Stretching across eastern Europe, the Carpathian mountain range consists of numerous smaller ranges defined by distinct geological features and the presence of certain native plant species. Despite the immense variety of terrain found in the Carpathians, geographers divide the mountains into three major regions: the eastern, western and southern zones. Each zone hosts distinct plant varieties, including several found nowhere else.
The eastern Carpathians hold the largest mountains in the range in a region called the Tatras. At an elevation of 8,530 feet, the Tatras looms above the surrounding forest and is the most prominent feature in the region. Along the lower reaches of the Tatras, dense forests of beech (Fagus sylvatica) dominate the landscape. Ascending the slopes, the deciduous forests give way to tracts of silver fir (Abies alba) and spruce (Picea abies). The forest understory presents a variety of low-growing species adapted to live in acidic, well-draining soil such as saxifrage (Saxifraga), alpine snowbell (Soldanella carpatica) and wayfaring bush (Viburnum lantana).
Marked by low, rolling mountains and expansive lakes, the western Carpathians feature a wide variety of alpine wildflowers and scattered stands of dense woodland. Yew trees (Taxus baccata), green alder (Alnus viridis) and dwarf juniper (Juniperus communis) cover much of the lower foothills, giving way to stands of beech (Fagus sylvatica) and Eurasian aspen (Populus tremula). In early spring, the meadows of the western Carpathians come alive with numerous flowering species, including spreading bellflower (Campanula patula), yellow wood-violet (Viola biflora), yellow foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora) and alpine primrose (Primula minima).
Known for its saw-like appearance, the low ridge-line of the southern Carpathians stretches over 65 miles across Romania and is divided into several smaller, geographically distinct ecosystems. Rocky uplands and high-elevation forests dominate much of the southern Carpathians with dense mixed forests of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), mountain pine (Pinus mugo) and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) covering the slopes and flatlands. Smaller plant species such as rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and Carpathian bellflower (Campanula carpatica) fill the few sunny meadows found throughout the region, as well as Transylvanian campanula (Campanula transsilvanica), a rare endemic wild flower.
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