From the Ragabo pine wood to the steppic prairies

The Ragabo woods is owned by the town of Linguaglossa and it’s the pride of its inhabitants who bought it back from the Bonanno princes in 1679. Listen to the ethereal voice of the woods and smell the scent of the rosin which people once would extract from trunks, cutting them in a Herringbone pattern.

If you keep going up to Piano Provenzana, you will pass through ‘il bruciato’ (the burned), a ‘young’ pinewood born out of a spontaneous spreading of seeds after the 1956 fire, which burned about 300 hectares of woodland down.

You will then see the beech (Fagus sylvatica), growing on fresher and deeper soils. The Sicilian mountain is the southernmost location where this North European tree is able to grow: it got there during ice age and it is able to survive only where the cold is persistent - on the Etna it can be found at almost 2000 m.a.s.l.

Where the woods thin out, bushes like the scented hemispheric juniper (Juniperus hemisphaerica) and the barberry start to turn up.

The birch (Betula etnensis) is a fellow tree going up even higher. It evolved to the point that it became an endemic species, different from its parent and exclusive to this area - a legacy of the ice age. The birch is a pioneer plant as well, living only on the northeastern part of Etna, which is the wettest and coldest side. You must go all the way up the route passing through the lava deposits and craters from the 2002 eruption to see it, and you will find it in small groups elegantly standing in the grass prairie, among the bleak volcanic sands. Once you are close, you will want to caress its smooth white beautiful trunk. It managed to survive upon the Etna 10000 years ago, when the glaciers that were covering all Europe retreated, as it was cold enough; however there may be no room for it anymore, since it’s becoming less and less cold, and it may end up disappearing soon, killed by the mushroom infesting its roots.

You will be able to witness a unique landscape once above the woods, featuring the low thorny pulvini of the boxthorn (Astragalus siculus) and other endemic herbaceous: Senecio aetnensis, Viola aetnensis, Cerastium tomentosum, Anthemis aetnensis, Scleranthus vulcanicus, to name but some. It is an exclusive plant community, that can be found only on the tallest part of Mount Etna. Last but not least there’s “him” - the Mongibello top cone standing solitary and majestic.

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