Sand kingdom of the Záhorie lowland

(led by Milan Valachovič and Pavol Mereďa)

Guides: Milan Valachovič, Pavol Mereďa

Plant Science and Biodiversity Centre, Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia,,


Mešterova lúka Protected Landscape Area (1.33 km2): 48°28’45″N, 17°03’35″E, ca. 185 m a.s.l

Lakšárska duna dune (5.27 ha): N 48°34’56″N, 17°10’33″E, ca. 220 m a.s.l

Borský Mikuláš/Borský Peter: N 48°38’32” N, 17°13’47” E, ca. 199 m a.s.l

Šaštín: 48°38’17.6″N, 17°08’34.61″E, ca. 183 m a.s.l


The region is a plain behind mountains, so the climate is much drier than that of the rest of Slovakia. Average year temperature is 9-10 degrees, the hottest month is July with 19.4 degrees; the coldest one is January with 1.8 degrees. Rainfalls are at average rate of 560 mm. Záhorie is the area with hot and mild wet climate with mild winters.

Geology and geography

The peculiar part of Slovakia – Záhorie represent the lowland of triangular shape situated in the northwestern margin of the Pannonian Basin. Záhorie is a region of natural beauties, possessions of earth, thermal healing waters, plains, foothills and hills covered by woods. Is bounded by the west by Morava river and the eastern border is formed by Malé Karpaty Mts (Little Carpathian Mountains). Specific geology – aeolian sand dunes and oligotrophic sandy soils are manifested in different vegetation cover comparing other parts of Slovakia.

Nature conservation

Mešterova lúka Protected Landscape Area is located in the cadastral territory of the Malacky town and in the military district of Záhorie, in the district of Malacky (Bratislava region). The area was declared in 2011. The subject of protection are habitats of European importance: old acidophilous oak woods with Quercus robur on sandy plains, natural dystrophic lakes and ponds, transition mires and quaking bogs and bog woodlands. This area is under the 2nd, 4th and 5th level of nature protection.

Habitats (according to Natura 2000 habitat classification) 

2330 Open grassland with Corynephorus and Agrostis of continental dunes

2340* Pannonic inland dunes

3160 Natural dystrophic lakes and ponds

7140 Transition mires and quaking bogs

91D0* Bog woodland

9190 Old acidophilous oak woods with Quercus robur on sandy plains

91T0 Central European lichen Scots pine forests

Vegetation synopsis

Class Koelerio-Corynephoretea Klika in Klika et Novák 1941

  Order Corynephoretalia canescentis Klika 1934

    Alliance Corynephorion canescentis Klika 1931

       Ass. Thymo angustifolii-Corynephoretum canescentis Krippel 1954

       Ass. Festuco dominii-Corynephoretum Borhidi (1958) 1996

    Alliance Armerion elongatae Passarge 1964

       Ass. Erysimo diffusi-Agrostietum capillaris Vicherek in Chytrý et al. 1997

Class Lemnetea de Bolós et Masclans 1955

  Order Lemno-Utricularietalia Passarge 1978

    Alliance Utricularion vulgaris Passarge 1964

Ass. Lemno-Utricularietum Soó 1947

Class Quercetea robori-petraeae Br.-Bl. et R. Tx. ex Oberd. 1957

  Order Quercetalia roboris R. Tx. 1931

    Alliance Quercion roboris Malcuit 1929

Ass. Festuco ovinae-Quercetum roboris Šmarda 1961

Ass. Molinio arundinaceae-Quercetum roboris Neuhäusl et Neuhäuslová-Novotná 1967 nom. cons.

Class Dicrano-Pinetea Hartmann et Jahn 1967

  Order Pinetalia sylvestris Oberd. 1957

    Alliance Dicrano-Pinion (Libbert 1933) W. Matuszkiewicz 1962

Ass. Cladonio-Pinetum sylvestris Juraszek 1928

Ass. Hylocomium splendens-Pinus sylvestris community

Forests and grasslands communities

The first stop Mešterova lúka PLA is an example of extrazonal vegetation inside the pine forests. 

The terrain depressions between sandy dunes occupy the acidophilous oak woods with Quercus robur on sandy plains with dominance of Molinia arundinacea in the understory. Typical are the alder swamp woodlands often admixed by Betula pendula and oak trees considered probably as fragments of bog woodlands. Water table represent natural dystrophic ponds with Utricularia communities and small patches of transitional mires with Sphagnum species. Common taxa are Caltha palustris, in water relatively rare are Comarum palustreHottonia vulgarisHydrocharis morsus-ranaeHydrocotyle vulgaris. On edges of water grows Iris pseudacorus and othe helophytes such as Lycopus europaeusLysimachia vulgarisLythrum salicaria, Scutellaria galericulata. Typical are tall sedges (Carex elataCarex elongateCarex pseudocyperusCarex ripariaCarex vesicaria) as well as rushes (Juncus bulbosusJuncus conglomeratusJuncus effuses).

Second stop is in intravilan of village Lakšárska Nová Ves. On the outskirt of the village can be observed an example of sand dune, partly open and partly covered by pine woodland with typical sand dunes species Corynephorus cannescensCynodon dactylon, Dianthus serotinus subsp. borussicus, Koeleria glauca, Jasione montana, Spergula morisonii, S. pentandra or Scorzonera purpurea. Typical taxon on locality is Viola saxatilis subsp.curtisii.

Third stop brings a view of the interior of the dry lichen pine forest of the Cladonio-Pinetum association. Acidophytes, such as Calluna vulgaris, Carex ericetorumVeronica officinalis, very rare are some Pyrolaceae, e.g. Chimaphila umbellata, also the Daphne cneorum. Conspicuous picture gives a synusia of lichens, Cetraria islandica, and various Cladonia species, and some bryophytes (Leucobryum glaucum).

Possible stop could be also by railway station of Borský Mikuláš village, where could be demonstrate open to dense siliceous grasslands with Corynephorus and Agrostis on sandy soils assigned as the Armerion elongataealliance. These were found in Slovakia firstly only last year, in past were overlooked. The success to see some taxa depends on amount of precipitation during spring season. The habitat represent taxa such as Acosta rhenanaArmeria vulgaris subsp. elongataChondrilla junceaErysimum diffusumFestuca trachyphylla, Helichrysum arenariumJasione montanaRumex thyrsiflorus and others.

Final stop is planned as lunch in small town Šaštín – in recreation area Gazárka. Originally two separate villages, now it is one of the youngest towns in Slovakia, having received town privileges on 1 September 2001. The first written mention about Šaštín was in 1218. The Šaštín is one of the most important Marian shrines in Slovakia. Several pilgrimages are held there annually, especially on 15 September. Last year the basilica was visited also by Pope Francis.

Management and threats

The main vegetation represent plantations of the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), which forests cover extensive majority of the area. Most of them are considered to be the results of relatively recent plantation-oriented forest management. We investigated the long-term history of lowland pine forests in the Záhorie Lowland region of aeolian sands.  Pine monocultures were planted there already in the mid-seventeenth century and currently prevail in the land cover of the region.But pine trees were a natural part of forests of the Early Holocene. Palaeoecological data suggested a distinct compositional linkage of recent pine-dominated forests with their Early Holocene predecessors. Moreover, no significant change was detected in tree dominants in at least the past two millennia. Contrary to palaeoecology, archeaeobotany suggested that broadleaved trees (mostly oak) dominated during the past 4000 years. However, this result is probably strongly biased by human preferences for wood for specific purposes. On the other hand, pine in palaeoecological data is doubtless overrepresented because of its abundant pollen production. We conclude that pine forests with a significant admixture of oak continuously covered the sandy substrates of the Záhorie Lowland throughout the Holocene. The present pine forests can therefore be considered fairly close to the original vegetation of the study region.