Europe and Central Asia
11 Nov 2019

Protecting rare plant species on Orjen Mountain

Botanists and researchers from two different countries join forces to protect plants on their shared mountain.

The rare endemic Orjen Iris (Iris orjenii) ©Mihailo Jovićević
The rare endemic Orjen Iris (Iris orjenii) ©Mihailo Jovićević
By Dima Obeidat

Located within the Mediterranean basin, Orjen Mountain is considered an internationally important area – it was identified as globally important Key Biodiversity area – due to its biodiversity, especially plant species. From evergreen deciduous forests to flowering endemic plants, such as Aquilegia dinarica and Dianthus knapii, the unique flora and landscape in Orjen certainly give its visitor a sense of relief and pump positive energy into the soul.

Orjen is known for its high endemism, and sadly some of its plant species are at the edge of extinction due to afforestation, fires and hybridization, among other threats. The Orjen Iris (Iris orjenii), is a steno-endemic species, meaning it only occurs in a very small area and nowhere else in the world, and only occurs in Mt. Orjen. This beautiful flower was probably never common, but it seems that it is becoming even more rare and due to the extremely limited area where it grows it is considered to be critically endangered.  Nevertheless, there has been a glimpse of hope for the Orjen Iris recently. A fruitful collaboration between EnvPro, an NGO in Montenegro, and E-grupa, an association in Bosnia and Herzegovina specialized in environmental improvement, has recently revealed some additional sites of the plant, a discovery that might alter previous conclusions on the status of this unique species.

Mihailo Jovicević, biodiversity specialist at EnvPro says: “The battle for Orjen Iris and other endemic, rare and threatened plant species at Mt. Orjen is a hard one. Both, anthropogenic pressures and natural processes are driving these biodiversity objects to extinction. Thought evolution has shaped this flower as well as the world around us, humans are now the ones driving the selection process further, bringing many endangered and endemic species closer to disappearance. The question is how ethical, civilized and scientifically orientated are we to allow it.”

Experts working in the field ©Dijana Muminović


This cross-border collaboration is part of a project funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The project aims at conserving these plants and halting their extinction by raising awareness and understanding, as well as building the capacities for research and active conservation work that the region desperately needs.

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“On this hostile mountain shared between Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are working intensively toward unleashing interest, enthusiasm, affiliation, knowledge and capacities for endemic, rare and threatened plant species. We are striving for scientific knowledge and conservation actions that will raise urgent contemporary and objective based in situ and ex situ protection and ensure survival of many”, states Ana Katnić, executive director of EnvPro.

This CEPF project unites all efforts for the protection of Orjen’s plants by engaging young scientists, local authorities, landowners and other stakeholders and connecting them together to share their expertise and knowledge. “In this endeavour we have joined our forces with specialist expert from University of Primorska from Slovenia, young researchers, volunteers, landowners, NGOs, mountain clubs and other organisations from Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to learn and jointly fight for the last sites of the endemic plants on this special mountain.” Ana added.


The research team ©Mihailo Jovićević

The Mediterranean limestone mountain range in Montenegro and in Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to many other rare endemic plant species such as Satureja horvatii, Astragalus croaticus, which are facing extinction as well and these species require scientific studies and more attention from conservationists and biologists in order to save them and keep Orjen Mountain a safe haven for biodiversity.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. Additional small grant funding to the Balkans sub-region has been provided by the MAVA Foundation.

CEPF is more than just a funding provider
A dedicated Regional Implementation Team (RIT) (expert officers on the ground) guide funding to the most important areas and to even the smallest of organisations; building civil society capacities, improving conservation outcomes, strengthening networks and sharing best practices. In the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot, the RIT is entrusted to BirdLife International and its Partners LPO (BirdLife France), DOPPS (BirdLife Slovenia) and BPSSS (BirdLife Serbia).










Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.