Forests still occupy about 25% of the countryside. Beech and oak predominate in the deciduous forest of the midland and at lower elevations in Alpine valleys. At higher altitudes spruce and fir take over on moist sites, pine and larch in the drier southern and eastern Alpine interior. Floral elements of Mediterranean origin, among them the chestnut, occupy the southern slopes of the Alps, and they have also established themselves in the Rhone Valley. Palm trees grow along the shores of Lake Lugano in the Ticino. Above the timberline wild flowers abound in an extensive zone of Alpine meadows.
Wildlife in Switzerland is a remnant of an originally rich Alpine fauna. Because of the creation of a game preserve in the Lower Engadine, several rare Alpine species survive, among them the ibex, chamois, marmot, and eagle. A substantial number of wild animals still roam the midland and Jura forests, especially deer, fox, and rabbit, and, occasionally, the wild boar; the brown bear, emblem of the Bernese canton, however, is now extinct.
| || Mountain flora |
Edelweiss and gentian are two of the best known Alpine flowers, but many others are also perfectly adapted to this hostile environment....