Do you often walk across bridges? The life without bridges would limit our existence to the single bank of the river. This small piece of the universe, whose purpose is apparently nothing more than a path that leads you to the people on the other side, shows much more magic than it may seem at the first sight. Let’s try to find out together – let’s take a walk across the probably the most famous bridge and see something different.
The Charles Bridge is the leading Czech medieval architectural monument, its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV. A legend says that eggs were used to enrich the mortar etc. But we are not interested in the history as the unique Baroque statues are absolutely boring to us. Saturday 4th August 2007, at 6 a. m., I was walking with botanists Pavol Eliáš and Petr Krása across the Charles Bridge and its surroundings and were interested in plants only. What species of plants can we find in such a place?
“The bridge is like an old wall,” said Palo Eliáš, our web colleague from Slovak town Nitra, who among other professionally specializes in the vegetation and habitats affected by human activities. “So we can find plants in rock fissures (as a fern Asplenium ruta-muraria), ruderal species transmitted by humans (as a goosefoot weed Chenopodium album) as well as species whose seeds have been spread by wind (like birch or willow etc.).” What was really interesting, that directly on the Charles Bridge we encountered one endangered and protected species – the Eastern Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris). Big surprise, however, showed through one sewer cover in the pavement of the Charles Bridge. Palo Eliáš suddenly once cried out: “Oh no, it’s impossible, this is a melon!” Indeed! The seeds of water melon (Citrullus lanatus) had been taken here by some tourist eating a melon and spitting the seeds out. It seems, that the seeds had been washed by rain to the sewer and then sprouted and now grow here. Unexpected and unprecedented rarity!
This melon adventure motivated us even more to explore the flora of the bridge and its surroundings. And indeed it was worth it. On the vault of the bridge we found total of 38 species of vascular plants – a relatively large number. Our attention was paid to the wooden ice-breakers because of the unusual occurrence of the White Goosefoot (Chenopodium album) and Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus) – they grow here directly on wood. The bridge pavement is heavily burdened by shoe soles of thousands of tourists, vegetation is therefore very rare. More plants can be found on the outer shell of the bridge and whole garden of flowers we can find on the bridge pillars.
For better imagination you can find the list of all plants species we found there.
Plants to coat the bridge, pillars, paving and ice guards:
Platanus x acerifolia
Taraxacum sect. Ruderalia
We subsequently descended to Vltava (Moldau) bank under the bridge and previewed particularly Malá Strana bank in the vicinity of the Charles Bridge. Palo Elias says that on the banks you can find typical representatives of bank flora (eg. Epilobium hirsutum, Phalaris arundinacea, Scrophularia umbrosa), but also numerous species that have escaped from gardens (Impatiens glandulifera, Tagetes patula). In addition to indigenous species we find plants from Southern Europe, but also from North America – really nice show! Altogether we counted 59 species.
Plants of bank:
Carex cf. buekii
Valerianella cf. locusta
We won’t be able to explore here in the near future because the Charles Bridge will undergo massive renovations. We believe that the Mother Nature will win again and the new coat of our national glory will turn green again to the delight of eyes of all passionate florists.