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It has been under protection since 1930 (together with the Caraorman forest), and since 1938 it has been declared a natural reservation. The Letea Forest has been included in the international UNESCO biosphere reservations network at the 4th Session of the International Council for the Coordination of the Man and Biosphere Program (MAB), Paris, November 1979. Only research and documentation activities are allowed inside the integral protected area, while keeping in focus the uniqueness of the forest ecosystem, with century old oak, poplars and ash trees raised on fluvial-maritime sandy islands having phreatic water at the soil surface or near by, and with more than 100 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate protected species.
In less than half an hour of a trip by carriage though meadows with tall vegetation one can reach one of the strangest and most original forests in Romania and even in the world. The Letea forest has a particular type of vegetation. It was formed in successive stages on the first strip of sand dunes, which separated the old shore of the Danube from the sea. The depressions between the dunes are covered in woody vegetation, which makes the forest look like a series of 10 to 250 meter wide strips, orientated to the north-south, known under the Turkish name of hasmac. In the background of the valleys that have been heavily flooded, among reeds, cattails and flowering rush, there are willows, poplars, the so-called fluffy ash, which in the less humid background is the only tree to be seen. The margins of the valleys and the dunes with smaller heights were covered in various species of ash, elm, and more seldom, the lime tree and the black alder tree. The hollow spaces between the trees are filled by a subspecies of bushes which cannot be penetrated, made of a great variety of shrubs: harvest mite, barberry, briar, privet, Cornelian cherry, dogwood, alder buckthorn, common buckthorn, sheepberry, seldom the walnut tree. A luxurious vegetation of creeping plants grows around the trunks and the tallest branches of the secular trees: wild vine, silk vine, hop, traveler’s joy or old man’s beard; they all make the forest resemble a rain forest. Hundreds of species of animals live in the thickets of the luxurious vegetation: insects, grasshoppers (many praying mantes), frogs, numerous snakes (most of them non-venomous except for the viper) and wild horses. The ornithofauna is dominated by warblers, flycatchers, rollers, blue tits, stock doves, which are all hunted, just like the small rodents, by many birds of prey: the rough-legged buzzard, falcon, red-footed falcon, hobby, merlin, kite, white-tailed eagle or spotted eagle.
Letea Forest is Europe’s most northern outpost of the Mediterranean-Balkan flora and fauna. Out of the 300 species identified in this forest, two are of special importance. First, Fraxinus pallisae. It was discovered here for the first time and then it was labeled as a new species by the English botanist Wilmott in 1913. The impression that Letea is a tropical forest is given in particular by Periploca graeca, the northernmost Mediterranean chord in Europe in this subtropical refuge. It has the shape of a thin, 20 to 25 m long tendril, with dark-red bark, simple, glossy leaves, and a round corolla. It is often cultivated in parks to form shadowy thickets.