The plant world of the protected areas of the Šibenik-Knin County is fairly diverse. These protected areas, including the significant landscapes and the Natura 2000 ecological network areas, are comprised of marine and terrestrial areas that are important for the conservation of endangered species and habitats.
The underwater world of the protected areas of the Šibenik-Knin County is also fairly diverse and rich in the plant world comprising communities of seagrass meadows. The Adriatic Sea is inhabited by four species of seagrass. Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanica) serves an important role in maintaining the balance of coastal ecosystems.
Some Illyrian-Adriatic endemic species are most commonly found among the endemic plant species on the islands and in the littoral zone; 4 species of orchids are listed in the Red Book of Vascular Flora of Croatia: the lady orchid and the three-toothed orchid (Orchis purpurea and Orchis tridentate), the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) and Bertoloni’s bee orchid (Ophrys bertolonii). As a typical element of the karst landscape, Žut-Sit Island Group is characterized by rocky pasture vegetation.
The littoral zone is predominantly inhabited by salt-tolerant plants or halophytes that grow in soil or waters of high salinity, so they had to develop special adaptations. The species of halophytic vegetation that grow on seashores are mostly succulent and fragile plants nearly leafless or with leaves being reduced so that their branched leafless stem gives them an unusual, cactus-like appearance.
Some Illyrian-Adriatic endemic species such as the Illyrian iris (Iris illyrica) and Dalmatian broom (Genista sylvestris subsp. dalmatica), which are strictly protected species, can be found on rocky grasslands and rare thickets of the protected areas of the Šibenik-Knin County.
There are two strictly protected species in wetland habitats: the yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) and the marsh lax-flowered orchid (Orchis laxiflora subsp. Palustris).
Limestone soils up to 1600 metres above sea level, abandoned grasslands and meadows are inhabited by the Adriatic lizard orchid (Himantoglossum adriaticum), an endangered orchid species. In the area of the Dinaric karst up to 1000 metres above sea level we can find the Illyrian-Balkan endemic species of the amethyst meadow squill or Dalmatian scilla (Chouardia litardierei), a herbaceous perennial belonging to the orchid family, which is listed as a strictly protected plant species in Croatia, with the conservation status of a near-threatened species, mostly due to habitat desiccation and lack of mowing and grazing caused by severe depopulation.
Flora of the significant landscape Channel–Port
The Channel–Port Significant Landscape lies in the Eumediterranean vegetation zone, in the evergreen holm oak forest vegetation belt (community Orno-Quercetum ilicis) The forest vegetation is dominated by the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), holm oak (Quercus ilex) and prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus L.).
Among the almost six hundred higher plants, the most pronounced are the Illyrian-Adriatic endemic swallow wort (Vincetoxicum hirundinaria ssp. adriaticum), the rare pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), four orchid species (Orchidaceae) included in the Red Book of Vascular Flora of Croatia: bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) in the category of endangered species and the Bertoloni’s bee orchid (Ophrys bertolonii), lady orchid (Orchis purpurea) and three-toothed orchid (Orchis tridentata) in the category of vulnerable species. The salty habitats are inhabited by the endangered species yellow hornpoppy (Glaucium flavum) and the vulnerable species barbgrass (Hainardia cylindrica).
The coastline encompasses habitats under different influences of sea water, with halophyte habitats being most commonly found in the significant landscape Channel – Port.
Flora of the significant landscape Čikola River and Canyon
The Čikola River canyon belongs to the deciduous or Submediterranean zone of the Mediterranean vegetation region. The flora is comprised of 298 plant species, among them is the pyramidal bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis), an eastern Adriatic/Balkan endemic that grows in rock crevices and on rocky slopes, while the yellow water lily (Nuphar lutea) and white lotus (Nymphaea alba) attract our attention from the water. The Red Book of Vascular Flora of Croatia includes the European slough grass (Beckmannia eruciformis) in the category of critically endangered species, common mare’s tail (Hippuris vulgaris) in the category of vulnerable species, and galingale (Cyperus longus) and lady orchid (Orchis purpurea) in the category of vulnerable species.
Flora of the significant landscape Žut-Sit Archipelago
The Žut-Sit archipelago belongs to the Eumediterranean vegetation zone. Forest vegetation consists of evergreen forests and holm oak (Quercus ilex) macchia with common myrtle (Myrtus communis) in various successional stages, from macchia to gariggues and bare rock. The larger islands are covered with rocky pastures that are poor in species richness, dominated by Mediterranean false brome (Brachypodium retusum) and common thatching grass (Hypparrhenia hirta).
Among the protected plant species of the coastal zone are the marine asparagus (Asparagus maritimus), stiff sand-grass (Desmazeria marina), Elymus pycnanthus, pine spurge (Euphorbia pinea), immortelle (Helichrysum italicum), Limonium cancellatum and curved sicklegrass (Parapholis incurva). Due to centuries of anthropogenic influences, the forests surfaces have virtually completely disappeared and the landscape is dominated by rocky pastures. The underwater world is often inhabited by Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanica).
Flora of the significant landscape Gvozdenovo – Kamenar
The landscape lies within the evergreen holm oak vegetation belt (community Orno-Quercetum ilicis) while in the edge areas on the northern side, which is also the shady side, elements of pubescent oak and oriental hornbeam (community Querco-Carpinetum orientalis) dominate. Due to centuries of anthropogenic influence, the landscape is dominated by planted stands of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), degradation stage of holm oak forests, garrigues, macchia and rocky grasslands.
The flora of this area has not been systematically studied but it is known as a habitat for the Illyrian iris (Iris illyrica), an Illyrian-Adriatic endemic, and the Dalmatian bee orchid (Ophrys flavicans), the first endemic orchid species to be described in Dalmatia.
Flora of the significant landscape Krka River – lower course
The list of flora of the Prukljan area contains 406 native plant species. Among these are several Illyrian/Adriatic endemics: tomentose moon carrot (Seseli tomentosum), chimney bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis), Dalmatian pellitory (Tanacetum cinerarifolium), Adriatic violet (Viola adriatica), musk thistle (Carduus micropterus) and Salvia bertolonii. Halophite plant species are important in the wetland habitats around Prukljan, including: hastate orach (Atriplex hastata), black bogrush (Schoenus nigricans), bullrush (Scirpus maritimus), triangular club rush (Scirpus triqueter), saltmarsh rush (Juncus gerardi) and sea rush (Juncus maritimus). The saline surfaces are vegetated with sea aster (Aster tripolium), golden samfire (Inula crithmoides), sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima), opposite leaf Russian thistle (Salsola soda), buckhorn plantain (Plantago coronopus subsp. coronopus), Limonium vulgare subsp. serotinum, chaste tree (Vitex agnusa-castus), longbract sedge (Carex extensa), jointed rush (Juncus articulatus), sea couch (Elymus pycnanthus), curved sicklegrass (Parapholis incurva) and Puccinellia festuciformis.