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The Etna Volcano

Flora and Fauna

The volcanic area is very fertile. The lava deposited on the soil releases many nutrients such as mineral salts; moreover it submerged plants, that become natural fertilisers for the soil.
The vegetation varies according to the altitude. At the feet of the volcano we find orange, mandarin, lemon, olive, agave, Indian fig, banana, eucalyptus, palm, pine trees. Also the wine trees grow there in abundance, giving us excellent Etna wine.
From 500m grow hazelnut, almond, pistachios chestnut trees, oaks, beeches, birches, pines and of course the renowned Etna broom. The real attraction of this area are the birches that began to grow here after a glacial period. The birch loves the sun, lives solitarily or in a small groups and is often found in forests of altitude amongst other plants such as the broad-leaf and conifer trees. It prefers arid, bare and acid lands with a reliable water source and it is very frost-proof. During the winter the birch stands out for its white and bare trunk that contrasts with the blue sky. During the spring it turns light green and stands out from the black lava.
Beyond 2100 meters of altitude begins the semi-desert zone where we can find the Holy Thorn (Spino Santo, the Astragalus siculus), a small thorny shrub, often found amongst a multicoloured endemic variety of violets, groundsels and other flowers that grow on the slopes of secondary craters.
Towards the highest peaks we find the so-called volcanic desert, where the snow and the fresh lava prevent the growth of any type of macroscopic vegetation.
The area provides shelter for a varied fauna including small mammals (porcupines, foxes, wild cats, weasels, martens, dormice), birds (kestrels, buzzards, finches, woodpeckers, hoopoes), reptiles (including the viper) and insects. Indeed, the area is home to many butterflies, like the eye-catching Aurora of the Etna (Anthocharis damone).