Curators Violeta Stakelienė and Raimonda Šimėnaitė
In addition to old landscape garden and terrain modified for Botanical Garden purposes, about the third of the territory is semi-natural, mostly unmanaged environment. Secluded slopes covered in trees or grasses, gentle hills, hollows, ravines, marshy grasslands, streams and ponds provide a variety of habitats (an area with similar ecological conditions sheltering particular organisms) housing numerous species of native flora and fauna. Some of the habitats are no bigger than several dozen square meters, others cover many hectares.
Representatives of mesic and wet broadleaf forests, deciduous forests, dry, mesic and wet grasslands, standing and moving water bodies and coastal, ruderal and segetal flora are growing naturally at VUBG. In total 468 species, or 25 percent of all indigenous Lithuanian plant species, are found at the Garden, 80 of them are semi-rare.
Among the most numerous families of spontaneous flora found at VUBG are Asteraceae – daisy family (55 species), Poaceae – grasses (38), Fabaceae – legume family (25), Rosaceae – rose family (24), Lamiaceae – mint family (23), Scrophulariaceae – figwort family (19), Caryophyllaceae – carnation family (19), Brassicaceae – cabbage family (18), Ranunculaceae – buttercup family (16), and Cyperaceae – sedges (15).
Genera with the largest number of species are these: Carex – sedges (11 species), Veronica – speedwells (10), Salix – willows (9), Galium – bedstraws, Juncus – rushes, Potentilla – cinquefoils, Ranunculus – buttercups, Trifolium – clovers (all 7), Poa – grasses (6), Rumex – docks, Vicia – vetches, Viola - violets (all 5).
In addition 120 species of vertebrates are known to dwell at the Garden: 7 species of fish, 6 amphibian, 1 reptile, 76 bird and 30 mammal species; 13 vertebrate species are included in the ‘Lithuanian Red Book’ – a list of endangered and vulnerable plants and animals.
At the VUBG you are invited to discover natural habitats, where the interplay of living organisms and abiotic components shape the environment, and learn about species of both plant and animal characteristic of particular habitat. Throughout the Garden, habitats are marked with special sign; more information can be found on the displays on the site.
Usual plants here are small and warm-loving with narrow and threadlike, covered in tiny grey hairs or finely divided leaves. Typical examples include Hare's-foot Clover (Trifolium arvense L.), Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum F.W. Schulz et Sch. Bip.), Narrow-leaf Meadow-grass (Poa angustifolia L.), Eastern Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens (L.) Mill.), Spiked Speedwell (Veronika spicata L.), and Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum L.). Other plants differently adapted to drought also can be found: these are succulent plants, such as Goldmoss Stonecrop (Sedum acre L.), Tasteless Stonecrop (S. sexangulare L.) and other stonecrops, storing water in thickened leaves and stems.
On the coast present are plants characteristic of wetland forests and marshes, for example, Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara L.), Bugleweed (Lycopus europaeus L.), Yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus L.), Tufted Loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora L.), False Bristly Sedge (Carex pseudocyperus L.), and Marsh Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata L.). Nearest to the water, plants such as European Bur-reed (Sparganium emersum L.), and Common Water-plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica L.) are adapted to growing both on land and submerged. Further offshore reeds, bulrushes and relatives thrive, for example, Common Bulrush (Typha latifolia L.) and Common Club-rush (Schoenoplectus lacustris (L.) Palla). Further still, true water plants start to appear: Water Knotweed (Persicaria amphibia (L.) Gray), Floating Pondweed (Potamogeton natans L.), Dwarf water-lily (Nymphaea candida J. Presl) and Yellow water-lily (Nuphar luteum (L.) Sm.). Some species, like Common water moss (Fontinalis antipyretica Hedw.) and algal class Charophyceae attach to the bottom and grow only underwater.
Pine forest habitat is dominated by Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) with Common Hazel (Corylus avellana L.), Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus Mill.), and raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) scattered in between. More broadleaves are present on the edge of the forest, while spruce is the typical sight on lower and more fertile grounds.
Grass-shrub layer demonstrates great diversity as well. Here grow bilberry(Vaccinium myrtillus L.), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.), heather (Calluna vulgaris L.), Sidebells Wintergreen (Orthilia secunda (L.) House), Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense L.), reed grass(Calamagrostis arundinacea (L.) Roth), Sheep’s Fescue (Festuca ovina L.), Common Woodrush (Luzula multiflora (Ehrh.) Lej.), Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis L.), Leafy Hawkweed (Hieracium umbellatum L.), wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca L.), Common Speedwell (Veronica officinalis L.) and others. Plants characteristic to spruce groves can be found too, including Common Wood-sorrel (Oxalis acetosella L.) and Arctic starflower (Trientalis europaea L.).
However, mosses are the most abundant of all, especially Splendid Feather-moss (Hylocomium splendens (Hedw.) Schimp.) and Red-stemmed Feather-moss (Pleurozium schreberi (Brid.) Mitt.).
A broadleaf forest is typically divided into five layers. Topmost layer is formed by the canopies of the tallest trees, usually Common Oak (Quercus robur L.) and Small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata Mill.). Below grows rowan (Sorbus aucuparia L.), while lower shrub layer consists of hazel (Corylus avellana L.), honeysuckle (Lonicera xylostemum L.) and European Spindle (Euonymus europeus L.) among others. Underneath tree canopies herbaceous plants of various sizes appear: tall (up to 80 cm) ground-elders (Aegopodium podagraria L.) and Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea (L.) Vill.); medium height (up to 30 cm) Suffolk Lungwort (Pulmonaria obscura Dumort.); and small (up to 10 cm) Asarabaccas (Asarum europeum L.), Kidneyworts (Hepatica nobilis Mill.) and in early spring flowering and soon withering Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa L.) and Yellow anemone (Anemone ranunculoides L.), and Lesser celandines (Ficaria verna Huds.).
Pond is teeming with plants; especially successful is Whorled Milfoil (Myriophyllum verticillatum L.) whose flowers cover the whole surface of the pond. Along the shore grow sedges including Slim Sedge (Carex acuta L.) and Cypress-like sedge (C. pseudocyperus L.), also present are Common Bulrush (Typha latifolia L.) and Common Reed (Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.) among others.
Providing shelter for a number of bird species are about 10 species of broadleaf trees and bushes that grow here: Ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.), Grey Alder (Alnus incana (L.) Moench), Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaert.), Bird Cherry(Padus avium Mill.), Silver Birch (Betula pendula Roth), Norway Maple (Acer platanoides L.), Common Aspen (Populus tremula L.), various willows (Salix L.) and others.
Under bushes in the damp soil grows Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris L), twisting on the willows is Larger Bindweed (Calystegia sepium (L.) R. Br.) and Touch-me-not Balsam (Impatiens noli-tangere L.) is thriving in the shade; common nettle (Urtica dioica L.) is very abundant. Along the stream rushing through the woodland plenty of Cowbane (Cicuta virosa L.) and Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum L.) are growing.