The Swiss Ephedra
The Swiss Ephedra (Ephedra distachya ssp. helvetica) contributes, especially in fall with its bright red fruits, to the attractive landscape and the colored, inner alpine rocky steppes of the Lötschberg southern ramp. The distribution of the Swiss Ephedra is restricted to the Valais and is considered as an endemic species in the Western Alps, growing exclusively in a specific area. The Swiss Ephedra is one of the characteristic species of the rocky steppes in the Middle Valais, whereas in the Upper Valais only a few sites are known. Inside the World Heritage perimeter it is known only from Niedergesteln, in the rocky steppes of the Lötschberg southern ramp. The small shrub reaches 20 – 50 cm and is considered as a botanic curiosity and is protected at national level.
The small but very densely populated site of the Ephedra near Niedergesteln was studied in 2014. Today the population is endangered due to the overgrowing by the Savin Juniper (Juniperus sabina). Without specific measures the Ephedra site would disappear.
With the community programme “World Heritage Gmeiwärch” 2015 in Niedergesteln, supported by volunteers, a step toward the preservation of the Swiss Ephedra has been be done. According to the project manager and biologist Ralph Imstepf, the site would have been disappeared in a midterm without specific measures. Supplementary, a board with information regarding the plant will be placed near to the site.