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Flora and fauna of Zvezdara forest


Black pine (lat. Pinus nigra; serbian: crni bor)

Black pine is a bold-textured and urban-tolerant pine, having a broad-pyramidal growth habit with ascending branches and showy Spring candles, and often developing a flat-topped crown and ornamental bark with extreme age. It will stand dryness and exposure, is well adapted to urban conditions including alkaline and clay soil and tolerates road and seaside salt well.

Common Elm (lat. Ulmus minor, Ulmus campestris; serbian: poljski brest)

A tree native to southern Europe the Common Elm has a wide range of subspecies and hybrids. It can grow up to 30 m.  These trees are quite commonly used in urban areas and can be found along many streets and avenues.

Hackberry (lat. Celtis australis; serbian: koprivić)

A decidious Tree growing to 20m by 10m at a medium rate. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. 

Durmast Oak, Sessile Oak (lat. Quercus petraea, Quercus sessilis; serbian: hrast kitnjak)

Sessile oak is large tree, reaching up to 40 metres in height. Trees of this species regularly live to be 500 years old, and individuals of 1,000 years old are known. The bark is grey and fissured, often covered with various lichens, and old trees can reach an exceptional girth - some individuals have a circumference of 12 metres. The large spreading branches produce substantial domed crowns, sometimes resulting in the trees being wider than they are tall. Oaks are deciduous and monoecious, meaning that each individual tree has both male and female flowers on it. Oak provides a habitat for more organisms, and especially insects, than any other tree. Because of its large size and longevity, it plays a unique role in forest ecosystems and many species have adapted to live with it.

This specie has great significance in Serbian culture, often referred to as a "Holy Tree" or "zapis". A number of significant historical occasions were held under the canopies of these trees.

Honey locust (lat. Gleditsia triacanthos; serbian: gledičija)

Honey locust is a moderately fast growing tree commonly found on moist bottom lands or limestone soils.

Because it has proven very hardy and tolerant of drought and salinity, it is widely planted for windbreaks and soil erosion control. The thornless variety has been planted to replace the elm in many urban areas. The wood is dense, hard, and durable but used only locally. Honey locust pods are sweet and eaten by livestock and wildlife. The tree is relatively short lived, reaching the age of 125 years.

Horse-chestnut (lat. Aesculus hippocastanum; serbian: divlji kesten)

The ‘spreading chestnut tree’,  is a common sight on village greens and alongside housing developments. Horse chestnut is one of the easiest trees to identify and its leaves are often the earliest to appear. They are preceded by the famous ‘sticky buds’, and soon open to form the familiar five to seven-fingered leaflets on a stiff green stem. The tree produces an abundant show of upright white flower spikes that are arranged round the canopy like candles. The bark is well fissured, especially on older trees where it fractures into plates whose ends gradually curl away from the trunk. The most familiar product of the tree is its conkers, contained in a spiky green husk and often produced in abundance. These have become the centre-piece of one of the most enduring childhood games. There may be two or three conkers, with flat sides arranged together, or one large single conker in the husk.

Common Ash, White Ash (lat. Fraxinus excelsior; serbian: beli jasen)

The Ash is a native broadleaf and fairly abundant tree.  When fully grown it is a tall and graceful tree with a light domed canopy.  It often grows with other Ash trees and tends to grow smaller and thinner in these conditions. The Ash has characteristic delicate “leaflets” rather than single leaves. It grows up to 40m to 150 year. The bark is smooth and grey with fissures that appear as it grows older.
The colour of the bark is thought to give the tree it’s name. The Ash has high conservation value. The airy canopy and short leaf stay allow a lot of sunlight through to the woodland floor and hence a rich and varied ground flora can grow, such as wild garlic and dogs mercury .

Tree of heaven (lat. Ailanthus altissima; serbian: kiselo drvo)

The tree of heaven, native to East Asia, is grown worldwide as an ornamental; it can grow to 30 m in height and the trunk can reach 1 m in diameter. The leaves of tree of heaven are 30-60 cm long, broadly lance shaped, and covered with fine hairs when young. Bark is light brown and smooth. Flowers are 0.6 cm long, greenish-yellow in color. The fruit is 4 cm long, showy, reddish-green in color.

Common violet (lat. Viola odorata; serbian: ljubičica)

Violets are European perennials. They can be found growing in most any soil or situation. Medicinal and edible, the flowers and leaves of viola are made into a syrup used in alternative medicine mainly for respiratory ailments associated with congestion, coughing, and sore throat. Flowers are also edible and used as food additives for instance in salad, made into jelly, and candied for decoration. Large doses of the root contain an alkaloid called violine which is emetic (causing vomiting). A decoction made from the root (dry herb) is used as a laxative. Tea made from the entire plant is used to treat digestive disorders and new research has detected the presence of a glycoside of salicylic acid (natural aspirin) which substantiates its use for centuries as a medicinal remedy for headache, body pains and as a sedative. The plants constituents are being studied and show these uses to be valid.

Bladder Cherry (lat. Physalis alkekengi; serbian: mehurica)

Bladder Cherry is a perennial plant with upright, branched stems growing to about 2 feet tall. It has oval, pointed leaves and whitish petals that drop off as the calyx expands. When mature, the calyx contains a red fruit resembling a cherry. This plant is known as bladder cherry because the pod resembles a bladder, but also physalis, is the Greek word for bladder. It is useful as a diuretic and works well with a variety of urinary problems such as kidney and bladder stones, fluid retention, and gout. This plant is also used for treating arthritic problems and reducing fever. The leaves and stems can be used as a tonic for the malaise that follows malaria and for weak or anemic persons. It has also been used to eliminate colic and diarrhea.


Hermann’s Tortoise (lat. Testudo hermanni; serbian: šumska kornjača)

The Hermann's tortoise, Testudo hermanni, is one of the most frequently seen of all the Mediterranean tortoises. In certain parts of its range, it is seriously threatened and in recent years active steps to preserve remaining populations have come into force, the most notable example of which being the SOPTOM 'Tortoise Village' in the South of France. Similar projects now exist in Italy (Carapax Project), Spain (Albera) and Corsica. Two principal habitats are preferred, densely wooded hillsides and coarsely vegetated gentle slopes.

Pipistrelle (lat. Pipistrellus pipistrellus; serbian: patuljasti slepi miš)

Pipistrelles are the smallest European bats. They have dark red/brown fur on their backs and yellow/brown undersides. The ears, nose and wing membranes are black/brown. They occupy a variety of habitats, including open woodland, parks, marshes, farmland and urban areas. They hunt small moths, gnats and other small insects, often returning to their roost after a couple of hours, although they may emerge for another feed during the night. A single pipistrelle may consume up to 3,000 insects in one night.Following factors contribute to the sharp population decline: loss of winter roosting sites in buildings and old trees; reduction in insect prey abundance, due to high intensity farming practice and inappropriate riparian management; loss of insect-rich feeding habitats and flyways, due to loss of wetlands, hedgerows and other suitable prey habitats;disturbance and destruction of roosts, including the loss of maternity roosts due to the use of toxic timber treatment chemical.

East European Hedgehog (lat. Erinaceus concolor; serbian: evropski belogrudi jež) - specie protected by the law of Republic of Serbia (Regulation of protection of natural rarities, page 22)

The hedgehog is a squat, rounded creature, with five-toed, well-padded feet. It has a mobile, pointy snout, round eyes and short rounded ears, which are almost hidden in the fur. The hedgehog is an omnivore and has been known to eat a wide range of invertebrates, but prefers earthworms, slugs and snails. It will also eat frogs, small reptiles, young birds and mice, carrion, bird eggs, acorns and berries. In various parts of the world, the hedgehog is a welcome visitor to gardens, inasmuch as it acts like a natural insecticide. It prefers open

woods and grassy heaths, cultivated land and scrubs. It is mainly a nocturnal animal, but, like the specimen depicted above, it can be seen, on occasion, during the day. However, during the daylight hours it usually rests under a rock or bush, or in a hole in the ground.

European Mole (lat. Talpa europaea; serbian: krtica) - specie protected by the law of Republic of Serbia (Regulation of protection of natural rarities, page 22)

Moles live underground and surface only occasionally. They have very poor sight and feed mainly on worms and insect larvae that they find by the sense of touch. Their cylindrical bodies and powerful front claws are ideal for digging. Moles create their complex labyrinth of interconnected chambers by burrowing close to the surface, often leaving visible ridges. A trail of 'mole hills' betrays the route the burrowing mole has taken, and as seen here (above) it is rarely straight. The earth from mole hills is greatly valued by gardeners as a potting material, because it is finely

broken down and free of wireworms and insect larvae that might damage the roots of young plants.

Common Buzzard (lat. Buteo buteo; serbian: mišar) - specie protected by the law of Republic of Serbia (Regulation of protection of natural rarities, page 16)

Species of medium-sized hawk with broad wings, often seen soaring. This bird of prey prefers wooded hillsides. It has a compact stature, with a round head and a rather short tail. Its plumage shows variable colours, generally dark brown with white spotted underparts. Beak is hooked from the base. Sexes are identical, but females are slightly larger than males.  Its varied diet includes rabbits, voles, shrews, mice, lizards, and frogs, as well as worms and insects.

Tawny Owl (lat. Strix aluco; serbian: šumska sova) - specie protected by the law of Republic of Serbia (Regulation of protection of natural rarities, page 16)

Generally nocturnal, but sometimes active during the day. The Tawny is the big brown owl of most of our parks and woodlands, readily identified, even in silhouette, by its bulky outline with a big, broad rounded head. It is the only British brown owl to have completely dark eyes. The best way to find one is to listen for the alarm calls of other birds, especially if several species are involved; the squawk of a Jay, the rattle of a Mistle Thrush, the tutting of a Blackbird and the pinking of a Chaffinch are all, especially if perpetuated for some time, sure signs of a predator nearby although sometimes it may prove to be just a cat. Prey taken include rabbits, moles, mice, shrews, voles, and other rodents.  They also eat earthworms, insects (beetles especially),  birds,  frogs,  fish,   lizards,  molluscs,  and crustaceans. Breeds and winters in woods, parks and gardens.

A study concerning Tawny Owl in Serbia, including specimens from Zvezdara forest can be read here.

Tawny Owl, in Zvezdara forest, nests around Belgrade Astronomical Observatory. It diet at the Zvezdara forest site, is analyzed through considerable amounts of pellets that were clearly consisting of earth-worms, commensal Rattus prey items, squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, although some other peculiar items were found inside the pellets, such as, for instance, a piece of cloth.


Long-Eared Owl (lat. Asio otus; serbian: mala ušara) - specie protected by the law of Republic of Serbia (Regulation of protection of natural rarities, page 16)

At rest, the long ear tufts and distinctly orange eyes make the Long-eared Owl easy to recognise. However, in flight they can be confusingly similar to Short-eared Owls. The most obvious features to look for are the uniformly dark under-parts, the lack of a white trailing edge to the wing and less distinct barring everywhere, especially under the wing-tip. Long-eared owls inhabit dense vegetation close to grasslands, as well as open forests shrub lands from sea level up to 2000 m elevation. They are common in tree belts along streams of plains and even desert oases. They can also be found in shelterbelts, small tree groves, thickets surrounded by wetlands, grasslands, marshes and farmlands.

Scops Owl (lat. Otus scops; serbian: ćuk) - specie protected by the law of Republic of Serbia (Regulation of protection of natural rarities, page 16)

A superbly camouflaged species, the greyish, heavily marked plumage of the common scops-owl makes it almost indistinguishable when perched against the bark of a tree. The underparts of this species are generally lighter than the upperparts and marked with black-brown streaks, thin bars and vermiculations. The head is crowned with two prominent ear tufts, while in contrast to the muted plumage colouration, the eyes are bright yellow. The male produces a low, repeated, short whistle “tyeu”, while the female produces a higher pitched call.

Little Owl (lat. Athene noctua; serbian: kukumavka) - specie protected by the law of Republic of Serbia (Regulation of protection of natural rarities, page 16)

Little Owls are easily recognised by their small, squat, flat-headed, long-legged shape and relatively grey plumage heavily marked with white. They have a distinctively bounding flight, gliding upwards before they land, showing broad rounded wings. Breeds and winters in orchards, hedgerows and open areas with drystone walls or derelict buildings.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (lat. Dendrocopos major; serbian: veliki detlić)

The great spotted woodpecker, is sometimes called the "pied woodpecker" because of its black and white colouring. Both the male and female birds have a vivid red patch under the tail, but only the males have a red patch at the back of the neck. Juvenile birds have a red patch on top of their heads. In late winter and early spring they are very audible, as the males perform their annual territorial drumming solo. This is to tell other males to keep out of their patch of the woods. They do this by striking their beak against a dead branch 10 to 15 times in under a second. Because this is done high in the tree tops, it produces a resonating drum sound, which echoes all around the woodland. The nest is made by chiseling out a hole in a tree trunk with its beak. It's strengthened skull help to cushion the blows. The female lays up to seven eggs, which are all white in colour.

Green Woodpecker (lat. Picus viridis; serbian: zelena žuna)

The loud laughing call, green upperparts, yellow rump and distinctive shape makes this an easy bird to identify. The crown is completely red in all plumages. Breeds and winters in mature woodland, parkland and heaths, feeding on nearby short grassland. Picus viridis feeds mainly on invertebrates. It is a garden predator, which means its diet ranges from earthworms (including: ants, worms, lizards) to different kinds of fruit. Fruit is eaten especially during the summertime. Woodpeckers have extremely long tongues which curl around inside their skull ready to be ejected like a snakes into any area where there may be food such as ants. The tongue itself is sticky, like fly paper, so picks up any ants it comes in contact with.

Common Blackbird (lat. Turdus merula; serbian: kos)

The male Blackbird is unmistakeable with his all black plumage and his yellow bill and eye-ring and has a rich melodious song. Essentially a woodland bird, it has adapted very successfully to farmland, parks and gardens. The adult female and juvenile have mainly dark brown  or grey-brown plumage with a brownish-white throat and speckled breast. The bill is dark. Blackbird is between 24 adn 29 cm from head to tail.

Great Tit (lat. Parus major; serbian: velika senica)

It is a woodland bird which has readily adapted to man-made habitats to become a familiar garden visitor. It can be quite aggressive at a birdtable, fighting off smaller tits. In winter it joins with blue tits and others to form roaming flocks which scour gardens and countryside for food. Breeds and winters in woods, parks, orchards, hedgerows and gardens. Feeds on insects, seeds and nuts.

Blue Tit (lat. Parus caeruleus; serbian: plava senica)

This small tit has yellow underparts, with a narrow, dark central stripe on the belly, blue wings and a white face, which is crowned with blue and streaked with a dark eye-stripe. The sexes are similar, although females are often somewhat duller than males. The juveniles have a more yellowish face than the adults. Blue Tit can be found in a range of habitats wherever there are trees, including broad-leaved woodlands, orchards, hedgerows, parks and suburban gardens. Its colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green make the blue tit one of the most attractive resident garden birds. It eats insects, caterpillars, seeds and nuts.

Nightingale (lat. Luscinia megarhynchos; serbian: slavuj)

This songbird famous for its song typically prefer habitats with mild to warm climates. hey can be found in areas with dense, low thicket growth or woodlands with young trees and bare ground underneath. They prefer habitats with coppiced tree species, and are most often found in hazel trees. This is ideal for nightingale because it provides a good hiding place from predators while allowing them to search for food and make nests safely. It eats insects.