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Ecological studies on the melancholy thistle cirsium helenioides l. hill in upper franconia west germany i. phytosociology and sites



Ecological studies on the melancholy thistle cirsium helenioides l. hill in upper franconia west germany i. phytosociology and sites



Tuexenia (8): 101-148



The ecology of the Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium helenioides, Asteraceae) is presented in a series of three papers: Phytosociology and synecology (REIF and WEISKOPF, part 1); autecology and heterophylly (WEISKOPF, ROMSTOCK, REIF and SCHULZE, part 2); herbivores of the thistle heads (ROMSTOCK, part 3). This first paper describes morphology, phenology, distribution, phytosociology and ecology of Cirsium helenioides. The areas studied are in the Fichtelgebirge and Frankenwald, Oberfranken, south-east Germany. In this area, the thistle occurs in grassland communities of the montane belt. Cirsium helenioides was found in 11 different plant communities above c. 550 m. Between 550 and 650 m, it was found most frequently in more nutrient-rich meadows, mainly in Geranio-Trisetetum, less frequently in Calthion-communities and in a "Poa-Trisetum-community". At higher altitudes, above c. 650 m, less nutrient-rich communities are more frequent; the thistle frequently was found also in these. Because of low fidelity, an association "Polygono-Cirsietum heterophylli" (Calthion) cannot be established, at least in Oberfranken. But, this species may be used for geographical differentiation. Important site factors of the different plant communities with Cirsium helenioides were compared, using the indicator values (ELLENBERG 1974) of all species. The accompanying species indicate that Melancholy Thistle is most frequent on moist, moderately acid to acid, moderately nitrogen-rich soils. A comparison of all sites of Cirsium helenioides indicates that Cirsium helenioides is most frequent (1) in meadows, which are mowed relatively late, e.g., because of extensive agriculture or cool climate; (2) in fallow meadows which were used until recently. On such sites, the thistle occurs sometimes in large patches; with time, tall herbs like Polygonum bistorta, Chaerophyllum hirsutum and Filipendula ulmaria eventually become more and more competitive on moist sites and replace the thistle and other species; and (3) on disturbed sites, e.g., embankments, roadsides, wood depots in forests, spruce plantations and similar sites.

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