In the area around the Gornergrat, botanist Josias Braun-Blanquet invented an important scientific method for analysing plant diversity: plant sociology. In his research, he mainly investigated the enormous variety of plants on the southern slope of the Gornergrat.
“The richest flora at this altitude in the Alps”
Botanist Josias Braun-Blanquet was 35 years old when he first visited Zermatt. As a passionate botanist, he was overwhelmed by the diversity of the plant world. So he began to study the flora and vegetation of the region in more detail. He wrote reports about it and collected information to expand his knowledge. His fascination with plant life was so great that he ended up writing a book about it.
In 1928 he published “Pflanzensoziologie. Grundzüge der Vegetationskunde” (Plant sociology. Basic features of vegetation science) in German – a standard work of modern plant sociology. In it, he designs a method of vegetation mapping that allows plant populations to be systematically recorded. The method was widely recognised by experts and was awarded the Linné Medal of the Linnean Society of London in 1974.
Another special feature is that Braun-Blanquet developed the method by observing the flora around the Gornergrat to the Hohtälligrat. According to Josias Braun-Blanquet, the southern slope of the Gornergrat up to the Hohtälligrat has “the richest flora at this altitude in the Alps”. Thirty-one species have their altitude records here!
Europe’s highest Alpine Garden
Braun-Blanquet would certainly have loved the Alpine Garden (Alpine Garden | Gornergrat Railway), which is being built on the Gornergrat ridge in late summer 2023. It is situated at 2,800 m.a.s.l. at Rotenboden station, making it the highest Alpine Garden in Europe.
With the wonderful view of the Matterhorn and the Gorner Glacier, a garden could hardly be more beautiful. No doubt Josias would have spent hours here investigating the unique flora and vegetation of the Gornergrat ridge.
Switzerland’s most valuable landscapes worth preserving
During his visit to Zermatt, Braun-Blanquet explored the BLN area 1707 “Dent-Blanche – Matterhorn – Monte Rosa,” which is listed in the Federal Inventory of Landscapes and Nature Monuments of national importance.
It is a high mountain landscape surrounded by impressive mountain ranges in the southern part of the canton of Valais and on the border with Italy. The area around the Gornergrat covers an area of 26,951 ha (269.51 km2) and also includes parts of the Gornergrat, among others the southern slope, the Riffelhorn, Lake Riffelsee and the glacier world.