Arboreta are composed of collections of plants belonging to different species of trees and shrubs, mainly of exotic origin. The plants are arranged according to taxonomic and geographical criteria; each plant is identified by a sequence inventory number associated to the scientific name of the species, as defined under the rules of botanical nomenclature. The original distribution area is also indicated for each species. Different scientific disciplines such as botany, forest ecology, sylviculture, ecophysiology, plant pathology, etc. may benefit by this type of collections. The didactic function also plays a key role for visitors as well as for students interested in furthering their botanical knowledge or in carring out studies on natural and biological sciences.
The function of conservation (ex situ) of forest biodiversity is important too, especially for species threatened with extinction. In Italy, the arboreta with exotic species are not numerous and certainly those of Vallombrosa are the most important ones (significant at a European level too) for historical reasons and number of individuals, species, subspecies, varieties and cultivars hosted. According to the last inventory made in 2011, there are nearly 1800 individuals and a total number of 656 separate units - including species, subspecies and cultivars.
The name “Experimental Arboreta of Vallombrosa” is due to the creation in times past of more and more contiguous sections by prominent botanists and forestry scholars, who enlarged the Arboreta until a total of about 10 hectares. In 1870 Adolfo Di Bérenger made an initial collection of about 230 specimens in the estate that housed the Forestry Institute at Paterno (Firenze). In 1880 Vittorio Perona transplanted all the plants from Paterno to Vallombrosa, forming what is nowadays called Siemoni Arboretum.
Between 1885 and 1886 Perona worked to enlarge the surface of the arboretum of about four acres, forming the Section dedicated to the Vallombrosan Abbot Bruno Tozzi, scholar of botany.
In 1894 Perona established, at Masso del Diavolo, in an area sheltered from the inclemency of weather and well exposed to solar radiation, a detached arboretum with more thermophilous species. This Arboretum was later dedicated to Romano Gellini, professor of Forest Botany at the University of Firenze.
Before the Great War (1914) Ariberto Merendi and Aldo Pavari expanded the Arboreta with a section of about one hectare, dedicated to Vittorio Perona. Between 1919 and 1920 Pavari, in the meantime appointed Director of the State Forest, established a new section (now called Arboretum Pavari) with experimental plantations of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Thuya plicata, Pseudotsuga menziesii and Picea orientalis.
In 1922 Pavari instituted in Firenze the Experimental Station of Sylviculture, which from 1929 onwards managed the Experimental Arboreta of Vallombrosa, owned by the State Forestry Department.
The Experimental Station of Sylviculture was followed by the Sylviculture Research Institute of Arezzo, which, between 1976 and 1981, further increased the arboreta with a new section, containing a large number of exotic species, dedicated to the botanist Ernesto Allegri.
In 1990 the last enlargement is achieved with the establishment, on a portion of the old nursery, of a small collection of trees and shrubs with healing properties.
In 2004 the Sylviculture Research Institute of Arezzo was replaced by the Research Center for Sylviculture of Arezzo (CRA SEL), which continues to manage the Arboreta of Vallombrosa in keeping with the commitment made in 1929 by the Experimental Station.
It’s possible to visit the Arboreta of Vallombrosa according to three thematic routes highlighted on the map with different colors, which show different structural and botanical aspects.
It crosses part of the Arboreta Pavari and Tozzi. Among the specimens deserving attention for their majesty (the “giants”), there are Calocedrus decurrens (circumference 7.5 m), with very thick and characteristically rough bark, and Thuja plicata (circumference 6.1 m). You can also see very old specimens of Castanea sativa, Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’ and ‘Purpurea’, Tilia europaea, Tilia cordata and Tilia platyphyllos.
In the Tozzi Arboretum there are two remarkably big specimens of Pseudotsuga menziesii (circumference 4.7 and 5.2 m), an extravagant shaped individual of Abies alba ‘Pendula’ (the so-called monster) and the picturesque hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) alley. Following the loop path, other impotant specimens can be seen in sequence: Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’, cultivar of spherical shape (the globe) and in the final stretch, two big individuals of Sequoia sempervirens (circumference 4.1 m) and Sequoiadendron giganteum (circumference 7.2 m), interesting for their monumentality and the ancient evolutionary origin of the genera, which arises between Cretaceous and the following Tertiary periods.
The first part of this route coincides with the orange one. In succession, it goes on into the Perona Arboretum, where you can see remarkable individuals of Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’, Pinus nigra subsp. pallasiana and Fagus sylvatica subsp. orientalis. Forward on the right there is a specimen of Pinus ponderosa of remarkably large size (circumference 3.2 m). Then the route connects with the “lime trees alley”, where you can admire the monumental stem of Pinus lambertiana (circumference 5.8 meters and a height exceeding 40 meters) which produces cones reaching 50 cm in length. Moreover, notable species are Acer platanoides, A. pseudoplatanus, A. saccharum and a fine specimen of Sorbus lanata.
Continuing the route, you can look on the right at the Arboretum Pavari, with experimental plantations of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Thuja plicata, Picea orientalis and Pseudotsuga menziesii.
Inside the Tozzi Arboretum you can see a plant of Pseudotsuga menziesii of remarkable size and another one of Betula ermanii with characteristic bark breaking up into horizontal plaques.
This route coincides largely with those described above, but unlike the latter it reaches the new part of the Arboretum (Allegri section). After crossing the experimental section of the Pavari Arboretum, the route is more compelling for the increase in gradient of the path. The peculiarity of this part of the arboretum is made by the higher number of host species than other sections. Among those, the most relevant are Cephalotaxus harringtonii and several species of Mediterranean fir-trees such as Abies cephalonica, A. bornmulleriana, A. equi-trojani, A. nordmanniana and A. cilicica. At the top of the path, there is one of the most interesting species in the arboretum, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, to be considered a true living fossil as discovered in China in 1941 and subsequently attributed to this genus, described in the same year by a paleobotanist for a fossil species dating back to Pliocene.
|Forestry Research Centre|
|Viale S. Margherita 80|
|Corpo Forestale dello Stato|
|Territorial Office for Biodiversity of Vallombrosa|
|Via S. Benedetto 1|
|50066 Reggello (FI)|
|APT Firenze, Saltino - Vallombrosa|
|Piazzale Roma 7|
|50066 Reggello (FI)|
For more information click here (italian only)