On Saturday morning as we made the nauseating bus ride up to the base of Mount Vesuvius, I could not help but notice all the beautiful red valerian that flourished on the mountain side. Once we reached the base and began our hike to the top of the infamous volcano, I could not look in any direction without seeing bursts of these vibrant, beautiful flowers.
My question was what allowed them to grow in such a climate, was it the soil that the volcanic ash provided or the tropical climate of the Mediterranean? Upon further research, I learned that the red valerian, otherwise known as Centranthus ruber, can thrive in most soils as long as there is proper water drainage and plenty of sunlight. Although very versatile, they prefer chalky or stony soil and can be found in stonewalls, common along the Italian coastline, as well as coastal gardens. This would explain why they thrive so well on the Vesuvius mountainside not only with its ashy soil with good drainage but also the constant sun exposure.
Overall, the hike was very fun and full of amazing views of the crater of Vesuvius as well as scenic panoramas of the Mediterranean coastline. It amazed me how much vegetation was able to grow and thrive on Mount Vesuvius. It was surreal standing at the top and absorbing that this very volcano had wiped out an entire civilization. - BP