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The Mesola wood


The environment
The Mesola wood lies on coastal belts that formed between the 12th and the 15th century, evident examples of which are left in the sandy and dune soil. The wood is what is left of a wide thermophilic forest, called Eliceo wood, which dominated the areas that emerged from the swamps of the High Adriatic Coast. In the 16th century the Boscone forest area was adjacent to the Mesola estate of the Este family, which was used for hunting. In 1919 the area of these woods was bought by the Ferrara Land Reclamation Company. In 1954 the Mesola wood was bought by the state-owned company for state forests (ASFD), which started an intense work of agricultural reorganization that over the years became more and more a nature conservation project, aiming at recovering the structure of the original cenosis of the forest. In 1971 the last land reclamation work was completed in the Ferrara area: the Falce valley (West from the Boscone area), such work had particularly negative effects on the wood because of the lowering of the aquifer level, which caused the death of the oldest trees due to desiccation.
A solution was sought, by recovering and widening the internal network of canals and digging in the central- southern part of the wood the small Elciola lake, a 7 hectare basin (Bondesan 1982a, 1982b, Pagnoni 1998).

The flora
The Boscone wood is the remaining part of the wider Eliceo wood, a big thermophilic wood dominated by the holm oak that is widespread on the delta coastal belts, now the Boscone wood has an extremely varied vegetation, from the dry meadow to the hygrophilic wood, from the thermophilic wood to swamp communities.

The main vegetation of the wood is the typical vegetation for Mediterranean thermophilic forests, but due to the morphological heterogeneity of the area there are also other types of vegetation, according to the height. In the Eastern area, that is geo-morphologically more recent and higher, and on the top of dunes there is a sub-Mediterranean thermophilic wood with evergreen oaks (Synt. Quercion ilicis), dominated by the holm oak (Quercus ilex) and also characterized by Phillyrea angustifolia, Asparagus acutifolius, Clematis flammula, Rubia peregrina, Ruscus aculeatus, Osyris alba and Rosa sempervirens, together with mesophilic species. It is the remaining and impoverished part of a community of Mediterranean species, residual part of much wider woods with favorable eco-climatic conditions different from the current ones. Extremely high naturalistic value.
In the South-West area, that is geo-morphologically older and lower, in the filled depressions and in the flattened dunes there is a thermophilic wood with deciduous trees: a group of  English oaks (Quercus robur), European and oriental hornbeams (Carpinus betulus and C. orientalis) and holm oaks (Quercus ilex), together with thermophilic and mesophilic species. Medium-level naturalistic value.

In the lowlands that are close to the aquifer level, which are cool and humid, there is a swamp wood (Cladio-Fraxinetum oxycarpae) with the following tree species: narrow-leaved ash (Fraxinus oxycarpae), white and grey poplar (Populu alba and P. canescens), field elm (Ulmus minor) and black poplar (Populus nigra).  The shrub layer consists of Prunus spinosa, Rhamnus catharticus, Crategus monogyna, Pyrus pyraster, Viburnum opulus, in addition to the above-mentioned species. Very high naturalistic value.

The Boscone wood looks like a park with very big and old trees, no natural renewal, almost complete lack of brushwood, which now consists almost exclusively of  poisonous species (vincetoxicum, euphorbia) or coriaceous species (reeds, bulrushes). The reason will be explained in the threat factors. The wood has some wide sandy and xeric clearings, typical of higher dunes, such as the area of the Duchesse Park. The vegetation is characterized by herbaceous communities, mainly with annual species of very high naturalistic value, because they are sub-endemic of the consolidated sand of the Northern Adriatic area (Bromo tectorum-Phleetum arenarii), among which Phleum arenarium, Cerastium semidecandrum, Medicago minima, Silene conica, Bromus tectorum, the moss species Tortula ruraliformis and Pleurochaete squarrosa and the lichens Cladonia convoluta and C. rangiformis.


In the internal canals and in the Elciola area, areas that are always flooded, there is a typical marsh vegetation with Typhetum angustifoliae and fens. The Elciola area includes a reedbed: a humid meadow with Juncus subnodulosus of very high naturalistic value, with rare species such as Orchis palustris and O. incarnata. There are also small populations of Typha laxmanii, a species that is extremely rare in the whole peninsula (Piccoli et al. 1983). Reforestation works of low naturalistic value, for the planting of stone pine (Pinus pinea) and maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), were carried out in two phases: 1945-47 and 1961-71. The re-forestation interventions with poplars in the Elciola area date back to 1967. Some re-forestation interventions with holm oaks were tried between 1967 and 1975, but they were unsuccessful.

In the southern area that is external to the wire fencing, at the border with Sacca di Goro, there is an area which is dominated by the common reed (Phragmites australis) with an alophilous facies.

The flora includes rare species, such as the  mash fern(Thelypteris palustris), and many orchid species. Some of the most important plant species are the following: Kosteletzkia pentacarpos, Orchis palustris, Euphorbia lucida, Dactylorhiza incarnata, Erianthus ravennae, Leucojum aestivum, Thelypteris palustris, Hydrocotile vulgaris, Juncus subnodulosus, Utricularia australis (Corticelli 1999, Pagnoni 1998, Pellizzari and Pagnoni 1998, Piccoli 1987, Piccoli et al. 1983).

The fauna
The fauna of the Boscone wood is mainly characterized by the presence of two species of ungulates: at present (2001) there are about 500 fallow deer (Cervus dama) and 80 deer (Cervus elaphus). The presence of the fallow deer (allochthonous species) is probably due to the introduction of this species in the past for hunting purposes, during the period of the Este family. As for the deer, Mesola is the only European area for which there is no certain information on the introduction of this animal, at least for the past 500 years. For this reason, and most of all because it is morphologically different from the red deer, it is considered by some as the only autochtonous strain that survived in Italy, as direct descendant of the deer of the Po valley, which once lived in the wide lowland forests. Former cytogenetic studies (Fontana and Rubini 1991) had not highlighted any difference with the red deer, leaving some doubts on the reasons behind such a different morphological constitution. Recent genetic studies on mitochondrial DNA (Fico et al. 1998) showed a genotype that is very distant from that of the alpine deer, almost as distant as that of the Sardinian subspecies (Cervus elaphus corsicanus). For now it is not possible to know if this genetic difference is due to the drastic reduction of the number of individuals during the Second World War (with a loss of genetic variability) or if this species really derives from the deer of the Po Valley. What is certain is that this is the first time that such peculiarity is genetically proven in a group of peninsular deer (Lorenzini com. pers.).


During the autumn migration period and to a lesser extent in winter there are big flocks of wood pigeons (Columba palumbus) and stock doves (Columba oenas), which use the wood as place of rest and the stubble of the adjacent areas as food. The woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) is present as autumn migratory bird which rarely spends the winter. A very important species which is present only in this site is the Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), with a residual and isolated population. This is also the only site characterized by the presence, even though irregular, of the black kite (Milvus migrans), a bird of prey for which the territories of the park could be suitable for reproduction, but which finds it hard to settle in the Delta geographical area, maybe because of the excessive anthropic disturbance. Among the night animals are badgers (Meles meles) and a big population of tawny owls (Strix aluco), big colonies of chiropterans, in particular the rare barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) and the noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), in the woodland areas that are the remaining part of wider woods. There are interesting populations of invertebrates, among which Acinopus ammophilus and Carabus cancellatus (Costa 1998, IDROSER 1985, Mazzotti 1992, Mazzotti andStagni 1993, Pagnoni 1998).


The reserve can be visited on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays (except for Easter) between March and October.

Opening times: between 8 a.m. and 6.30 p. m. (8 a.m. – 4 p.m. during winter time).

The access is free and it is possible both to walk and to go on bicycle in an area of about 100 hectares which is open to the public.

There is a naturalistic path for blind people.

The visits for school classes and organized groups must be previously arranged with the Corps of Forest Rangers – Office of Punta Marina (Ra) (Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Ufficio di Punta Marina), Tel. 0544/437379 Fax 0544/438286.

Before the entrance to the Boscone wood there is the Delta Garden (Giardino del Delta), a small botanical garden with a route on the characteristic flora of the delta. Entrance with fee, open in spring-summer.





CTR 1:25.000 - 187SE


1058 ha


Mesola, Goro, Codigoro

Owned by

State-owned/ former ASFD


State-owned/ former ASFD





Hydrogeological restriction according to the Royal Decree 3267 of 30/01/1923.
Area of outstanding natural beauty according to Law 1497/1939 and environmental restriction according to Law 431/1985, abrogated by the decree-law 490/1999 that is currently in force.

National nature reserve (1058 ha) that was set up with the Ministerial Decree 13/07/1977. Within its boundaries, in the area that is West from the entrance, the Integral Nature Reserve “Bassa dei Frassini e Balanzetta” (220 ha) was established with the Ministerial Decree 26/07/71.

The wood is included in the Mesola Wood wildlife sanctuary (1922 ha), which also includes some private agricultural land in the surrounding areas, in addition to the wood area.

Volano- Mesola – Goro Station of the Delta park, according to the Regional Law 27/1988 and the station territorial plans, deliberation of the Provincial Council Fe 88/25001 of 25/06/1997 and deliberation of the Provincial Council Fe 119/10013.

Special protection area (IT4060017) of 1079 hectares, called “Nature reserve Bassa dei Frassini, Balanzetta and Mesola wood” (according to the directive 79/409/EEC).
Site of community importance (IT4060006) of 1236 hectares called “Mesola Wood, Panfilia Wood, Santa Giustina Wood” (according to the directive 92/43/EEC).  



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