The Melkuttimet area's landscape is typical of ridgebacks formed during the Ice Age. The area's diversity is added to by its lakes and ponds with their nutrient poor water, which is exceptionally clear by southern Finland's standards. There are small pine bogs along lake shores and in ridge depressions. One of the area's birds is the Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) which will entertain hikers during twilight and the night time. Lucky visitors may spot its hawklike silhouette in the light night sky. Arctic Loons (Gavia arctica) which give out loud calls on the lake backs are interesting to observe from the shores.

Lake Iso-Melkutin. Photo: Metsähallitus

Treasures of Sunny Southern Slopes

Southern slopes in ridge areas are sunny, hot and dry and thus very demanding environments. The snow layer which protects species from freezing weather melts early. The snow layer is rarely thick as slopes are steep. Additionally the humus layer is usually quite thin and splotchy. The ridge side forests have their own unique vegetation make up. The Locoweed (Oxytropis campestris) and the Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) are typical of hot exposed ridge slopes. The Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) is very threatened and very indigenous of the area. Its most western habitat is at Melkuttimet. The rare vegetation species on these sunny slopes are also what many threatened or rare inspect species feed on.

The Pasqueflower is the Kanta-Häme county flower. It pushes through the earth in very early spring soon after the snow melts. At the end of each stem there is one large blue-red or blue flower. The flower's stem is covered in long, dense fur. The sites where the Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) grows are protected by law and visitors may not under any circumstances pick these flowers or move them.

The very threatened Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) is the Kanta-Häme municipal flower. Photo: Heli Saloniemi

Conserving exposed ridge side environments

Some outside factors which have negatively affected the area such as wind and fire are essential for preserving these hot exposed environments. Overgrowing of forests poses the greatest threat for these. For example the more efficient prevention of forest fires and the termination of vast use of forest meadows as pastures have caused trees to grow more densely and the underbrush to overgrow. The growing rate of nitrogen deposition has also caused eutrophication of these originally rugged ridge side forests. Additionally commercial forestry was practiced in the Melkuttimet area until the late 1990s so the forests are not in their natural state. To increase biodiversity Metsähallitus has felled trees and removed bark from standing trees (www.metsa.fi) in the area in order to add the amount of decaying wood which is typical of natural forests.

Overgrowing of trees and vegetation has also significantly hindered growth of the Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens), the Locoweed (Oxytropis campestris) and the Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum). Small scale nature management have been carried out around the spots where these plants grow in the Melkuttimet area: individual trees have been felled and some moss covering removed.

Damp Stream Banks

The upper course of stream, which flows into Lake Iso-Melkutin, is in its natural state. The stream bank is at points damp enough for even demanding vegetation to grow there. Amongst these demanding plants there are sedges, wool plants and mosses. Some significant species found in Melkuttimet include the Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. incarnata), The Scarce Chaser dragonfly (Libellula fulva) and the Water Strider insect (Aquarius najas).