Swabian Jura

The Swabian Jura is an geologically old, and thus rather flat mountain range, in the southwest of Germany with a harsh drop-off to the north west called "Albtrauf" and a soft slope to the south east. It consists mostly of limestone formed in the Jurassic Age, which is rich in fossils from the ever-present Ammonites to exceptionally well preserved specimen of Sea Crocodiles, Ichthyosauria, Pterosauria and even Sea Lily colonies. The porous structure of limestone makes the area unusually dry, as the water quickly drains through the rock, forming extensive cave systems. The local climate ranges from the warm viticultural climate towards the river Neckar, to some high valleys which actually can have ground frost in the midst of summer despite reaching to only about 800 m above sea level.

Poor soils, drought, and difficult climate formed special types of extensive usage typically for the area: orchard meadows in the lower parts and juniper heath-land in the higher regions. The latter one is especially famous for its botanical and insect diversity. The areas need to be kept in shape by roaming shepherds to avoid the return of the original deciduous woodland vegetation. All photos below from Martin Bohnet.

View down the Albtrauf with the Hohenstaufen, origin of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty, Martin Bohnettypical high valley on the Swabian Jura, Martin Bohnetmorning fog on the Swabian Jura, Martin BohnetSheep keeping the landscape open, Martin BohnetBee Hawk Moth, Martin Bohnet

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While the area is most famous for its orchids, the non-geophytic subalpine vegetation has its own highlights like gentians, gold, silver and ball thistles, broomrapes and relatives, and many more.

Gentianella germanica, Martin BohnetGentiana verna, Martin BohnetSilver Thistle, Martin BohnetGold Thistle, Martin BohnetEchinops species, Martin Bohnet
Orobanche lutea, Martin BohnetMelampyrum arvense, Martin BohnetPolygala species, Martin BohnetSaxifraga paniculata, Martin BohnetAtropa belladonna, Martin Bohnet

The following species fall into the scope of our wiki:


Allium ursinum is quite common in the forests of the Swabian Jura and is widely used in local seasonal dishes. Despite the strong garlic smell, there have been fatal misidentifications with poisonous plants in the past, including Convallaria, Arum and Colchicum.

Allium ursinum, Martin BohnetAllium ursinum, Martin Bohnet

Anemone s.l.

Two species about to be split off into the new genus Anemonoides are quite common spring ephemerals. While the white and sometimes pink A. nemorosa can cover whole forest floors, A. ranunculoides accompanies ditches and streams. Though both can hybridize, I've yet to find such a hybrid in the wild.

Anemonoides nemorosa white form, Martin BohnetAnemonoides nemorosa pink form, Martin BohnetAnemonoides nemorosa in habitat, Martin BohnetAnemonoides ranunculoides, Martin Bohnet

Far less common are Hepatica nobilis and Pulsatilla vulgaris, with the former one being another forest spring ephemeral, while the latter prefers juniper grassland in full sun.

Hepatica nobilis, Martin BohnetHepatica nobilis, Martin BohnetPulsatilla vulgaris, Martin BohnetPulsatilla vulgaris, Martin BohnetPulsatilla vulgaris seeds, Martin Bohnet


Anthericum ramosum enjoys hot and dry habitats in the juniper grassland.

Anthericum ramosum, Martin BohnetAnthericum ramosum, Martin Bohnet


Despite its name, Arum maculatum has completely spot-free leaves in its Swabian population.

Arum maculatum, greenish form, Martin BohnetArum maculatum, purplish form (rare), Martin BohnetArum maculatum fruit, Martin Bohnet


Asarum europaeum is a hidden gem in the forests of the Swabian Jura - virtually invisible to those who don't search for it.

Asarum europaeum, flowering near Göppingen, Germany. Martin BohnetAsarum europaeum freed from surrounding leaves by Martin Bohnet


Cardamine bulbifera is one of the rare cases of Brassicaceae with a rhizome and even bulbils in the leaf axils. It is common but not abundant in the forests of the Swabian Jura.

Cardamine_bulbifera, Martin BohnetCardamine_bulbifera, bulbil detail, Martin Bohnet


Colchicum autumnale flowers in September on the Swabian Jura. It is especially common in orchard meadows.

Colchicum autumnale, Martin BohnetColchicum autumnale, Martin BohnetColchicum autumnale white form in habitat, Martin BohnetColchicum autumnale seedstand, Martin Bohnet


Convallaria majalis is common all over middle Europe, and is of course also present here.

Convallaria majalis, Martin BohnetConvallaria majalis, Martin Bohnet


Together with Anemone nemorosa, Corydalis cava is one of the main spring ephemerals to cover whole forest floors in the Swabian Jura.

Corydalis cava purplish form, Martin BohnetCorydalis cava white form, Martin BohnetCorydalis cava in habitat, Martin Bohnet


While we usually don't have Orobanchaceae on the wiki, Lathraea squamaria fills our description by being a perennial growing from an underground rhizome, even though it additionally connects to the roots of Alder, Hazel or Populus trees via a haustorium. The whitish to pink, short lived flowers are the only evidence of this plant above ground.

Lathraea squamaria, Martin BohnetLathraea squamaria, Martin BohnetLathraea squamaria, Martin Bohnet


The family of Liliaceae is present with 3 representatives on the Swabian Jura. The tiny Gagea lutea prefers wet areas and slowly recovers from the mistakes of the land consolidation projects of the 1960s as small streams are re-naturalized. The status as a native is somewhat disputed for Fritillaria meleagris which some interpret as a garden escapee from the 17th century.

Gagea lutea, not fully open on a cloudy day, Martin BohnetGagea lutea, Martin BohnetFritillaria meleagris, Martin BohnetFritillaria meleagris, Martin Bohnet

The most impressive lily on the Swabian Jura is Lilium martagon, which makes a stunning sight in light forests.

Lilium martagon, Martin BohnetLilium martagon, Martin BohnetLilium martagon white specimen, Martin BohnetLilium martagon colony, Martin BohnetLilium martagon seed stand, Martin Bohnet


The orchids on the Swabian Jura include species of three different tribes: the orchidineae, the neottieae and the cypripedioideae. Likewise diverse is their preferred habitat from dark, light-less forests to the blazing heat of south-facing dry grassland slopes.


Anacamptis pyramidalis flowers towards the end of the main orchid season at the Swabian Jura, around June.

Anacamptis pyramidalis, Martin BohnetAnacamptis pyramidalis, Martin BohnetAnacamptis pyramidalis, Martin BohnetAnacamptis pyramidalis, Martin Bohnet


The most common species of Cephalanthera in the Swabian Jura is Cephalanthera damasonium, which can be locally abundant and sometimes hybridizes with the less common Cephalanthera longifolia. Even more rare is Cephalanthera rubra. All of them prefer light forest habitats with filtered light.

Cephalanthera damasonium, Martin BohnetCephalanthera, likely a hybrid of damasonium and longifolia, Martin BohnetCephalanthera rubra, Martin Bohnet


Cypripedium calceolus can be found on the Swabian Jura, but the author has still to run into some specimen to photograph.


According to the AHO (Arbeitskreis Heimische Orchideen = committee for native orchids), several species of Epipactis are present on the Swabian Jura - unfortunately the following was already in seed stage to obscure its true species:

Epipactis species, Martin Bohnet


This genus of small to medium sized, pleasantly scented pink orchids happily hybridizes. On the Swabian Jura Gymnadenia prefers full sun, as opposed to dappled shade in its more southern ranges.

Gymnadenia conopsea, Martin BohnetGymnadenia conopsea closeup, Martin BohnetGymnadenia odoratissima, Martin BohnetGymnadenia x intermedia, Martin BohnetGymnadenia x intermedia group of plants containing both parents, Martin Bohnet


Himantoglossum hircinum is the biggest orchid species on the Swabian Jura, and follows the Mediterranean cycle of its cousins with the leaves already withering on emergence of the flower stalk, preparing for the dry summer rest.

Himantoglossum hircinum flower spike, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum flower detail, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum withering leaves, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum whitish color form unfurling, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum group of specimen, Martin Bohnet


Species of Neottia have quite a chance of staying invisible to the untrained eye, melting into their green or brown background of their forest habitat - still they are locally abundant.

Neottia nidus-nvis, Martin BohnetNeottia nidus-nvis, Martin BohnetNeottia ovata flower detail, Martin BohnetNeottia ovata, Martin BohnetNeottia ovata hidden in plain sight, Martin Bohnet


Both subgenera of Orchis are present with their type species on the Swabian Jura.

Orchis mascula, Martin BohnetOrchis mascula, Martin BohnetOrchis pallens, Martin BohnetOrchis x loreziana, Martin BohnetOrchis pallens and x loreziana, Martin Bohnet
Orchis militaris, Martin BohnetOrchis militaris flower detail, Martin BohnetOrchis militaris, Martin BohnetOrchis anthropophora, Martin BohnetOrchis anthropophora, Martin Bohnet


Ophrys is well known for its interbreeding, which doesn't make identification easy, as there are several species present on the Swabian Jura.

Ophrys apifera, Martin BohnetOphrys araneola, Martin BohnetOphrys insectifera, Martin BohnetOphrys sphegodes, Martin BohnetOphrys, possibly insectifera hybrid, Martin Bohnet


Two highly similar species of Platanthera can be found on the Swabian Jura: P. bifolia and P. chlorantha. Those two can hybridize, so identification once again is difficult.

Platanthera chlorata(?), Martin BohnetPlatanthera species, Martin BohnetPlatanthera species, Martin BohnetPlatanthera species, Martin Bohnet


Paris quadrifolia is another common forest dweller on the Swabian Jura. Despite the name it sometimes fails to count to four.

Paris quadrifolia, Martin BohnetParis quadrifolia, Martin BohnetParis 'quintifolia' (just kidding), Martin BohnetParis quadrifolia ripe berry, Martin Bohnet

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