest of Trnovo). Its main features are a steep and unstable terrain, the absence of a developed soil, the scarcity of water and nutrients together with an intense exposure to atmospheric agents. This is an inhospitable and challenging habitat for plants to take root in and it therefore hosts a set of species with peculiar adaptations linked to these difficult conditions. The thin vegetation cover, typical of this type of environment, reflects the challenging conditions of the stony ground in its morphological structure and spatial distribution. In these areas small herbaceous and shrubby plants develop, while the few tree species that manage to take root exhibit a reduced, almost shrubby vertical development, while the herbaceous species have very long roots favouring the uptake of water as well as leaves with a reduced surface area and a cushion-like structure to reduce transpiration.
    The karstic screes also play host to rare species of plants such as the endemic grass Leucopoa spectabilis subsp. carniolica, Drypis spinosa subsp. jacquiniana and the Buckler-mustard Biscutella laevigata subsp. raffaelliana. We also find imposing species such as Pyramidal Bellflower Campanula pyramidalis or less showy ones such as Shiny Bedstraw Galium lucidum, the Common Houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum) and the broom Genista holopetala, the latter an example of Illyrian endemism.

    Karstic Woodland
    In ancient times the Karst was covered by oak forests which, as a result of deforestation and grazing carried out for hundreds of years, were progressively destroyed. Today only a few fragments of these ancient forests remain, such as those in Val Rosandra and on Mount Lanaro.
    This type of wood is dominated in the tree layer by Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) and, in the herbaceous layer, by Autumn Moor-grass (Sesleria autumnalis). Other species that accompany this formation are mostly acidophilic species such as Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) and various species of broom such as Germanic (Genista germanica), Hairy (G. pilosa) and Dyer’s Greenweed (G. tinctoria).
    These species indicate that the forest in question is set on acidified soils underlain by flysch (marls and sandstones) or terra rossa, the insoluble residue of the chemical erosion of the limestone.

    Landa Carsica
    The landa, or gmajna, is a plant association that is zoogenic in origin, the result of the grazing pressure, mainly of sheep and goats, exercised for centuries on deforested areas. Its formation seems to have already begun by the Bronze Age (5,500 - 3,200 years ago) with a rise in pastoral activity to which the Karst was subject.
    This grazing activity led to the development of a vegetation capable of withstanding trampling and browsing, forming a low. discontinuous cover, interspersed with the rocky outcrops and growing on a primitive, shallow soil.
    In ancient times the landa extended across large areas, but at the present time, in which pastoralism is now very rarely practiced, we are witnessing a contraction in the area of this habitat as a result of the natural process of scrubbing over.
    In these arid grasslands there are numerous endemic species and subspecies such as the Tommasini’s Cinquefoil (Potentilla tommasiniana) or the tergestina subspecies of the Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna) but the founding elements of the physiognomy of the landa are the yellowish Rock Knapweed (Centaurea rupestris) and Dwarf Sedge Carex humilis. All these species are able to survive in conditions of aridity and low soil fertility.
    The flowering of the landa takes place between March and August and during this time frame it is possible to observe the wide chromatic variety exhibited by some of the most beautiful flower species found in the Karst, from the yellows of Tommasini’s Cinquefoil and Rock Knapweed to the purple of Crested Knapweed (Centaurea cristata) and the Illyrian Iris (I. cengialti subsp. illyrica) through to the intense blue of the Spring Gentian of the subspecies tergestina. Other species present on the landa include the soft thistle Jurinea mollis, the goldendrop Onosma echioides subsp. dalmatica and Mountain Pasqueflower Pulsatilla montana. The grassy cover is dominated by Dwarf Sedge with the presence also of the beautiful steppe-grass Stipa eriocaulis subsp. eriocaulis, termed “Fairy Flax” in local languages.

    Coastal Cliffs
    The southern-facing northern slope of the botanical garden permits some of the species that characterize the coastal area of the Trieste Karst to be displayed in this part of the garden. In this section the vegetation is dominated by Mediterranean scrub, represented in particular by the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex).
    Close to Trieste the Karst is characterized by the meeting of two climatic zones. Along the coast, characterized by high cliffs, the Mediterranean climate is expressed at its northernmost point, fading out into a cooler Illyrian-continental climate beyond the ridge. This coexistence of factors is reflected in a plant composition that sees evergreen species such as Bay-tree (Laurus nobilis), Phillyrea (Phillyrea latifolia), Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus), Wild Madder (Rubia peregrina) and Etruscan Honeysuckle (Lonicera etrusca), all typical of the Mediterranean coast, juxtaposed with thermophilous deciduous species of Balkan origin such as Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), Flowering or Manna Ash (Fraxinus ornus) and Montpellier Maple (Acer monspessulanum). The species encountered in the coastal cliff area are thus typical of the Mediterranean environment and their structure and physiology are adapted to this climate. Furthermore, on the sea cliffs of the Trieste coast, the absence of a soil substrate and exposure to wind and salinity creates an environment that is not suitable for trees to develop. Therefore these environments are characterized by low vegetation composed mostly of endemic species such as Pyramidal Bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis), Yellow Germander (Teucrium flavum) and Mediterranean Spurge (Euphorbia characias). Also characteristic of these environments are aromatic and / or thorny species such as Wild Sage (Salvia officinalis), Turpentine Tree (Pistacia terebinthus), Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Christ’s Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi) and Spiny Asparagus (A. acutifolius).

    Sinkhole or Doline woodland
    Sinkholes or dolines are one of the typical phenomena of Karst topography.
    These are basins the formation of which occurs as a consequence of a range of possible phenomena linked to the erosion of the limestone. In some cases they are formed close to rocks bearing cracks.
    Here, as it flows, the water dissolves the limestone by widening the cracks that slowly join together forming a depression in the ground. In other cases, the depression may occur as a result of the collapse of the roof of a cave close to the surface. The bottom of the sinkholes is rich in iron and aluminum, compounds that give the soil its typical reddish-brown colour. These terra rossa soils have the characteristic of being particularly fertile.
    Sinkholes are characterized by the phenomenon of thermal inversion in which cold, dense air stagnates on the bottom and where the temperature is thus lower than outside the sinkhole.
    The peculiar physical and climatic characteristics of the dolines has allowed the survival of plant species that arrived on the Karst plateau in the post-glacial period.
    They have thus disappeared from the plateau today as a result of the increase in temperature, but resist at the bottom of the sinkholes and in the mountainous parts of the Karst. One of the tree species that can be encountered in these environments is the Common Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) which is normally not present on the Karst plateau as it is very sensitive to periods of drought.
    In the field layer we find Asarabacca (Asarum europaeum). Thus these two species together provide the name of the sinkholes’ particular plant association: the Asaro-Carpinetum betuli. On the woodland floor there is also Dog's-tooth Violet (Erythronium dens-canis), Spring Pea (Lathyrus vernus), Wood Anemone (Anemonoides nemorosa), False Rue-anemone (Isopyrum thalictroides) and Alpine Squill (Scilla bifolia).

    Mountain Karst
    The species presented in this part of the botanical garden are representative of the innermost and highest parts of the Karst in which the cool climate and greater rainfall allow beechwoods to develop. Along the north-facing southern slope of the doline these cool and humid conditions have been recreated within the garden using a system of channels and communicating basins. The evaporation from below causes a cooling in the upper layers of the soil allowing the presence of species such as Hairy Alpenrose (Rhododendron hirsutum), Dwarf Alpenrose (Rhodotamnus chamaecistus), Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala), Pollini’s Primrose (Primula polliniana) and Henbane Bell (Scopolia carniolica).

    Water bodies
    One of the peculiarities of the Karst environment is the almost total absence of surface waters.
    This condition is mainly due to the permeability of the heavily-fissured rocky substrate. Any water therefore flows preferentially along underground routes, leaving the surface free of aquatic environments.
    The main exceptions to this are the lakes of Pietrarossa and Doberdò, in the Karst close to the River Isonzo and the Rosandra torrent in the province of Trieste. The ponds in the Karst, small depressions in the ground where rainwater was collected with the help of clayey material, were used for watering animals and to supply water to local populations.
    It is difficult to define a zoning of the vegetation that is found aroud these water bodies, as it varies greatly, depending on the structure, depth and position of the pond. They are important stepping stones that link the wetlands together, allowing hygrophilous species to move and thus acting as ecological corridors (Nimis et al., 2006).
    In the system of ponds present in Carsiana it is possible to observe hygrophilous species characteristic of these environments such as the Yellow Flag (Limniris pseudacorus) and Fen Ragwort (Jacobaea paludosa subsp. paludosa) which occupy the strip subject to emersion and immersion. The banks on the other hand hold European Meadow Rush (Juncus inflexus) and Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus). In the central part of the pond you can see the species with floating leaves such as the White (Nymphaea alba) and Yellow Water-lily (Nuphar lutea).

    Karst Pot-hole
    The bottom of the southern slope of the sinkhole houses a pot-hole, a shaft, the entrance of which is broad and almost circular (7m x 7m), revealing vertical walls that drop to a shelf at a depth of 17 metres. The cavity continues to wind its way down, reaching an overall depth of 39.5 metres.
    The presence of this pot-hole contributes to increasing the phenomenon of thermal inversion as it provides a further trap of cold, damp air within the doline itself.
    In these cavities the development of vegetation follows a gradient of temperature, brightness and humidity. Thus, at the mouth dominate shade-loving flowering plants and the species present in the shady field layer of the sinkholes. Below this band come various fern species, such as the Hart’s-tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium subsp. scolopendrium). Descending further we encounter mosses including the abundant Fox-tail Feather-moss (Thamnium alopecurum) followed at greater depth only by patinas of and green and blue-green algae.

    Mediterranean Garden
    The Mediterranean Garden was created in 2013 through the “Sigma2” project funded under the Italy-Slovenia Cross-Border Cooperation Programme 2007-2013, the European Regional Development Fund and national funds and covers an area of about 200 square metres located in an area with excellent exposure to the south and south-west, relatively open and close to the upper lip of the doline. Despite the altitude, the typical concave shape, quite protected from the prevailing north-easterly Bora wind, has permitted the recreation of an environment favourable to Mediterranean plants.
    The coastal strip of the Trieste Karst and its ridge constitute a sort of gateway to the Mediterranean, where the northernmost point of the basin coincides with the northern edge of of the distribution of Mediterranean vegetation. In this new section of the garden Mediterranean species have been introduced, both those typical of the Karst area and others characteristic of more southerly areas, such as, for example, Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Strawberry-tree (Arbutus unedo) and various species of Cistus.
  • Invasive Species Monitoring: Yes
    Invasive Species Policy: Yes
    ABS Policy: No
    Plant Collection Policy: No

Conservation Programmes

Research Programmes

Education Programmes

  • Education Signs in Garden: Yes
    Public Lectures/Talks: Yes
    Education Booklets/Leaflets: Yes
    Guided Tours: Yes
    Permanent Public Displays: Yes
    Courses for School Children: Yes
    Courses for General Public: Yes
    Education Programme: Yes