NATURE / Grass vegetation

2922 ha in the park have no forest cover. These are mostly sand areas, which are 25% of the total park area.

The coastal plains, both near the lagoon and the seashore, are characterised as a separate geographical zone with specific climate conditions.

The distinction of flora in the Curonian Spit is defined by strong winds, drifting sand, soils that heat up quickly but are dry and infertile, salty water and sudden and frequent weather changes. All these factors together make the coastal plains similar to the steppe conditions in the southeastern part of Europe.

Walking across the Curonian Spit from west to east and inspecting vegetation, several natural vegetation stripes would be observed: the beach, foredunes, blown sand plains, blown-out remnants area, great dunes and lagoon coast.
The ancient parabolic dunes very clearly can be seen near Nida and Juodkrante.

1. Single specimens of the Baltic rocket
2. Primary dunes with sea sandwort
3. Marram - lyme grass - goat's beard - toadflax covered
    dunes
4. Sheep's bit - everlasting sand plain
5. Bog willow - crowberry zone
6. Lichen pine forest
7. Thickets of the dwarf mountain pine (with intersections of
    the Baltic rocket, marram - lyme grass - goat's beard -
    toadflax and sheep's bit - everlasting)
8. Birch forest

None of plants are able to root on the beach, which is continuously covered with the outwashed sand. Behind the line where waves do not reach, the vegetation of salty soils thrives. Halophytes like the sea sandwort (Honckenya peploides), the saltwort (Salsola kali) and the Baltic rocket (Cakile baltica), are annual or perennial plants with thick pulpy leaves. They make up the first barrier for the sand.

Foredunes are planted with marram (Ammophila arenarius) and lyme-grass (Elymus arenaria). These plants have long roots, which strengthen sand mass. The sea vetch (Lathyrus maritimus), the goat's-beard (Trogopogon heterospermus), the leafy hawkweed (Hieracium umbellatum), the sea violet (Viola littoralis) and Baltic toadflax (Linaria loeselii) sprout in the neighbourhood. Most of them have rough, pubescent or wax covered leaves. It helps during the sudden temperature changes. Also it prevents evaporation.

On the eastern slopes of foredunes the coastal gypsophila or baby's breath (Gypsophila paniculata) grow. The sea-holly (Eryngium maritimum), which is on the Red List of Lithuania, can be found here also. These plants have long roots that help to reach water from the deep layers and give stability in the moving sand.
Foredunes have few wooded plants. Willows, single pine trees and ramanas roses (Rosa rugosa) form some thickets. The ramanas rose grew from separate specimens, which were planted by foresters. Due to strong winds these plants do not reach their natural size and appearance here.

Further to the east, behind the foredunes, the blown sand plains lie. Later it turns to the remnant area. Vegetation is richer here and more diverse. The blown sand plain is overgrown with grey hair-grasses (Corynephorus canescens), rush-leaved fescues (Festuca arenaria), sand sedges (Carex arenaria), sheep's-bits (Jasione montana), breckland thymes (Thymus serpyllum), crowberries (Empetrum nigrum) and other grasses. Pine and birch forests grow distant from the sea. Alders occupy wet places.

The most ancient and the most beautiful woods grow near Juodkrante and Nida on the parabolic dunes. There are some magnificent pines, spruces and oaks, which are 100 to 150 years old. The creeping twinflower (Linnaea borealis) can be found in the vicinity of Juodkrante. This is rare plant in Lithuania.

The Great Moving Dunes were not strengthened before 1938. Currently only few places in the Grobstas and Nagliai Strict Nature Reserves are clear of vegetation. The rest of the Great Dune Ridge was planted with mountain and Scotch pine grown with grass vegetation.

The eastern coast of the spit features relief diversity. On the horns in the lagoon where sand drifting is not that obvious, annual and perennial grasses formed sparse lawns. Common reeds (Phragmites australis) protect shores from erosion. An abundance of wet habitats defines perfect conditions for aquatic vegetation. The grey club-rush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), the common spike-rush (Eleocharis palustris), the lesser pond-sedge (Carex acutiformis) and other species are rather common here.

The distinction of the Curonian Spit is based on the small microclimate zones, which appear due to the diversity in relief. Such conditions make it possible for plants, which are not used to sands, to survive. For example, in the Nagliai Strict Nature Reserve, at the southern edge of the Grey Dunes, the round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) found a homeplace in the marshy birch brushwood, though it is a resident of raised peat bogs.


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FAQ
9. Where can I rent bicycles on Curonian Spit and are there any bike tracks?

The national park has a special 51km long bike track


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