Lagodekhi State Nature Reserve is a breathtaking place situated on the southern slope of the main Caucasus ridge, and is the first nature reserve in Georgia. Covering an area of 19,755 hectares, of which 72% is forested and the rest is mountain pastures, it is a rich ecosystem with a wide range of altitudes above sea level ranging from 450 to 3,500 meters.
The reserve is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. There are approximately 1,500 species of flowering plants, including many endemic species such as Iulia’s furisula, Mlokosevich’s yordasalam, and Lagodekhi’s gall. The forests here are made up of a variety of tree species, such as Caucasian hornbeam, Caucasian linden, field maple, bear hazel, sycamore, alder, chestnut, and others. In addition to the mentioned evergreen varieties, the underforest contains jonjoli, cranberry, shindi, shindanzla, askil, tsvetla, and lianas such as wild vine, ekalghichi, katabarda, and Pastukhov’s ivy.
The reserve is also home to 42 species of mammals, including herds of East Caucasian deer, Caucasian chamois, Caucasian deer, European roe deer, Caucasian brown bear, Caucasian lynx, wild boar, white and yellow mares, Transcaucasian badgers, and Caucasian forest cats. There are also 120 species of birds, including capercaillie and Caucasian shrike, large raptors, and many types of songbirds. Additionally, the reserve has four species of amphibians and eight species of reptiles.
The Lagodekhi State Nature Reserve is also home to a flora and fauna museum and a high mountain weather station. The complex and diverse natural physico-geographical conditions of the reserve, which include steep relief, slopes of different steepness and exposure, and deep ravines with rivers, contribute to the rich variety of vegetation cover. The forest belt (450-2300 meters above sea level) with Georgian oak and beech forests and the Alpine belt (2300-3500 meters above sea level) with meadows, “moles,” and decians are clearly visible, and between these belts (1700-2300 meters altitude), subalpine forests of mechkheri (oak and high mountain beech) and tanbretsil (birch) are found. Above the Alpine belt is the subnival belt (3000 meters above sea level) with strong mechkheri grass.
In 1912, nearly two-thirds of Georgia’s common plant species were harvested from the nature preserve. In recognition of its importance, the Lagodekhi State Nature Reserve was awarded the Order of the “Sign of Honor”. The reserve includes the basins of the rivers Matsimiskhevi, Lagodekhiskhevi, Sarkhevi, and Baisubani, making it an important water source for the region.