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vegetation found in mountainous countries above subalpine vegetation and forests. Despite belonging to various systematic groups, alpine plants have a number of traits in common, depending on similarity of environmental conditions (such as low temperature, short vegetation period, and rapid variations in temperature and humidity). All plants of this group are low-growing and dwarfish. They have short stems and small leaves, which often cling to the stems. The leaves are frequently leathery and are convolute or thickly covered with little hairs; sometimes they are thick and fleshy, with small sunken stomata in the pith. Typical plant communities of Alpine vegetation are meadows with carpets of short grass and a predominance of grasses (for example, meadow grasses), wood-rushes, milk vetches, crowfoots, primroses, gentians, cinquefoils, wood betony, and others. On stonier ground, typical plants are saxifrage, whitlow grass, and others, as well as thickets of rhododendron. Alpine vegetation is characteristic of the Alps; the Caucasus; the Altai; the northern, central, and eastern parts of the Tien Shan; the mountainous parts of the eastern rim of Central Asia; the Himalayas; and some other high-mountain regions. The Alpine vegetation of different mountain systems has its own characteristic floral composition. The majority of plant genera represented in the various alpine belts are of Asiatic origin. Among Alpine vegetation are many good fodder grasses and decorative plants. Alpine meadows are valuable summer pasture land.
V. N. SUKACHEV