Story of the Park

Description: Pogled iz zraka
Author: PP Lastovsko otočje
Source: PP Lastovsko otočje
What would it feel like to go to a place where the sea is so crystal clean, that you can see the seabed even when the sea is about fifty meters deep... A place where the tradition is so cherished, that written pledges of respect for island customs were once requested of foreigners, and where people are so full of temperament, and so closely attached to the earth and the sea... A place where it was forbidden to plant walnuts, so witches would not come to the island, and where there are no poisonous snakes... Can such a place really exist? Yes indeed, and its name is – Lastovo. If you come here, this island will remain forever engraved in your memory, as the place that even the Greek god Zeus considered to be one of the most beautiful islands of the world.

Story of the Park

 

What would it feel like to go to a place where the sea is so crystal clean, that you can see the seabed even when the sea is about fifty meters deep... A place where the tradition is so cherished, that written pledges of respect for island customs were once requested of foreigners, and where people are so full of temperament, and so closely attached to the earth and the sea... A place where it was forbidden to plant walnuts, so witches would not come to the island, and where there are no poisonous snakes... Can such a place really exist? Yes indeed, and its name is – Lastovo. If you come here, this island will remain forever engraved in your memory, as the place that even the Greek god Zeus considered to be one of the most beautiful islands of the world.

If you are looking for a truly endless view of the surroundings, you’ll find it on the island of Lastovo. The view from the sightseeing point of Hum, 417 meters above sea level, is just like that – an endless vision of blue. On the other side, there are hills, deep sea coves, fertile fields, and slightly lower peaks of Mali Hum (415 meters) and Pleševo brdo (400 meters).

The sea entrance to the cove of Skrivena luka is guarded by the cape of Struga. A lighthouse of the same name was built here back in 1839 – providing yet another endless blue view, ninety meters above sea level, on the very verge of a steep cliff. It is a genuine surprise for our human eyes, so used to seeing a beginning and an end of everything.

As a matter of fact, the island and the archipelago of Lastovo represent the end of the search for a perfect destination for many visitors. This area has already become the ultimate destination of many a demanding traveler, with all the beauty that the Earth can provide, and that human mind can imagine. There are few islands in the Adriatic with more sunshine than Lastovo, with its long and dry summers, and mild, snow-free winters; in addition, due to its position in the open sea, the island does not suffer from sudden weather changes.

Nature park Lastovo islands is a true paradise oasis of the Mediterranean. A visit to an island beach easily turns into a unique experience and lasting memory of discovery of pristine space. Skrivena luka is one such beach, located on the southern side of the island of Lastovo.

The Archipelago consists of the western islets and the island of Sušac, together with islet groups of Donji škoji (Lastovnjaci) and Gornji škoji (Vrhovnjaci) – in total, 44 islands, islets and sea rocks.

The Nature Park was named after the biggest island of the archipelago, Lastovo, which is also the southernmost inhabited island in Croatia.

Until the most recent ice age, approximately thirteen thousand years ago, Lastovo used to be connected with the mainland, until the Adriatic as we know it today expanded due to ice melt. Today, the island is fully separated by the sea, sitting on the shallow Palagruža Sill that extends from the peninsula of Pelješac to Monte Gargano. On both sides of the Sill, sea depths are considerably bigger – especially in the south, where sea bottom dives to 1,350 meters.

The  Nature Park Lastovo islands is astounding in its nature. Blue sea is sprinkled with green islands, separated from the sea by inaccessible rocky coastline. The landscape of the Lastovo islands, exciting and vivid, and yet calming at the same time, allows visitors to engage in endless discovery of numerous channels, coves and sea rocks. Yachtsmen will find the area particularly attractive. There are two groups of islands and islets on the eastern side of the island of Lastovo – Lastovnjaci a bit closer to the island, and Vrhovnjaci a bit further away.

The island of Lastovo and islands surrounding it began gradually emerging from the sea bed about 150 million years ago. For millions of years, skeletons and shells of sea organisms were sedimenting on the bottom of the sea, until the islands eventually dived out of the sea. This explains the dolomite and limestone character of the soil of Lastovo, as well as numerous caves, pits and fields. Not all the surfaces have the same structure, however: the island also has its stone giants, its sea rocks and cliffs, the most imposing of which is the one in Skrivena luka.

The coast is not particularly hospitable, and it is mostly inaccessible. Therefore, the best option to explore the coastline is to hop on board a vessel, as this part of the Adriatic is a favorite spot for yachtsmen. A typical image of the island is one of white sails of sailboats scattered across the deep blue of the sea, with the sun above them – this being one of the sunniest places in the Adriatic in terms of hours of sunshine per year. The coves of Vejo lago and Malo lago are an exception in terms of accessibility when it comes to local waters.

The dynamic relief of the inner part of the island stands in direct contrast to the coastline, which is not particularly indented. Numerous caves can be found on the island, a consequence of sea and rainwater seeping through permeable soil. Potable water is a precious commodity on the islands, and the locals obtain it by desalinating this brackish water.

Lastovo is a hilly island, with around fifty fertile fields. Unlike the fields on other karst islands, the fields of the island of Lastovo are rich in sand and marl brought by the wind. Only about thirty percent of the fields are cultivated, however. The island population is relatively old, which is why most of the available fields are not cultivated these days. Numerous pools of water can be found in these fields, with as many as twelve species of dragonflies, the quickest fliers in the world of insects.

The island population is small and relatively old, which is why there are simply too few inhabitants capable of cultivating the fertile fields. Young people rarely decide to stay and live on the island.

The loneliness and distance of Lastovo did a lot of good to the island. In biological terms, it is one of the best-preserved areas of the Mediterranean.  The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) declared the island an area of special importance for biodiversity conservation in the Mediterranean. Two plant species extraordinarily resistant to the impact of the sea – holm oak (Quercus ilex) and Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) – dominate the thick island forests.

The abundance of sunlight and night moisture on Lastovo enable life for over 800 plant species, including twenty endemic ones. There are also fifty endangered plant species, and twenty strikingly beautiful orchid species.

The westernmost island of the Nature Park Lastovo islands is Sušac, a botanical jewel of the Adriatic with over 250 recorded species. It is a habitat of plant species common in the Aegean Sea and the Italian South, and the northernmost point where these two groups of species meet. In the summertime, Sušac is marked by deciduous thicket formations, such as those of the rare plant tree spurge (Euphorbia dendroides), which flowers and blossoms towards the beginning of autumn, gives fruit in the winter, only to shed its leaves towards the end of spring.

The endemic species Sušac mustard (Brassica cazzae) grows in cracks of rocks near the sea.

The abundance and diversity of bird species constitute yet another extraordinary value of the Park. Given its geographical position, the Lastovo islands natue park  is an important resting and feeding place for birds during their annual migrations across the Adriatic Sea to the Italian Peninsula and further on to Africa. So far, 145 bird species have been recorded in the territory of the entire archipelago. They include birds of prey, such as the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). As much as 70 percent of the Croatian population of Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) is nesting on islets of the eastern part of the Park, and the entire archipelago with its islands and islets is the nesting place of Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), which the inhabitants of Zaklopatica on the island of Lastovo know very well, listening to the Mediterranean shearwater’s characteristic night calls.

geological history we have already mentioned. The best-known cave of Lastovo is Rača, with traces of life and human presence since ancient history. It is a geomorphological monument of nature, and a rich archaeological site. In total 70 meters long, the cave is impressive due to the richness of its cave structures, extraordinary shapes of its pillars, and other geological “jewelry”. The cave of Medjedina is also significant – not so long ago, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) used to live in it, the so-called “sea man” as people frequently refer to it. It is the most endangered and rarest seal species. Nowadays, it is a rare occurrence to see the Mediterranean monk seal in the waters of the Park; however, even these few precious encounters bring hope that the “sea man” would eventually return back to its ancient home. The caves of Lastovo are home to at least 16 bat species.

The subterranean layers of the island of Lastovo are full of brackish water, as a result of tectonic shifts that resulted in cracks and channels, which were eventually filled up by the

There is only one snake species on the Lastovo Islands Nature Park , and it is not poisonous, which means that you need not worry as you use any of the walking and cycling trails, over 200 kilometers long in total at the level of the Lastovo island nature park.

Seventy percent of the Park’s surface consists of the sea. The submarine world is known for the beauty of various corals. Particularly beautiful are the colonies of gold coral (Gerardia savaglia), red coral (Corallium rubrum), and the endemic star coral (Madracis pharensis).

The sea of Lastovo is home to approximately 150 fish species, and the fishermen are particularly happy when they catch the precious lobster. The submarine world of the Park is also rich in sponges, molluscs, moss animals, echinoderms, crustaceans and many other species, making the links of the submarine chain of life very strong.

Even though it is quite far from the mainland, the open sea island of Lastovo hides many small churches, votive chapels and other interesting buildings in its green vegetation. Turbulent historical times also had an impact on the island of Lastovo, regardless of the distance. In 1252, the islanders voluntarily accepted the rule of the Dubrovnik Republic, and in return they got written guarantees and a pledge that they would have the autonomy to make local decisions and that all the customs of the islanders would be respected. As a result, on January 10, 1310, the Statute of Lastovo was reached at a public meeting on the island.

 This way of life resulted in many surviving tales of the past, and intangible heritage that is still alive today, reflecting the intense history of the island. Lastovo Carnival is one such legacy, as one of the most valuable customs in Croatia. The carnival tradition is connected with the Moorish siege of the island of Korčula in 1483. The Moors sent one of their emissaries to the island of Lastovo, with the task to ensure surrender of the islanders. However, the inhabitants of Lastovo detained the emissary. Angered, the Moors attacked Lastovo. A terrible storm then struck the Moorish fleet and destroyed it. The islanders put the prisoner on a donkey and put him to ridicule by taking him around the island. In the evening, they prepared a long rope and used it to lower the poor guy from a hill called Pokladareva grža, or the Carnival Hill. Since these ancient times, the people of Lastovo have been jealously preserving and enriching the tradition of the Lastovo Carnival, transmitting it through oral tradition from one generation to the next. And so the Carnival lives on until the present day, held every year with its rich costumes and masks, the island coming out of its winter sleep. There is no custom anywhere in the world similar to the Lastovo Carnival.

The distance and isolation of the island have deeply enriched the legends of Lastovo. Almost every inhabitant could tell you a legend, in order to explain, for example, why nobody planted walnut trees on the island. The reason was a deeply held belief that witches would meet under the walnut tree, and the islanders were very eager not to have witches as neighbors. There are also legends about the beauty of the island. The Greek god Zeus once sent an emissary to find the most beautiful island in the world, so that quarrels on Mount Olympus would finally stop as to whether this title belongs to the island of Lastovo, Mljet or Korčula. The emissary looked and looked at these islands, but could not decide which is more beautiful than the other. The gods finally decided to punish the emissary for his indecisiveness, by turning him into stone – and that stone is the small island of Glavat.

The so-called fumari, chimneys of the island of Lastovo, also represent a special story of the island, and its genuine attraction. They are so diverse, that the visitors invariably end up being curious – how come, they ask, that every single chimney is different from the other. There simply are no two chimneys on the island that would be identical. One theory is that the islanders built these chimneys in such a diverse manner in order to point out the differences between households and families on the island, primarily in terms of wealth.  As a result, every new chimney would end up being bigger than its “predecessor”, and adorned with more elaborate ornaments. Competition among islanders was relentless, it seems, as to who would have the most intriguing chimney; one of the ornaments used, for example, were animal horns that can still be found on some chimneys, due to the belief that they serve as protection against spells. It is believed that the oldest chimney on the island is the one on the Renaissance house of the Antica-Biz family. These unusual, unique chimneys create a unique scenery of the island, too hard for any tourist video or photo camera to resist.

Park ID Card - information about the Park

Natural heritage

This area is one of the richest and best-preserved treasure troves of biodiversity in the Mediterranean. Over 800 plant taxa and 330 marine invertebrates have been recorded only on the island of Lastovo, most of them protected. Dense forests, fertile fields, steep coastline and caves make the Nature Park Lastovo islands  a remarkable example of natural wealth and a major tourist attraction.

The indented coast of the Lastovo Islands nature park  is extraordinary, with as many as 44 islands, rocks and reefs, making this area a highly valuable part of the Mediterranean.

Terrestrial biodiversity

The Mediterranean flora element is dominant in the plant world of the Nature Park Lastovo islands, with therophytes as the key life form. There are over 800 plant taxa recorded only on the island of Lastovo, pointing to an abundance of plant forms. That includes 21 endemic taxa and 67 taxa from the Red Book of Vascular Flora of Croatia. When it comes to endangered and rare plants on the island of Lastovo, they include Mauritanian grass (Ampelodesmos mauritanica), white alyssum (Aurinia leucadea), Dubrovnik knapweed (Centaurea ragusina), species Portenschlagiella ramosissima, and Illyrian scabious (Knautia illyrica).

One stenoendemic species strictly protected by law, Biserrula pelecinus ssp. dalmatica, is particularly worth mentioning. The small surface of the islands of Lastovo and Prežba also includes a rather large number of orchid species. One rarity of the Croatian flora - species Ophrys biscutella – also grows on the island of Lastovo.

The flora of the island of Sušac is fully adapted to the shortage of water, barren soil and permanent exposure to strong winds, particularly those from the south. Sušac has the most pronounced xerophytic vegetation on the Adriatic. In the summer, it is marked by deciduous thicket formations; the spring begins after the first autumn rains; since the end of May, the area enters a period of inert nature. There are over 270 species one can encounter on Sušac. Typical representatives of the plant world include the rare tree spurge (Euphorbia dendroides) and the endemic Sušac mustard (Brassica cazzae).

As a result of their isolated geographical position, the islands of the archipelago are a center of endemism. In total, 176 vertebrate species have been recorded on the island. Various bat species (16 in total) inhabit the subterranean habitats which represent their shelter and reproduction area. The cave of Ropa Medjedina is an important habitat, with summer bat nurseries of two endangered bat species – Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis emarginatus) and greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum).

The ornithofauna of the islands is particularly interesting, as the archipelago represents nesting grounds for rare bird species that nest on the cliffs of the island of Lastovo and neighboring islands. Among more than 140 bird species, birds of prey constitute an important part of the ornithofauna, with Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and short-toed snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus) as important representatives of the group.

As much as 90 percent of the Croatian population of Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii), a globally threatened species, is nesting on islets of the eastern part of the Park. There are also nesting colonies of the Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) in the area, as two very significant species whose populations are threatened and reliant upon the sea for feeding.

Stenoendemic lizard species include the Adriatic ruin lizard (Podarcis sicula adriatica) and the Lastovo wall lizard (Podarcis melisellensis n. ssp.). Recent research on invertebrates has resulted in discoveries of significant species. A water beetle species Cybister tripunctatus africanus – related to the great diving beetle – has been recorded for the first time in Croatia on the island of Lastovo. 

 

Marine biodiversity

Research on the submarine world of Lastovo has resulted in 248 recorded marine flora species, including 34 green alga species, 157 red algae, 52 brown algae, three seagrass species, and two lichen species. Benthic flora is characterized by significant depth distribution, in particular in the area of the island of Sušac. Atlantic-Mediterranean and Mediterranean elements of the flora dominate in the marine environment, with the share of 78% in the flora of southern Adriatic.

The area around the island of Sušac has one of the highest R/P index values in the Adriatic. This index describing the marine flora is expressed as a ratio of red to brown algae, and it points to warm subtropical characteristics of the sea around the island.

Posidonia oceanica and little Neptune grass (Cymodocea nodosa) are two seagrass species particularly prominent among protected species. Shallows such as Bijelac and Crnac present in the archipelago include dense brown algae meadows of the genus Cystoseira and Sargassum. Green alga Caulerpa prolifera has been recorded in the Park, as the only autochthonous species of the genus Caulerpa in the Adriatic.

Research conducted so far has resulted in 330 marine invertebrate species recorded in the area of the Lastovo islands, most of them protected. Prominent species include the giant tun (Tonna galea), Triton’s trumpet (Charonia tritonis sequenza) as an endangered snail species, and zoned mitre (Mitra zonata). Posidonia meadows frequently include communities of noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) and communities of sponges Axinella cannabina and Axinella polypoides along the edges of meadows. The submarine world of the Park includes colonies of the rare gold coral (Gerardia savaglia); endangered orange gorgonian (Leptogorgia sarmentosa); sponge elephant ear (Spongia agaricina); hatpin urchin (Centrostephanus longispinus); and a sea star species Ophidiaster ophidianus.

Red coral (Corallium rubrum) can be found in the communities present in semi-dark caves throughout the Lastovo islands. Characteristic fish species include the black scorpionfish (Scorpaena porcus), largescaled scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa), striped red mullet  (Mullus surmuletus), forked beard (Phycis phycis), East Atlantic peacock wrasse (Symphodus tinca), Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena) and European conger (Conger conger); cephalopod species include the common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) and octopus (Octopus vulgaris); crustaceans include spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) and the Mediterranean slipper lobster (Scyllarides latus). Endangered and protected long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampusramulosus) is also an inhabitant of the Nature Park Lastovo islands.

Groups of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) frequently visit the area of the Nature Park Lastovo islands. One can also encounter other whale species and sea turtles: loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and green turtle (Chelonya mydas).

 

Cultural and historical heritage

Lastovo Carnival is a major part of intangible cultural heritage of the Republic of Croatia. This custom, performed under strictly defined rules and procedure, marks the memory of the Moorish siege of the island of Korčula.

It is a highly unusual carnival, quite unlike any other. Another peculiar feature of Lastovo are its fumari – unusual, elaborate chimneys probably built in order to reflect the wealth of households. Every chimney is unique, without a copy in sight.

Tangible cultural heritage

The area of the Park, in particular the islands of Lastovo and Sušac, is rich in cultural heritage reflecting the intriguing history of the area. The settlement of Lastovo is located above a field and spreads over a steep amphitheater-shaped slope. It obtained its current shape back in the 15th and 16th century, and it represents one of the most peculiar examples of historical housing architecture of the Dalmatian, and in particular Dubrovnik area. There are many specific examples of cultural heritage, and one of the key local attractions are the interesting chimneys – so-called fumari, their elaborate shapes once reflecting the wealth of individual households.

Each of these chimneys is unique, built in order to emphasize the differences that existed among households. Out of 38 churches in total, ranging from well-preserved to dilapidated, 21 churches are registered as protected cultural goods. The islanders had them built in the honor of saints, hoping to ensure protection against hardship and illness in their daily lives. The oldest church – currently in the form of remains of an early Christian basilica – stems from the 6th century.

Protected prehistoric archaeological finding sites include many caves, hill forts and all eleven existing prehistoric tumuli. Antique villae rusticae (remains of Roman walls) and archaeological remains of a Roman settlement from the 1st century are also subject to protection. Due to a number of archaeological findings on the island of Sušac (over forty of them), the entire historical space of the island is protected, as an area settled since the beginning of the Neolithic period until the late Middle Ages. There are also 18 registered submarine archaeological sites in the area of the Lastovo islands Nature Park. 

Intangible cultural heritage

A number of folk customs were once present on the island of Lastovo. Only several customs have been preserved, and the most interesting is the Lastovo Carnival. The carnival tradition, in its current form and content, is connected with the Moorish (Catalan) siege of the island of Korčula that took place in 1483. According to legend, the Catalans sent one of their emissaries to the island of Lastovo, with the task of ensuring surrender of the islanders. However, the inhabitants of Lastovo detained the emissary. Angered, the Moors sent their ships to Lastovo with the aim of conquering the island.

But, a terrible storm struck the Moorish fleet and destroyed it. The islanders put the prisoner on a donkey and put him to ridicule by taking him around the island. In the evening, they prepared a long rope and used it to lower the poor guy from a hill called Pokladareva grža (the Carnival Hill). Then they took him to Dolac on a donkey and burned him there, with the bells ringing and people shouting. Since these ancient times until the present day, Lastovo Carnival is held every year, based on clearly defined rules and procedure. It is an unusual tradition without a similar example anywhere in the world, constituting one of the most unique customs in the Republic of Croatia, which the Ministry of Culture declared as intangible cultural heritage of the country on January 17, 2008, placing it under protection.

Seven hundred years ago, at a public meeting held in Lastovo on January 10, 1310, the Statute of Lastovo was reached, as a book of regulations and codified customs governing the municipality of the island and its assembly. It is a proof of considerable legal and cultural level of development that marked Lastovo in those ancient times, and that provided a foundation for the autonomy of the island. The Statute begins with the pledge of the Dubrovnik Republic that all ancient customs of the islanders would be respected in return to their voluntary subjugation to the jurisdiction of Dubrovnik. A set of 30 provisions contained in the first part of the Statute reached that year clearly describe the working and social relations within the island community.

The inhabitants of Lastovo preserved their folklore and vivid folk costumes used only for important occasions and ceremonies. Traditional female folk costumes contain all the important elements of rural clothing for special occasions from the 17th and the 18th century; male carnival clothes, on the other hand, have no link with the traditional menswear of the 18th century.

Population

It would be immensely difficult to describe a typical inhabitant of Lastovo. However, one characteristic that comes to mind is a certain kind of temperament, a sort of innate defiance. The inhabitants of Lastovo are loud and amusing, strongly connected with their families, ready to accept foreigners, and hospitable... They are very hard-working, as people who once engaged solely in agriculture. In addition to grapevine and olive growing, livestock breeding and fishing, they also hunted for corals and bred falcons.

Nowadays, they are increasingly focusing on tourism and trade, and particularly persistent locals invest great efforts in preserving various ancient crafts, such as the construction of vessels. The people of Lastovo are far from numerous, living far away from the mainland and certain pleasures of modern living; however, they make up for that with their quality of life, their capacity to socialize, and the joy that they receive from unspoilt nature.

After a hard day’s work, they are always ready to have fun and to enjoy domestic food and drinks, playing cards and bowling, dancing and singing late into the night. That defiant care for customs has not disappeared, and heritage left by their wise ancestors is still appreciated.

Legends of Lastovo

Numerous legends are connected with Lastovo, and it sometimes seems as if every inhabitant of the island is capable of telling you one. Here are some of the legends...

  • There is a belief that twelve golden statues of apostles were once buried in the settlement of Ubli, on a place where the archaeological excavations of the early Christian basilica of St. Peter is located today.
  • The people of Lastovo refrained from planting walnut trees in the past, because they believed that witches would congregate under them; garlic was a favorite remedy against all forms of spells.
  • Witches were particularly persistent in meeting at crossroads where roads would extend in three directions – those were their favorite meeting places. When it comes to fairies, on the other hand, their favorite meeting place was the cave of Rača, with a corridor that reaches all the way to the sea.
  • Vampires were not rare guests on the island either. The locals considered them responsible for occasional food poisoning epidemics.
  • A family with a palm growing in front of its house ran the risk of seeing its family line extinguished.
  • There is a legend of the island of Glavat, according to which the Greek god Zeus once sent an emissary into the world to find the most beautiful island in the world. After a long search, the emissary came across the islands of Lastovo, Korčula and Mljet, but could not decide which of the three is the most beautiful. He still stands there between the three islands, petrified.

Nature Park Lastovo islands

 

 

Park ID Card - information about the Park

Source: Arhiva JU PP Lastovsko otočje

Natural heritage

This area is one of the richest and best-preserved treasure troves of biodiversity in the Mediterranean. Over 800 plant taxa and 330 marine invertebrates have been recorded only on the island of Lastovo, most of them protected. Dense forests, fertile fields, steep coastline and caves make the archipelago of Lastovo a remarkable example of natural wealth and a major tourist attraction.
The indented coast of the archipelago is extraordinary, with as many as 44 islands, rocks and reefs, making this area a highly valuable part of the Mediterranean.

Terrestrial biodiversity

The Mediterranean flora element is dominant in the plant world of the archipelago, with therophytes as the key life form. There are over 800 plant taxa recorded only on the island of Lastovo, pointing to an abundance of plant forms. That includes 21 endemic taxa and 67 taxa from the Red Book of Vascular Flora of Croatia. When it comes to endangered and rare plants on the island of Lastovo, they include Mauritanian grass (Ampelodesmos mauritanica), white alyssum (Aurinia leucadea), Dubrovnik knapweed (Centaurea ragusina), species Portenschlagiella ramosissima, and Illyrian scabious (Knautia illyrica).

One stenoendemic species strictly protected by law, Biserrula pelecinus ssp. dalmatica, is particularly worth mentioning. The small surface of the islands of Lastovo and Prežba also includes a rather large number of orchid species. One rarity of the Croatian flora - species Ophrys biscutella – also grows on the island of Lastovo.

The flora of the island of Sušac is fully adapted to the shortage of water, barren soil and permanent exposure to strong winds, particularly those from the south. Sušac has the most pronounced xerophytic vegetation on the Adriatic. In the summer, it is marked by deciduous thicket formations; the spring begins after the first autumn rains; since the end of May, the area enters a period of inert nature. There are over 270 species one can encounter on Sušac. Typical representatives of the plant world include the rare tree spurge (Euphorbia dendroides) and the endemic Sušac mustard (Brassica cazzae).

 

As a result of their isolated geographical position, the islands of the archipelago are a center of endemism. In total, 176 vertebrate species have been recorded on the island. Various bat species (16 in total) inhabit the subterranean habitats which represent their shelter and reproduction area. The cave of Ropa Medjedina is an important habitat, with summer bat nurseries of two endangered bat species – Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis emarginatus) and greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum).

The ornithofauna of the islands is particularly interesting, as the archipelago represents nesting grounds for rare bird species that nest on the cliffs of the island of Lastovo and neighboring islands. Among more than 140 bird species, birds of prey constitute an important part of the ornithofauna, with Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and short-toed snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus) as important representatives of the group.

As much as 90 percent of the Croatian population of Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii), a globally threatened species, is nesting on islets of the eastern part of the Park. There are also nesting colonies of the Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) in the area, as two very significant species whose populations are threatened and reliant upon the sea for feeding.

Stenoendemic lizard species include the Adriatic ruin lizard (Podarcis sicula adriatica) and the Lastovo wall lizard (Podarcis melisellensis n. ssp.). Recent research on invertebrates has resulted in discoveries of significant species. A water beetle species Cybister tripunctatus africanus – related to the great diving beetle – has been recorded for the first time in Croatia on the island of Lastovo. 

Marine biodiversity

Research on the submarine world of Lastovo has resulted in 248 recorded marine flora species, including 34 green alga species, 157 red algae, 52 brown algae, three seagrass species, and two lichen species. Benthic flora is characterized by significant depth distribution, in particular in the area of the island of Sušac. Atlantic-Mediterranean and Mediterranean elements of the flora dominate in the marine environment, with the share of 78% in the flora of southern Adriatic.

The area around the island of Sušac has one of the highest R/P index values in the Adriatic. This index describing the marine flora is expressed as a ratio of red to brown algae, and it points to warm subtropical characteristics of the sea around the island.

Posidonia oceanica and little Neptune grass (Cymodocea nodosa) are two seagrass species particularly prominent among protected species. Shallows such as Bijelac and Crnac present in the archipelago include dense brown algae meadows of the genus Cystoseira and Sargassum. Green alga Caulerpa prolifera has been recorded in the Park, as the only autochthonous species of the genus Caulerpa in the Adriatic.

 

Research conducted so far has resulted in 330 marine invertebrate species recorded in the area of the Lastovo Islands, most of them protected. Prominent species include the giant tun (Tonna galea), Triton’s trumpet (Charonia tritonis sequenza) as an endangered snail species, and zoned mitre (Mitra zonata). Posidonia meadows frequently include communities of noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) and communities of sponges Axinella cannabina and Axinella polypoides along the edges of meadows. The submarine world of the Park includes colonies of the rare gold coral (Gerardia savaglia); endangered orange gorgonian (Leptogorgia sarmentosa); sponge elephant ear (Spongia agaricina); hatpin urchin (Centrostephanus longispinus); and a sea star species Ophidiaster ophidianus.

Red coral (Corallium rubrum) can be found in the communities present in semi-dark caves throughout the Lastovo Islands. Characteristic fish species include the black scorpionfish (Scorpaena porcus), largescaled scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa), striped red mullet  (Mullus surmuletus), forked beard (Phycis phycis), East Atlantic peacock wrasse (Symphodus tinca), Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena) and European conger (Conger conger); cephalopod species include the common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) and octopus (Octopus vulgaris); crustaceans include spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) and the Mediterranean slipper lobster (Scyllarides latus). Endangered and protected long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampusramulosus) is also an inhabitant of the archipelago.

Groups of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) frequently visit the area of the archipelago. One can also encounter other whale species and sea turtles: loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and green turtle (Chelonya mydas).

Cultural and historical heritage

Description: Lastovski Poklad
Author: PP Lastovsko otočje
Source: PP Lastovsko otočje
Lastovo Carnival is a major part of intangible cultural heritage of the Republic of Croatia. This custom, performed under strictly defined rules and procedure, marks the memory of the Moorish siege of the island of Korčula.
It is a highly unusual carnival, quite unlike any other. Another peculiar feature of Lastovo are its fumari – unusual, elaborate chimneys probably built in order to reflect the wealth of households. Every chimney is unique, without a copy in sight.

Tangible cultural heritage

The area of the Park, in particular the islands of Lastovo and Sušac, is rich in cultural heritage reflecting the intriguing history of the area. The settlement of Lastovo is located above a field and spreads over a steep amphitheater-shaped slope. It obtained its current shape back in the 15th and 16th century, and it represents one of the most peculiar examples of historical housing architecture of the Dalmatian, and in particular Dubrovnik area. There are many specific examples of cultural heritage, and one of the key local attractions are the interesting chimneys – so-called fumari, their elaborate shapes once reflecting the wealth of individual households.

Each of these chimneys is unique, built in order to emphasize the differences that existed among households. Out of 38 churches in total, ranging from well-preserved to dilapidated, 21 churches are registered as protected cultural goods. The islanders had them built in the honor of saints, hoping to ensure protection against hardship and illness in their daily lives. The oldest church – currently in the form of remains of an early Christian basilica – stems from the 6th century.

Protected prehistoric archaeological finding sites include many caves, hill forts and all eleven existing prehistoric tumuli. Antique villae rusticae (remains of Roman walls) and archaeological remains of a Roman settlement from the 1st century are also subject to protection. Due to a number of archaeological findings on the island of Sušac (over forty of them), the entire historical space of the island is protected, as an area settled since the beginning of the Neolithic period until the late Middle Ages. There are also 18 registered submarine archaeological sites in the area of the Lastovo Islands Nature Park. 

Intangible cultural heritage

A number of folk customs were once present on the island of Lastovo. Only several customs have been preserved, and the most interesting is the Lastovo Carnival. The carnival tradition, in its current form and content, is connected with the Moorish (Catalan) siege of the island of Korčula that took place in 1483. According to legend, the Catalans sent one of their emissaries to the island of Lastovo, with the task of ensuring surrender of the islanders. However, the inhabitants of Lastovo detained the emissary. Angered, the Moors sent their ships to Lastovo with the aim of conquering the island.

But, a terrible storm struck the Moorish fleet and destroyed it. The islanders put the prisoner on a donkey and put him to ridicule by taking him around the island. In the evening, they prepared a long rope and used it to lower the poor guy from a hill called Pokladareva grža (the Carnival Hill). Then they took him to Dolac on a donkey and burned him there, with the bells ringing and people shouting. Since these ancient times until the present day, Lastovo Carnival is held every year, based on clearly defined rules and procedure. It is an unusual tradition without a similar example anywhere in the world, constituting one of the most unique customs in the Republic of Croatia, which the Ministry of Culture declared as intangible cultural heritage of the country on January 17, 2008, placing it under protection.

Seven hundred years ago, at a public meeting held in Lastovo on January 10, 1310, the Statute of Lastovo was reached, as a book of regulations and codified customs governing the municipality of the island and its assembly. It is a proof of considerable legal and cultural level of development that marked Lastovo in those ancient times, and that provided a foundation for the autonomy of the island. The Statute begins with the pledge of the Dubrovnik Republic that all ancient customs of the islanders would be respected in return to their voluntary subjugation to the jurisdiction of Dubrovnik. A set of 30 provisions contained in the first part of the Statute reached that year clearly describe the working and social relations within the island community.

The inhabitants of Lastovo preserved their folklore and vivid folk costumes used only for important occasions and ceremonies. Traditional female folk costumes contain all the important elements of rural clothing for special occasions from the 17th and the 18th century; male carnival clothes, on the other hand, have no link with the traditional menswear of the 18th century.

Population

It would be immensely difficult to describe a typical inhabitant of Lastovo. However, one characteristic that comes to mind is a certain kind of temperament, a sort of innate defiance. The inhabitants of Lastovo are loud and amusing, strongly connected with their families, ready to accept foreigners, and hospitable... They are very hard-working, as people who once engaged solely in agriculture. In addition to grapevine and olive growing, livestock breeding and fishing, they also hunted for corals and bred falcons.

Nowadays, they are increasingly focusing on tourism and trade, and particularly persistent locals invest great efforts in preserving various ancient crafts, such as the construction of vessels. The people of Lastovo are far from numerous, living far away from the mainland and certain pleasures of modern living; however, they make up for that with their quality of life, their capacity to socialize, and the joy that they receive from unspoilt nature.

After a hard day’s work, they are always ready to have fun and to enjoy domestic food and drinks, playing cards and bowling, dancing and singing late into the night. That defiant care for customs has not disappeared, and heritage left by their wise ancestors is still appreciated.

Legends of Lastovo

Numerous legends are connected with Lastovo, and it sometimes seems as if every inhabitant of the island is capable of telling you one. Here are some of the legends...
  • There is a belief that twelve golden statues of apostles were once buried in the settlement of Ubli, on a place where the archaeological excavations of the early Christian basilica of St. Peter is located today.
  • The people of Lastovo refrained from planting walnut trees in the past, because they believed that witches would congregate under them; garlic was a favorite remedy against all forms of spells.
  • Witches were particularly persistent in meeting at crossroads where roads would extend in three directions – those were their favorite meeting places. When it comes to fairies, on the other hand, their favorite meeting place was the cave of Rača, with a corridor that reaches all the way to the sea.
  • Vampires were not rare guests on the island either. The locals considered them responsible for occasional food poisoning epidemics.
  • A family with a palm growing in front of its house ran the risk of seeing its family line extinguished.
  • There is a legend of the island of Glavat, according to which the Greek god Zeus once sent an emissary into the world to find the most beautiful island in the world. After a long search, the emissary came across the islands of Lastovo, Korčula and Mljet, but could not decide which of the three is the most beautiful. He still stands there between the three islands, petrified.

Nature Park Lastovo archipelago

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