Rhododendron-mountain pine scrub (Pinus mugo, Rhododendron hirsutum), dwarf shrub communities (Arctostaphylos alpinus), grasslands and tall-herb communities in the Alps, partly with rock and scree vegetation on carbonate rocks, in the east Alps with Rhodothamnus chamaecistus
France: only at the Col du Tende; Switzerland: not mappable in this scale; Germany: northern limestone Alps; Austria: frequent in the limestone Alps, also in the north-east Alps; Italy: Italian Alps; Slovenia: Karawanken
Scientific names of main plant communities and their most common synonyms (with author citation)
Rhodothamno-Rhododendretum hirsuti (Aichinger 1933) Braun-Blanquet & Sissingh 1939; Erico carneae-Pinetum prostratae Zöttl 1951 nom. inv., Vaccinio myrtilli-Pinetum montanae Morton 1927; Erico-Rhododendretum hirsuti Braun-(Blanquet in Braun-Blanquet et al. 1939) Oberdorfer in Oberdorfer et al. 1967 (Pinetum mughi ligusticum calcicolum Bono, Barbéro & Poirion 1967, Mugeto-Ericetum, Mugeto-Rhododendretum hirsuti).
Structural feature of the main community(ies) (layers, life-forms, etc.)
Species-rich two-layered stands with Pinus mugo and its hybrids in the shrub layer and frequent Vaccinio-Piceetea, Erico-pinion and Seslerion coeruleae species in the herb layer; poorly growing and often krummholz-like spruces and larches may be added. Hemicryptophytes as well as chamaephytes and phanerophytes are also frequently present. Usually at the tree line, and for edaphic reasons occasionally extending into the montane belt. Consistent with the mostly rocky soils on steep slopes, often developed as ribbons on ledges, and on plateaux also as large areas of low growing mugo pine scrub (Pinus mugo).
Dominant and most frequent species in different layers
scattered Picea abies; locally (central Alps) Larix decidua, Pinus cembra
Pinus mugo (dominant), Sorbus chamaemespilus, Sorbus aucuparia, Rosa pendulina, Lonicera caerulea, locally Alnus alnobetula; Juniperus communis subsp. alpina, Salix glabra, Salix waldsteiniana, Lonicera nigra, Lonicera alpigena
(rarely Clematis alpina)
Rhododendron hirsutum, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Erica carnea, Daphne striata, Rhodothamnus chamaecistus (east Alps), Salix retusa, Rubus saxatilis, Arctostaphylos alpinus, Silene alpestris, Calamagrostis varia, Polygala chamaebuxus, Globularia cordifolia, Valeriana saxatilis, Tofieldia calyculata, Calamagrostis varia, Sesleria albicans, Helianthemum oelandicum subsp. italicum (Italy), Carex sempervirens, Senecio abrotanifolius, Dryas octopetala, Primula wulfeniana; in acidophilous types: Rhododendron ferrugineum, Vaccinium myrtillus, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, Vaccinium uliginosum, Empetrum hermaphroditum, Homogyne alpina, Anemone trifolia, Anemone narcissiflora, Cardamine enneaphyllos, Luzula sylvatica
Moss layer (incl. lichens)
Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Plagiothecium undulatum, Hylocomium splendens, Dicranum scoparium, Pleurozium schreberi, Polytrichum formosum, Ctenidium molluscum
Diagnostically important species
Pinus mugo, Erica carnea, Rhododendron hirsutum, Hieracium pamphilii (Italy), Sorbus chamaemespilus, Daphne striata, Globularia cordifolia, Alchemilla hoppeana, Calamagrostis varia, Anthyllis montana, Teucrium montanum, Carex humilis, Epipactis atrorubens, Epipactis helleborine, Hieracium hoppeanum, Rhodothamnus chamaecistus, Dryas octopetala, Soldanella alpina, Carex ferruginea, Sesleria albicans
Two formation types of calcareous alpine rose-mugo pine scrub can be differentiated:a) typical basiphilous forms, on steep slopes where a restless microrelief prevails.Particularly on terra fusca as well as water-nearly slopes there is a tall herb-rich undergrowth with transitions to green alder scrub (Alnetum viridis).b) acidophilous form with a gentler relief on ridges, peaks, in flat areas or with a greater proportion of fine earths. On sites with a thicker humus horizon the subassociation with Rhododendron ferrugineum occurs.
Geographical variants (geogr. differential species)
Locally with Pinus cembra (Dachstein region, Radstadt-Tauern etc.); in the eastern Alps: Rhodothamnus chamaecistus, Anemone trifolia, Cardamine enneaphyllos, Cyclamen purpurascens.
Natural accompanying vegetation (most important units in complex with the name giving mapping unit, scientific names)
Carici humilis-Pinetum (pioneer community in the west on a few stabilised steep slopes); on water-nearly slopes Alnetum viridis; tall-herb communities (Adenostyletalia), alpine grass communities (Nardion, Seslerion, Caricion), rock and rubble communities (Asplenietea trichomanes, Potentillion; Thlaspietea rotundifolii), larch and larch-arolla pine communities (Larici-Pinetum cembri); Salicetea herbaceae; grass communities with Helictrotrichon sempervirens (north-west Italy); Homogyno-Piceetum, Adenostylo glabrae-Piceetum.
Adjoining climax and permanent vegetation (with numbers of mapping units)
alpine grasslands (B43, B44), fir and spruce forests (D29, D35, D39, D41), species-poor and species-rich beech forests (F96, F129, F132, F133, F142, F143).
Land use, substitute communities
forestry (substitute communities, plantations of economic tree-species, scrub)
grassland (meadows, pastures, herb-rich communities)
extensive summer pastures: Seslerio-Caricetum sempervirentis, Caricetum ferrugineae, dwarf shrub heaths; where intense grazing occurs: Poion alpinae.
arable land (characteristic weed communities)
settlements (typical ruderal vegetation)
Rumicion alpini (alpine huts).
Site conditions of the mapping unit
Landscape type, geomorphology
high mountain regions
Altitudinal belt and/or altitudinal range
altimontane, subalpine; (1400) 1500-1900 (2300) m on scree and deeper also on avalanche tracks
limes and dolomites
soil type, also the depth of fine textured earth (soil), stone content; (international nomenclature)
humus carbonate soil, terra fusca; syrozem, Proto-humus carbonate soil; subalpine humus carbonate soil; (chromic luvisols; chromic cambisols; calcaric, lithic and stony leptosols; folic histosols)
rocky, stony, loamy; stone-rich
soil moisture, water balance
moderately dry to fresh; (fresh: marginal alpine, more frequently in the north)
weakly acidic to weakly alkaline (pH 4,5-6,5)
oligotrophic to mesotrophic
Climate incl. local climate
climate type (following Walter & Lieth)
VI(X), VI(X)b, X
average annual temperature
average annual precipitation
average temperature of the warmest month
average temperature of the coldest month
-5 to -3 °C
local climate or other climatic peculiarities
Importance for nature protection
Present state and development trend of natural vegetation (degree of endangerment)
Not generally endangered and preserved relatively well; threatened only regionally by pasture clearing or ski tourism; more or less preserved stands; at lower altitudes development proceeds to the subassociation Rhodothamno-Pinetum laricetosum as well as the Laricetum. Gradually overgrows abandoned pasture lands. Because of their protection forest function, the stands must be preserved. In Slovenia it represents a strictly protected form of vegetation.
endangered communities, species worthy of protection in natural vegetation
causes of endangerment
Clearing, firewood harvesting and mugo pine oil extraction, tourism, alteration of habitats.
required measures for protection and restitution
Protection from pasture clearing and tourism is necessary in certain regions.
Localities of representative stands (loci typici) with state of protection
of the natural vegetation
Practically the whole northern and southern limestone Alps: Germany: nature reserves Bärgündle, Oytal with Höfats, nature reserves Schachen and Rhine valley, Watzmann, Wimbachgries, Steinernes Meer and Hagen mountains in the Berchtesgaden national park, primeval forest reserve Reiteralpe, primeval forest reserve Wettersteinwald (Bavaria); Austria: Steinernes Meer, Hochkönig, Dachstein; Lechtaler Alps, Karwendel, Karawanken; Italy: Dolomites.
of characteristic substitute communities worthy of protection
Most important references (author, year)
Aichinger 1933; Bono, Barbero & Poiron 1967; Braun-Blanquet 1949/1950; Braun-Blanquet, Pallmann & Bach 1954; Braun-Blanquet, Sissingh & Vlieger 1939; Credaro & Pirola 1975; Ellenberg 1996; Ellenberg & Klötzli 1972; Klötzli, Landolt & Zumbühl 1984; Mayer 1974; Mucina, Grabherr & Wallnöfer (Hrsg.) 1993; Ozenda 1954; Ozenda 1985; Pedrotti, Orsomando & Cortini Pedrotti 1974; Seibert 1968; Wallnöfer 1993b
Z. Neuhäuslová and F. Pedrotti; completed by K. Zukrigl, F. Klötzli, U. Bohn, M. Zupančič; P. Heiselmayer