Flora and fauna

It is a mosaic of ancient oak and beech forests, wildflower-rich meadows and pastures. Unspoiled villages centred on fortified churches lie peacefully in the valleys. Traditional farming is carried out in ecological balance with nature. This landscape supports an astonishingly rich wildlife of plants, birds, mammals and insects: for this reason it has been designated a Natura 2000 European protected area.


hornbeam and oak, with some beech, dominate the woodlands. On dry southfacing slopes there are also a few woods of the rarer Downy Oak. These have an interesting ground flora, including several steppic species. Cornelian Cherry, a small tree of dry slopes, provides both a valued autumn fruit and the hard heavy wood of the traditional long sticks carried by shepherds.


the abundant wildflower-rich meadows and pastures provide one of the greatest floral spectacles in Europe. The meadows are still mostly mown by scythe, giving hay for winter feed for the livestock. Plants characteristic of central Europe mingle with those more typical of Eurasian steppic or Mediterranean regions – this is known as ‘meadow-steppe’.

Medicinal plants

are plentiful and widely used in everyday life.

  • St John’s-wort is widely gathered to treat stomach upsets and diarrhoea.
  • Yarrow or Milfoil to treat “the heart”.
  • Sweet Flag treats digestive disorders and sore throats.
  • Lady’s Mantle treats diarrhoea.
  • Centaury, a small pink-flowered gentian, once a popular medicinal herb in England and mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer, is used as a general tonic and a stimulant to digestion.
  • Hawthorn is gathered to alleviate high blood pressure and circulatory problems.
  • Sage species are used as a general tonic and antiseptic.
  • Small-leaved Lime is a herbal tonic, drunk as a tea.
  • Heath Speedwell is a general tonic.
  • Mistletoe lowers blood pressure and has anti-cancer properties.

Find out more about the medicinal plants of Tarnava Mare from author Dr John Akeroyd

To find out about the unusual density and range of birds species to be found in Southern Transylvania, click here to read the report of orinthologist Pierre Yesou and Martine South from Nantes in France.

Flowers & Butterflies

The aim of the STIPA project is to improve the conservation of two dry grassland habitats in the Sighisoara -Tarnava Mare Natura 2000 site which are of European priority importance under the EU Habitats Directive

Butterflies of the High Nature Value dry grasslands of Transylvania

“The biodiversity value of Transylvania’s dry grasslands has often been reduced through afforestation or conversion into intensive vineyard terraces. Needing a hot and dry climate, these dry grasslands have formed on the slopes of the hills of Transylvania with southern, south-eastern and south-western aspect.

Although of low productive value, dry grasslands have a very high floristic and faunistic value. They are home to a large number of plant and animal species, many of which are rare, and in danger of disappearance, in other parts of Europe. We can be proud that we have preserved these species so far, and it is our duty of honour to preserve them, unspoiled, for future generations.”

— László Rákosy

Flowers of the High Nature Value dry grasslands of Transylvania

“The meadows and pastures of southern Transylvania represent some of Europe’s most intact traditional farm grasslands.
Large areas of low intensive management practices, with mixed farming, little or no fertilizer input and generally low stocking densities, have allowed a huge diversity of wild flowers and wild life to survive in what is one of the largest tracts left in Europe of High Nature Value (HNV) grassland.

Not only due many species of plants and animals that have disappeared throughout of Europe persist in this special habitat, together with local rarities, but also the grasslands area beautiful sight in summer.”

— John Akeroyd

Bird Watching in Tarnava Mare

“I felt I had stepped into another world. Wild flowers, grasses and herbs grow in profusion as glorious as those in the medieval tapestry of ‘The Lady and The Unicorn’. The countryside flows in an open sweep as far as the eye can see, uninterrupted by hedges, fences or gates.”

— Philippa Davenport

“On one short car journey we saw bee-eaters sitting on a telephone wire, a crane on her nest, a long-eared owl in a tree with a hawk, a lesser spotted eagle soaring above and we heard a corncrake- the only dangerous thing was that our driver was a passionate birdwatcher who watched the birds rather than the road!”

Giving proper value to local food and local tourism is key to the survival of the area. Friendly villagers, traditional home-made food and the timeless rhythms of country life such as the evening procession of cows returning from pasture give the traveller a glimpse of an older Europe, one not seen for generations elsewhere.

By visting and staying, buying the great foods and crafts made by local people you will bring a value to their traditional way of life. You will allow them to understand the economic value of caring for the stunning landscape because it brings many interested visitors from other places.

Fundatia ADEPT Transylvania has spearheaded research work into the fauna, flora and habitats of Tarnava Mare, which as a result was designated a Protected Area in 2008, as a Natura 2000 Site (Site of [European] Community Interest). ADEPT is still carrying out research into the important habitats, and bird and animal species, and working with farmers to protect them. See, especially Biodiversity.

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