Askania-Nova, which covers 33,307.6 hectares, is a biosphere reserve located in the fescue-and-feather grass steppe, the only area of its kind in Europe. The reserve was established by Falz-Fein, who used over 1,665 hectares of his grassland for this purpose in 1889. This date marks the founding of the first nature preserve in the Russian Empire. Tsar Nicholas II called Askania “a picture from the Bible.”
Nearly 500 species of higher plants grow in the wild steppe, creating a unique bouquet of scents and visual images. Perennials predominate (51 percent), while 13 species have been placed on the Red List of Ukraine. Caragana scythica is a subshrub with yellow flowers and barbs.
One of the most vulnerable to grazing is the Ukrainian feather grass (Stipa ucrainica), common primarily to the southern part of the Black Sea region. Stipa lessingiana covers nearly half of Ukraine: the entire mainland south and southeast. Stipa capillata has a story of its own: at the end of hot July, when most steppe plants have already withered, it blossoms with the metallic gleam of its awns.