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A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 13 August 2013 by Diane Clement

Diary Entry No 53 - A Swiss holiday Part 4

Day 7  Wengen - Lauterbrunnen - Wilderswil - Schynige Platte (train)

Botanic garden then Panorama walk

Train back to Wengen

An essential trip in the area is to Schynige Platte  The historic train journey starts from Wilderswil station.

The line opened in 1893 and was electrified in 1914.  It is not a fast journey - the train takes 50 minutes to travel 7km, with a altitude gain of 1410m (4659ft).

It is a wonderfully picturesque route, with the train twisting through the mountainside.  At the beginning of the journey, the view is to the north, with views of Interlaken and Lake Brienz.  The track then goes into the Grätli tunnel, known locally as the "Ooh aah tunnel", because that is what the tourists say on emerging from the tunnel, on seeing the view to the south.

Picture taken from the train at the ooh-aah point:

One reason for making the journey is to visit the Schynige Platte Alpine Garden, a remarkable garden founded in 1927, displaying 600 Swiss alpine plant species growing in a natural setting at just over 2000m (6800ft).

Entrance to the garden is now free of charge.  A few years ago, the train company were struggling for customers on this journey, so they opened a small theme park called "Teddy Land" to encourage families to make the journey.  Thankfully, this was not a success, and they eventually came to a much more appropriate arrangement which was an agreement with the Alpine Garden to include the cost of entrance to the garden in with the train ticket, which brought more revenue to the train company, and to the garden.  It has also brought in a lot more visitors to the garden as it is seen as free.


Plants grown here are from different areas of Switzerland.  The name boards give some information about the plant.  Here's a few plants seen around the garden:

As entrance to the garden is now free, you can enter and exit via the turnstile at the far end, giving easy access to the open area of Schynige Platte, a starting point for several wonderful walks.  We chose to do the Panorama walk with super views down to Interlaken and Lake Brienz. Dryas octopetala with Lake Brienz behind

Anemone narcissiflora

The Ranunculaceae family takes a bit of sorting out and we had not previously seen the white subspecies of Pulsatilla alpina, said to grow mainly on limestone: Pulsatilla alpina ssp alpina

we saw these two globularia growing abundantly in the area: Globularia cordifolia

Globularia nudicaulis

also growing on rocks Anthyllis vulneraria in its yellow form, nice to see in the wild although it can be a bit of a weed in my garden

Anthyllis vulneraria

And a few views from the top of Schynige Platte

Wengen - Eigergletscher (train).  Walk Nord wand trail as far as Klettersteiger point

We took the train to Eigergletscher station, 2320m (7610ft).

From here we intended to walk the Eiger trail, which winds round the base of the north face of the Eiger.  Because the trail is on the north side, snow lies late and we hoped to see snow melt plants.  We checked that the trail was open, and set off.  The picture shows the start of the Eiger trail.

Androsace chamaejasme

We had heard there was lying snow on the path, but it didn't seem to deter walkers

The Eiger trail goes through steep banks of scree where there is little soil and plants need to be deep rooted to find water and nutrient.  We have seen  Doronicum grandiflorum before, always growing in stony patches in snowmelt areas

Just starting into growth was Salix reticulata

Another plant which blooms just after the snow melts is Thlaspi rotundifolium - a plant that is first spotted by its strong honey scent.

We found two classic alpine buttercups in the area, firstly Ranunculus alpestris

and secondly Ranunculus glacialis.  I used to think that they opened white and turned pink when pollinated, but I am no longer sure that this is the case, as some seem to start pink, and some plants are all pink and other plants are all white.

A few other scree plants on the way included Potentilla crantzii

Pritzelago alpina (now Hornungia alpina)

and a lovely dark pink flowered form of Silene acaulis

We reached the point on the trail, where braver souls than us were setting off up the north face of the Eiger.  This notice board shows the route

But I was much more interested in what was at our feet.  I'm hoping that John Richards will throw some light on the confusion of Primulas that we found here.  Firstly, what I would consider a classic Primula auricula, a beautiful specimen with farinose leaves

and more of the same species, I assume, although the first has no farina,

and a group in various shades of yellow

next, the only other primula in the area, Primula hirsuta or are they hybrids with P auricula?

This one with a touch of farina, possibly pointing to a hybrid with P auricula.  It certainly looks like some of the P x pubescens forms grown in cultivation:

And what is this beauty? Is it straight P auricula in a pale form, or a hybrid with hirsuta?

Day 8 - pm Train Eigergletscher - Wengeneralp.  Walk Wengenalp - Biglenalp - Mettenalp - Wengenalp  train Wengenalp - Wengen

The trail was difficult to negotiate beyond this point, due to ice bridges, so we returned along the Eiger trail to Eigergletscher station and then took the train down to Wengeneralp and did a circular walk via Biglenalp and Mettenalp.  Those of you who know the area will know this is the site of Cypripedium calceolus, but I knew we were far too late even in this late season.  But it was an interesting area for other plants.


We started in meadows full of Centaurea montana

at first sight, we thought this was Pedicularis foliosa, but the red tipped flowers showed it to be Pedicularis oederi

Also in the meadow, Aquilegia atrata

Sempervivum montanum

and Globularia cordifolia

In the woodland, we spotted the white form of Thalictrum aquilegifolium

Also in the woodland, Moneses uniflora

and I was pleased to see Maianthemum bifolium- I thought it was unusual for this to be flowering in July, so another indication of a very late season in the area

A view of the base of the Jungfrau from Biglenalp

So, on to the orchids, of which there were plenty, both in the woodland and also in the open meadows.  I'll start with the woodland ones, which were easier to identify

Orchis ustulata

Coeloglossum viride

Corallorhiza trifida

And these butterfly orchids -  the first is Platanthera chlorantha, and but I am not sure whether the second is the same species

Out in the damp meadows, thing get more complex, although Gymnadenia conopsea is easy to identify from its strong scent and long spur

I found the Dactylorhiza/Orchis group tricky to identify

I have done my best to identify the following species, but would welcome any alternative suggestions. First, the variable Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Orchis mascula

Dactylorhiza majalis

And possibly Dactylorhiza incarnata, or is it an unspotted D majalis

With that uncertainty, I'm going to finish this holiday report, with sunset on the Jungfrau, taken on our last evening from the hotel balcony.

Thank to everyone who has given me feedback, both verbal and electronic.

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