Dwarf Shrub Heath

At the bottom of the steps, we are confronted with the dwarf shrub heath. It forms a transitional society, leading from the forest to the unwooded high alpine meadows. In closed forests the Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) dominates next to the Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and Bog Whorthleberry (Vaccinium uliginosum). In among the less dense wood at the tree line such as here we find the high brushwood of the Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum), which during flower, at the beginning of July, covers the forest border region with brilliant red. From its ancestors in the cool and damp mountain forests of the Himalaya it has inherited its susceptibility to drought. As an evergreen thicket it can only thrive in locations with sufficiently long and high snow cover above the tree line. The deciduous Bog Whorthleyberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), the Crowberry (Empetrum hermaphroditum), particularly the evergreen  Creeping Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens) are the only ligneous plants that grow even higher. On windswept, snow free locations the Creeping Azalea is the only dwarf bush to grow at up to 3000 metres and that can survive extreme temperatures from + 45 centigrade to -40 degrees centigrade. The Creeping Azalea is the only species of its genus. The simple shape of its flowers and its frequent occurrence around the poles points to a great age which certainly goes back to the Tertiary Period. It can be found in its natural habitat west of the Alpine Garden.

Dwarf Shrub Heath