About the Borșaroș fen
The mineral springs containing sodium, magnesium, calcium and hydrogen carbonate are among the main attractions of the Lower Ciuc Basin. These, in addition to providing good quality drinking water, created distinctive habitats, where several rare plant and animal species find shelter even today. What makes them special is that the limonite precipitated from the mineral water creates conical mud structures in some places or it spreads around the spring, forming reddish covering, which is called “borsár” (mineral water mud) by the locals, hence the Hungarian name Borsáros, which currently consists of two separate parts, known as Vízkert and Omlásalja. In the area surrounding the springs with different compositions, rich in mineral, various types of fens and damp meadows were formed. The surface of the fens that were formed at the end of the Würm glaciation period was once several times as large as that of the ones existent today. The surface of the Borșaroș at the end of the nineteenth century, according to some old military maps, was around 15 hectares; in the nineteen fifties it was only a little over nine acres, and today it has shrunk to 2.5 hectares. Its rare plants have already caught the attention of Nyárádi Erasmus Gyula in 1929, who mentioned large open water surfaces in connection with the fen. The area was declared a botanical reserve in 1939, and from 2007 it is part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas (ROSCI0007 Lower Ciuc Basin Natura 2000 site). Being an official protected area did not stop the process of alteration related the vegetation of the area, which occurred mainly due to the drainage and water regulation measures, as well as pollution: at the edges it was invaded by stress-tolerant plants, and the place of the open plant community of the fen, adapted to mineral water, was taken by tall forbs and willow scrubs. The reserve still shelters several rare and glacial relict species and for the long-term survival of these, it would be essential for the fen to be restored, at least partially.
This begun in 2014, as a joint project of the local authorities and the custodian of the Natura 2000 site.

 

 

Tall forbs covered area and transitional bog
In the first third of the area known as Vízkert, a large part of the treeless vegetation is currently made up of wetland areas covered with tall forbs, adjacent to some remnants of calciphilous fens with lower, tussocky sedges. Both of these occur in areas that are relatively well-watered, but since fens require a permanently wet soil, their place is being gradually taken over by meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and stands of tall forbs. The latter are characterized by the fact that they are dominated by large-leaved, dicotyledonous plants that grow up to a height of one or two meters: from the beginning of summer, plume thistles (Cirsium rivulare), meadowsweets (Filipendula ulmaria) and valerians (Valeriana officinalis) are in bloom. The waterlogged soil still ensures the survival within the plant community of a protected glacial relict plant, the dwarf birch. Other rare or relict plants from the damp meadows are: the lesser panicled sedge (Carex diandra), the early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), the marsh helleborine (Epipactis palustris), the sword lily (Gladiolus palustris), the rosemary-leaved willow (Salix rosmarinifolia), and the tufted loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora). The Siberian Ligularia (Ligularia sibirica), which can reach a height of up to one and a half meters, fits very well into the vegetation dominated by tall forbs. The deeply cordate base of their leaf distinguishes them from the marsh marigold, which often occurs in the damp areas of the plant community. Its capitula, arranged in long clusters, are in bloom starting from late June. It has a relatively good tolerance toward transitional drought, and it can also be found in areas covered by scrubs, although here they bloom less frequently. Among the protected species of European significance linked to wetlands this is the one that was most successful in surviving through the changes of its habitat, not only within the Borșaroș fen, but throughout the Lower Ciuc Basin. However, due to the continuation of the process of drying out, the Siberian Ligularia is now endangered.
Fen with grey willows and alders
The willowy areas of the Borșaroș consist of grey willows (Salix cinerea), which, due to the fact that the dry meadow is no longer mowed, became prevalent in the area. Their hemispherical crowns form a low, dense scrub, with a height of not more than 5 metres, and within the herb vegetation thereof, along with the purple small-reed (Calamagrostis canescens) and some sedge species (for example Carex caespitosa) one can also find marsh marigold, meadowsweet, tufted loosestrife, common twayblade and several other wetland plants. However, due to the accumulation of nutrients and to pollution, the area can easily be infested with nettles and other stress-tolerant plants. In small groups, in dead-water pockets, there are a few groups of taller black alders (Alnus glutinosa) and several smaller bay willows (Salix pentandra) can also occur, which stand out from among the greyish-coloured grey willows due to their bright leafs. The willow-fen can also provide shelter for wetland vegetation, because by providing shade it helps prevent drying, hence, some species even feel better here than out in the open field. From the rare wetland plants, at the edge of the grey willow-dominated area lives the Borșaroș stand of marsh angelica (Angelica palustris). This is a tall plant, of which stem often reaches a length of one and a half of metres, being a biennial or multiennial plant. Its inflorescences are made of white, compound umbrellas. The easiest way to distinguish it from the similar, but more common wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris), which is also present in the willowy area, is by its base leaf, which shows a broken line. Due to the loss of its habitats, it is an endangered species throughout Europe, having disappeared from more than half of its known habitats in Romania. In the Borșaroș there were 32 individual plants in 2013, being unable to spread in the heavily shaded willowy area.

The dwarf birch and the restoration of its habitat
A unique treasure of the Borșaroș is the small dwarf birch (Betula humilis). Earlier the largest stand of dwarf birch in Romania was to be found here. It is a glacial relict plant, which, as the small tree of the wetlands, evokes tundra vegetation. Like the other species of birch, it is unisexual: its inflorescences carrying the stamens are grouped into aglets at the ends of its branches, while the ones carrying the pistil form tiny garlands on the shorter branches. The botanist Emil Pop already drew attention to the rapid depletion of its stand, in the sixties, when wood-cutting was the main endangering factor. Currently, 20 to 30 specimens are living in the reserve, many of them being almost entirely covered by tall forbs. They don’t tolerate the shading casted by the willows, so their habitat is constantly shrinking. It is possible for them to interbreed with silver birch, their hybrid (Betula zimpelli) being present in a total of three fens. Just like in case of the dwarf birch, the original habitat of the other glacial relict species presented is the open damp meadow, with a thoroughly waterlogged soil, dominated by low or mid-height sedge species. Despite the fact that the grey willow-dominated area is also a valuable habitat, the survival of the dwarf birch and of some other similar species requires for the damp meadow to gain ground again through the suppression of tall forb and scrub vegetation. Therefore, in 2014, the phased restoration of the fen was started. In the first phase, the spots infested by weeds (nettle, hempnettle) will be mown several times, which can help remove the biomass that is not typical of fens. In the second phase, along with the recirculation of the leaking mineral water, scrubs will be gradually supressed from around the open areas. Fast cutting would lead to drying and further weeding. There are good chances that the fen vegetation that is currently lingering in small clumps or as isolated specimens, will reclaim the area thus freed, but if this does not occur, in a third phase, the active replantation of the fen species may also be necessary. The goal is, that within 5-6 years, the Borșaroș fen to regain its more open form, providing a habitat for a vital stand of relict species.

THEMATIC PATH: Borșaroș fen – Vízkert (Grădina apei)
This thematic path starts from behind the mineral water spring (András Pista spring), and passes the most important species and habitats in the reserve and then returns to the initial point. The route itself contains a suspended footbridge (like in the case of the Mohoş Peat Bog). Along the path there are 4 information panels presenting images and explanations about the protected species and habitats of the reserve.

ACCESS:
Access is possible from the county road E574 or the national road E578 that fragments Sâncrăieni and Borșaroș, which is situated just 25 km from Tusnad and 8 km from Miercurea-Ciuc.

Borșaroș fen, Sâncrăieni (655 m) – thematic path
Length of the path:
150 m.
Time spent there: depends on the tourist/group, approx. 20-30 minutes.