Mountains born under the sea

The Dolomites are basically formed by sediments, calcareous deposits of prehistoric Tethys Sea, which came to light only with the rising of  Alps,  and formed mountains as result of the slow impact between the African and European continental plates.

The Dolomites  are the result of the special geological history of this mountainous region, an indissoluble union, a unique, beautiful natural phenomenon,  in the Dolomites are in fact associated with each other two types of rocks, the dolomia and the volcanic that normally are not because they come from completely different processes and environments. Since dolomia  is more resistant to weathering (sun, rain, ice, water runoff) than volcanic rocks that are altered and crumble easily, it appears that dolomite towering peaks are located near or emerge from the green valleys and gentle slopes, where are the dark volcanic rocks.
So, from what was once a warm tropical sea, full of life and furrowed by warm sea currents,  have formed the mountains we know today. Small organisms, corals, they could live and multiply in what once  was a gulf called Tethys, creating enormous colonies. With the succession of volcanic eruptions and the various cataclysms that are alternated over time, these organisms have accumulated to a depth estimated at over two thousand feet above a archaic rock platform. Over many millions of years, this layer of rock has repeatedly reshaped emerging and sinking into the sea, hiding various traces of these events in the form of fossils or, as in the case Pelm, in form of clearly visible traces of the ancient inhabitants of these areas, the dinosaurs.

A late discovery

From the standpoint of alpinistic history the Dolomites were discovered much later. Mont Blanc, the roof of the Alps, had already been conquered (1786), when the mountains between the Isarco and Piave were baptised and, ironically, took its name from a French nobleman landowner with the hobby of geology Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, (1750 – 1801), from which generations of geologists have contributed to uncovering the geological evolution of the Dolomites, and there are still interesting things to discover.

The Dolomites became known to a wider audience only through the travel reports described by two British, Churchill and Gilbert, and not coincidentally the first great Dolomite peaks was taken specifically from a Briton. John Ball, the President of the Alpine Club that, 19 September 1857, reached the summit of Mount Pelmo. The great pioneer of the Dolomites, however, was a Viennese Paul Grohmann, who in the sixties of the nineteenth century conquered for the first time many peaks in the Dolomites.

The flowers adorning the Dolomites

The presence of acid and alkaline soils adjacent is the main cause of the amazing variety of flowers. There are many botanists as early as the eighteenth century have documented the influence, on the world of plants,  from limestone on one side and the silica acidity on the other. So It must  make a distinction between calcareous and siliceous flora. Some examples: Rhododendron ferruginea (Rhododendrum ferrugineum) on  early rock (quartz porphyry) and rhododendron hairy (Rhododendrum irsutum) on limestone and dolomite.

In addition to common vegetation characteristic of the Dolomites, there are the so-called endemic species, rare flowers that appear only in certain limited areas such as. Real pearls as dolomite flora:

  • Campanula del Moretti (Campanula morettina) symbol of the Belluno Dolomites National Park
  • Primula a foglie intere   (Primula tyrolensis)
  • Coclearia Alpina   (Rhyzobotria alpina)
  • Semprevivo delle Dolomiti (Sempervivum dolomiticum)
  • Raponzolo da roccia (Phyteuma comosum)

Among the rarities of dolomite flora there are, finally, representatives of the so-called residual vegetation: flowers and plants that survived the ice age because they settled on a high and ice-free mountain ranges, which the Edelweiss is certainly the most prominent example.