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» About the Kiskunsag National Park » PROTECTED AREAS ALONG THE TISZA RIVER

Szikra and the Alpári-rét

 The Tisza river constitutes the eastern border of the Kiskunság National Park. The particular area of the national park - the Szikra and the meadow of Alpár, and the Conservation Area of Pusztaszer and Mártély can be found here. The area of Szikra and the Alpári-rét (meadow of Alpár) are transitional areas: it is the intersection of the two major rivers and their land-shaping work. The Tisza shaped the wide flood areas, but to the west and the east quicksand dominates.

This part of the Great Plain was formed by the Danube several millions of years ago – as a result a huge alluvium came into being. About half a million years ago the riverbed shifted to the west. The Tisza has been shaping the landscape here for less than 12 thousand years. The Tisza has created and widened a huge flood area during this – in geological terms – very short period.

The protected areas of the Szikra and of the Alpári-rét begin at the bridge of Tiszaug in the north. Lakitelek – stretching as far as the edge of the flood area – and the vacation area of Szikra have settled on the quicksand collected by the wind. This was washed away by the bend of the Tisza at Szikra, which was an organic part of the living Tisza some 150 years ago. This accounts for the fact that there is a significant difference of level barely 50 m from the bank of the ox-bow between the water surface and the area. The continuation of the row of mounds is the completely forest-covered part of the Tőserdő, which in the east connects to the softwood forest grove around the ox-bow, and in the south connects to the alder fernwood forests. The meadows of the so-called Alpári-öblözet (the meadow of Alpár) formed on alluvial meadow soil. The surface of the Alpári-öblözet has been divided by several former river beds, or ox-bowes separated from the living river in a natural way. The loess plateou of Alpár – the so-called high bank – begins just a few kilometres from the village, and stretches as far as Csongrád. One of the units of this stretch – divided into parts by natural ravines - is the Castle and Church Hill in the North-East of the village. The highest elevation of the flood area ridge – to the west and south – sticks out by 4-5 m, whereas to the east - north-east by 10-12 m from the level of the terrain in the flood area. This morphological dynamism was increased by the fact that before the regulation of rivers the Tisza flowed directly below the high bank, and continuously eroded its side.

In the flood area small patches of boggy meadow soil can be found in several places. One of its characteristic manifestations is the marsh meadow along the Sulymos. These meadows, for example, can be temporarily or partially covered by water during floods. In the areas exposed to the strong effects of water – due to the dead, but not yet decomposed parts of plants – peat accumulated to a great degree. Such peat-making reeds can be found in the big lake on the Alpári-rét.


The botanical characteristics of the Szikra and of the Alpári-rét

 “Islands” preserving the rich flora of the former ox-bowes and morotva are the Dög- and the Holt-Tisza, and the northern area of the ox-bow of Alpár. Along the bank simplestem bur-reed (Sparganium erectum), and common bulrush (Typha latifolia) can be found in rich clusters. Here and there the pink flower of the flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) sticks out among the rich June vegetation. The surface leaves of the perennial common water-plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica) are different from the ones submerged under the water. Its relative, the white flower arrowhead (Sagittaria sagitifolia) is among the rare species. The turquoise flower of the water forget-me-not (Myosotis palustris) is a modest specimen among the taller vegetation. The white waterlily (Nymphaea alba) grips the muddy soil with its creeping roots. Its relative is the yellow water lily (Nuphar luteum). Its sepals are yellow, its petals have transformed into nectar-producing honey-cups.

The water knotweed (Polygonum amphibium) is part of the tangle in the deeper waters. Its lilac-pink flowers rise over its elongated leaves on the surface of the water.The water chestnut (Trapa natans) can be identified by its floating triangular leaves and growth. The underwater “bushes” of pondweed are excellent places for spawning and raising the offspringa. A lot of insects find refuge here too. The curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), and the broad-leaved pondweed (P. natans) have their roots on the bottom with their leaves submerged. Their green flowers often rise above the surface of the water. The whorled water milfoil (Myriophillum verticillatum) is also suitable for fish tanks. The deepest waters are home to the floating hairweed. The most conspicuous of them is the water soldier (Stratiotes aloides) with its large white flowers. First it develops roots, then adopts a floating way of life separated from the mud. Specimens of frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) are often blown towards the bank by the wind. Lesser duckweed (Lemna minor) is prevelant in Hungarian waters. In its inflorescence the stamineal and feminine flowers are covered by the same spathe. It is also capable of fast, asexual reproduction, thus it is important food for water animals. In deeper waters hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) can often cause an unpleasant experience for bathers. It verticilate leaves are densely serrated, that is why they are sharp. The shoots of the plant – that can grow up to 3 m – break very easily and each shoot gives rise to a new specimen. The common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) is a floating hairweed. The rootless duckweed (Wolffia arrhiza) also floats in the water. With its 1-2 mm size it is the smallest spermatophite of the Hungarian flora.

The Sulymos Lake and the swamps and lakes of the Alpári-rét are among the last remaining specimen of the former reeds of the Alföld. In the vicinity of the shore of the reed-edged Sulymos Lake lesser bulrush (Typha angustifolia) can be found. In some places reeds are replaced by reed sweetgrass (Glyceria maxima). Sedges are represented by five species, the most frequent being the acute sedge (Carex gracilis), but the Bowles' golden sedge (C. elata) also lives in largish clusters. Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) grows in the vicinity of the shore. Its poisonous red growth becomes ripe by September. In swampy wet meadows and on the edges of ox-bowes we can often see the purple flowers of knitbone (Symphitum officinale). The alkaloids extracted from its leaves and roots used to be recommended for breathing difficulties and bone problems. The water mint (Mentha aquatica) is a well-known herb to this day. The marsh horsetail (Equisetum palustre) grows nearby. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), marsh roundwort (Stachys palustris) and the bugleweed (Lycopus europeus) are typical plants on the shore next to the reed beds.

The backwaters, marshes and swamps are lined by forests composed of different trees. Now hardly anything remains of the old forests growing on the large former flood areas – so much characteristic of the landscape along the Tisza. The willow-poplar groves, oak-ash-elm forest types and the remains of swamp forests have been preserved in the Szikra and outside Alpár in their original beauty.

On the banks close to the water softwood forest groves are dominant. In addition to the old white willows (Salix alba) leaning over the water, we can come across some nice specimen of the brittle willow (S. fragilis) as well. The long and fast growing twigs of the white willow – requiring much light – were used for making baskets, furniture and fish traps. The trees were regularly pruned and pollarded. The strange shaped and light yellow flowers of the birthwort (Aristolochia clematis) are insect traps, which keep the insects – lured with odour materials – into the trap until pollination takes place. Larger clusters of lady’s thumb (Polygonum persicaria) and water pepper (P. hidropiper) can still be found. 

On elevations higher by only one-one and a half meters a grey poplar type of the soft tree forest groves appear. The forest is mainly made up of beautiful and huge silver and grey poplars (Populus alba, P. Canescens), but large specimen of black poplar (Populus nigra) can also be found. 

Out of the maple trees the field maple and the boxelder maple (Acer campestre, A. Negundo) are common. The latter was brought here from North-America as an ornamental tree, but it is an unwanted, invasive tree species in the protected areas. The common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is a common plant in forests and on the edges of the forests. Frost grape (Vitis riparia) – of American origin – densely grows over all levels of the forests in the flood plains. It completely enshrouds some trees, in other places it creates a dense curtain winding around the shrubs, while undergrowth is completely missing under it.

The higher elevations – not touched by flooding – are dominated by the oak-ash-elm forest. The English oak (Quercus robur) is the last species of the former hard wood groves of the Great Plain. It is often referred to as swamp oak as it can be found on floodplains. Out of the ashes – belonging to the oil trees – the Hungarian ash (Fraxinus angustifolia ssp. pannonica) and the green ash (F. pennsylvanica) from the New World can be found. The American ash is not indigenous either, it is an invasive type of tree, unwanted in the protected areas. The field elm (Ulnus minor) frequently occurs in our wet oak-filled forests. It is strong, though it bends easily, but if it is filled with water, it remains strong and lasting. The freshly picked fruit of the European wild pear tree (Pyrus pyraster) – indigenous to Hungary – is sour, but if it is stored away for the winter, it becomes edible. The common spindle (Euonymus europeus) – with its pink and orange berries – is one of the most beautiful decorations of the autumn and of early spring. The blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) with its white flowers and powder blue berries is a plant on the edges of forests. Its frosted blue berry is also suitable for making preserves and flavouring different drinks. The strong and flexible hazel (Corylus avellana) is indigenous to the Carpathian Basin. In dry places of oak forests buckhorn (Rhamnus catharticus) is frequent. Its ripe and black berry is poisonous, but it was used in folk medicine. In the hard wood groves in the undergrowth there are huge clusters of mountain arum (Arum alpinum) – a rarity in the Great Plain. Its big, greenish white flowers appear in April before the leaves start to grow, its scarlet offshoot becomes ripe in July.

Tetterwort (Chlidonium majus) is a common plant on the edges of forests. It yields its golden yellow flowers by September. Swallowwort (Vincetoxicum hirundinatia) prefers the bushy, dry places of the forest. It has been named after its very poisonous bulbs similar to a pepper.

In wet places the moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) is common. Its round leaves are folia opposita. Its yellow flowers open up from June to August. The also frequent ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) enjoys a similar habitat. The tea from its leaves is good for wet coughs and digestive problems.

In the vicinity of the Holt-Tisza in the Tőserdő one of the former backwaters has been taken over by a swamp forest with alder trees. The common alder (Almus glutinosa) can be easily recognized by its typical cones in clusters. Even when the water level is higher, its root stock rises over the water level, thus facilitating the work of the breathing roots in the period poor in oxygen. Its soft wood quickly decays over the water and in the soil, but it is rather resistant under water. Its shrub and soft stalks mainly develop at the foot of trees and on the top of rush beds rising over the water. In early spring, in March and April, marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) – previously called ox-eye daisy - blossoms in clusters. To the untrained eye it is difficult to distinguish (Urtica kioviensis) from the rest of the nettle species. It is indigenous to the Carpathian Basin, the plant of old water streams. In May the flowering clusters of featherfoil (Hottonia palustris) create a light pink carpet in the rush-beds on the edges of forests.

In the Tőserdő there is a small oak forest along the Kontyvirág nature trail. The history of forestry suggests that the first oaks were planted here by the chief forester of Kecskemét in the early 1920’s. In the mid 1920’s a large amount of beech was planted in the area, but most of this stock was destroyed. The remaining trees, which are about 100 years old, thrive and often yield a lot of beech acorns to the joy of the wild animals.

The habitats of flood plain forest groves are dotted by swamp meadow clearings with fresh water supply and luscious soil, which by the end of the summer normally dries out. Typical examples are the hayfields of the Alpári-rét. Réti ecsetpázsit (Alopecurus pratensis) is the most widespread type of grass here, the main component of the green whole. Due to its excellent nutritional value it is one of the best hay grasses. Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) – an elongated plant with its multilobular leaves - is a widespread plant on the meadows overgrown with timothy grass. Its relative, the creeping buttercup (R. repens) may also live here in clusters. The purple flowers with their fringed petals of the ragged-robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) make the meadows very colourful in May and June. Tansy (Chrysanthemum vulgare) is a frequent plant of the weed clusters on the flood plains.

Swamp meadows rich in species were formed in the stagnant waters of flood plains. Its vegetation is similar in many ways to the shore vegetation of ox-bows. In addition to the flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) and comfrey (Symphytum officinale) the daisy (Leucanthemum serotinum) - the rare plant of high sedge and reed beds –can also be found here. This elongated – often as high as 1-1.5 m - plant can be found along the whole active floodplain of the Tisza. Its white flower opens at the end of the summer.

The rich vegetation can sustain a diverse fauna. Snails are active mainly at night and in wet weather: the great grey slug (Limax maximus) can cause great damage if it breeds too much. The great pond snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) dwells in still waters and swampy areas. Perhaps it is the most common snail in Hungary. It encloses its eggs into a sheath and sticks them on water plants. Despite the fact that it lives in water, it has no gills, it breathes with lungs. It comes to the surface of the water to take in air.The swollen river mussel (Unio tumidus) is widespread in the whole of Europe and the swan mussel (Anadonta cygnea), which is much larger. The large wood mussel (Anodonta woodiana) must have moved from fish ponds to the Tisza several decades ago, which causes a lot of nature protection problems in domestic bodies of water.

In the flood area forests the presence of the blister beetle (Lytta vesicatoria) can be felt from afar by its strong and penetrating odour. The fully developed beetle feeds on ash trees, lilacs and privets, and large populations of them sometimes completely devour the foliage of their forage plants. The great capricorn beetle (Cerambix cerdo) develops in sick or dead oak trees that are still upstanding. Its larvae – as thick as a human finger – bore holes all around the trunk of the decaying tree. They fly around mainly during the summer months.

The sedge (Chlorophorus varius) can often be seen during the day sitting on umbelliferous plants. Its black-yellow striped body looks like a wasp. Its larvae develop in the trunk of various deciduous trees. The stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is the biggest beetle in Central Europe. Its impressive antler-like mandibles are more of a decoration than a weapon. Beetles lick the juices flowing out of the wounds of trees. The females lay their ’eggs’ in the soil. In the beginning the hatching larvae feed on humus, then they chew their way into decaying trunks of trees. They reach full development when they are five years old. The well-known rose chafer (Celtonia aurata) – with its shiny and golden-shiny green body – is one of our most beautiful beetles. When the sun shines it often flies about, making a buzzing noise but when it gets cloudy, it remains motionless. It particularly likes rosacea, but it is also very frequently found on elders and lilacs.

In the water of ox-bows and on shores the great diving beetle (Dytiscus marginalis) is frequent. Both the beetle and its larvae are predators, they attack young fish as well. The whirling beetle (Gypinus substriatus) goes around on the surface of waters in groups, the great silver water beetle (Hydrous picens) can often be seen as well. 

Small lakes with shallow and rapidly warming water are also the habitat of dragon flies. The azure damsefly (Coenagrion puella) flies from May to September. The banded demoiselle (Colepterix splendens) is also frequent. This species can be seen from May to August. The ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) is among the most frequent species. It can tolerate drier habitats, but its reproduction is connected to water. The male can be easily recognized by its beautiful and vibrant red colour. The hawkers with a larger body venture further afar from the shore. The blue-eyed hawker (Aeshna affinis) is widespread everywhere in the central and southern areas of the temperate climate.

Moths are rather conspicuous for their variety and coloured wings. The convolvulus hawk-moth (Herse convolvuli) is one the biggest domestic hawk moths. Hovering in front of fragrant flowers it sucks up nectar with its long haustellum. Just like hawk moths, the poplar hawk moth (Laothae populi) is also active during the evening hours. The colourful red wings of the Large Copper (Thersamonia dispar) living in swamp areas are conspicuous from afar. The common blue (Polyommatus icarus) is frequent on sunny fields. One can come across the common brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) on the first warm day of February, as it survives the winters in the forests.

The southern festoon (Zerynthia polyxena) – a moth of Mediterranian origin – does not exist north and west of us. One of our most striking moths is the peacock butterfly (Inachis io). The Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria latona) flies in the sunny weather from March to October. Its individuals surviving the summer appear already in early spring. The worms of the lesser purple emperor (Apatura ilia) chew mainly the leaves of willow trees and poplars. 

In the ox-bows in the shore area of their rapidly warming shallow waters (Alburnus alburnus) swim. The burbot (Lota lota) is a river fish, but during a flood the water that rushes in can push it into the ox-bow. The brown bullhead (Amiurus nebulosus) from North America is rather common, just like the grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) and the silver carp (Hypophtalamichtys molitrix) from the Far East. The wels catfish (Silurus glanis) is our largest domestic predator, it can rarely be found in ox-bows. The loach (Misgurnus fossilis) can still be found in the Dög-Tisza – being an example of a strongly swamped ox-bow. Carp (Cyprinus carpio) and the predator pike (Esox lucius) are also common.

The mild sunshine after the spring frost wakes up the common newt (Triturus vulgaris) from its winter hibernation. The male soon puts on his dotted nuptial coat, then after the mating game the female sticks her eggs one by one on the stalks and leaves of the water plants. The fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) almost never leaves the puddles. The European tree frog (Hyla arborea) looks for water only when she lays her eggs, it can be found mainly in the foliage, or on the leaves of reeds or rushes. Toads (Bufo bufo) or the European green toads (Bufo viridis) are much more common. In the spring in the shallow water swamp meadows one can see powder blue frogs, they are the males of the moor frog (Rana arvalis) in nuptial dress. Marsh frogs (Rana ridibunda) and edible frogs (R. esculenta) are in the greatest number in the water of ox-bows. Their habitats are different. The former likes open water surfaces, whereas the latter prefers swamps with rich vegetation. The pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) can be found on the sunny shores, the grass snake (Natrix natrix) can be found both in the water and on the shore. 

In the varied habitats around the Tisza some 250 bird species have been observed. Along the migrating and wandering species, the number of nesting species in forests, on fields, among the reed and in swamps is also high.             The great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) hatches its eggs in its floating nest made from plant debris at the swamping ends of the Szikrai Holt-Tisza. This ’jungle’ with patches of nenuphar, reed and rush is also a preferred habitat of the moorhen (Gallinula chloropus). In June and July individuals of the whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybrida) – striking on the water and fishing – can also be seen here. The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) creates its nest – amply lined with feathers – in the rotting cavities of willows along the shore. We can rarely see the kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), which dives into the water like a live harpoon in search of its prey. The common reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) breeds in the reed and rush around ox-bows and small lakes. The cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) returns to the same breeding site every year. The water rail (Rallus aquaticus) breeds among the rushes and reeds of the Nagy-Sulymos. Its main foods are worms, snails and arthropods. The black stork (Ciconia nigra) is a rare nesting bird in the almost impassable forests in the floodplains. When they begin their migration in the autumn, they appear almost every year on the swampy fields and hay fields on the edges of forests. The red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) often nests in bushes on the edges of forests. The European pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) is a forest dweller.

The reed jungle around the Big Lake of the Alpári-rét is the domain of herons nesting in communities. One of the most common nesting birds of the Alpári-rét is the black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) black-crowned night heron. The great egret (Egretta alba) crushes the reed while it builds the foundation of its nest, and puts its nest lined with reed shoots on it.


The spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) breed at a small distance from the colony of herons. The common buzzard (Buteo buteo) builds its nest on the high trees along the edge of the forest. It is at the end of April that the hobby (Falco subbuteo) comes back from southern Africa. The sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus) catches small birds as they fly. The little owl (Athene noctua) often sticks with its mate for years. Its population is greatly endangered. The tawny owl (Strix aluco) hatches its eggs in decaying cavities of old trees, and the long-eared owl (Asio otus) takes the nests - made of twigs – normally of crows and magpies.

The Western marsh-marrier (Circus aeruginosus) is a permanent resident at the Big Lake – covered with reed and grey willow - of the Alpári-rét. The lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina) does not breed in the area, but some of its hunters can be seen here.

 We know relatively little of the mammals living a hidden life. The hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are on the move mainly at sunset and during the night. The shrew (Sorex araneus) is somewhat smaller than the domestic mouse. It likes wet areas with luscious vegetation and rich in insects, sometimes it occupies the underground passages of moles. The harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) lives in the reeds on the shore of lakes. The presence of these small rodents is mainly indicated by bones to be found in owl spittle. The old forests full of trees with cavities provide a good hiding and wintering place for bats, for example for the rare pond bat (Myotis dasicneme) and for the Daubenton`s bat (M. daubentoni).

At the untouched ends of the ox-bows one-two otters (Lutra lutra) can be observed too. It was the WWF that settled the European beaver (Castor fiber) into the area in about 2004-2006. It is almost impossible to catch sight of them, but their inhabited lodges and signs of chewing can be seen in many places.


The high banks of the Tisza have been inhabited for thousands of years. Archeological evidence has testified to this since the Stone Age. The earthen fortresses, tumuluses or kurgans are visible proof of human presence. About 8000 years ago representatives of the Körös culture settled on the plateau. 

The next well-known settlement appeared on the Alpár Plateau in the early Bronze Age. (Nagyrév Culture). Later the people who lived in the first half of the Middle Bronze Age may have had transitional dwellings here (late Hatvan Culture). The first permanent settlers started to build the earth fortress of Tiszaalpár. For about 2000 years there was no sign of human life after the destruction of the Bronze Age settlement on the Castle Mound. Currently about half of the original castle – 0.22 ha – can be seen, the rest has been washed away by the recurring floods of the Tisza.


The Castle of Alpár is repeatedly referred to by Anonymus in his historical Gesta Hungarorum – to have appeared in 13th century – as ’’castrum Olpar”. It was the headquarters of the chieftain Zalán, whose army suffered a great defeat on the Alpári-rét from Árpád, head of the Hungarians conquering the land.


Touristic opportunities along the Tisza

 Szikra and the Alpári-rét (1038 ha)


The Árpád fejedelem nature trail is 3 km. It presents the cultural-historical sights of Tiszaalpár and the rich flora and fauna of the floodplain of the Tisza river. GPS: 46° 49’ 23,357”; 19° 59’ 26,705”

The short Várdomb nature trail can be found in the centre of Tiszaalpár, on the so-called Várdomb. The information signs show the remains of the earth fortress from the Bronze Age, life in the Bronze Age, the old culture of the area of the Alpári-rét. There is an excellent view on the Alpári-rét – the natural flood area of the Tisza - from the Castle Mound. There are excellent bird-watching opportunities here too.

In Tiszaalpár it is worth visiting the Local History Collection and the exhibition of the famous local basket weavers. GPS: 46° 49’ 29,560” , 19° 59’ 28,654”

Reconstruction of a village from the Árpád Age: The dwelling unit – built with traditional technology and materials – is an example of experimental archeology. At the site one can see pit-houses, ovens, grain storage, wattle enclosures and a well characteristic of the early Middles Ages. GPS: 46° 49’ 32,000” ,

19° 59’ 19,449”


Kontyvirág nature trail: The 3500 m long nature trail starts from the bridge of the Dead Tisza (Szikra). The yellow loop-like trail – indicated with a semi-circle – is suitable to discover the ox-bow and the floodplain forest. The nature trail – except during major flooding – can be visited all year round. The signs provide some brief information on the typical habitats, flora and fauna of the floodplain, and the past of the area. The soil of the nature trail is solid, so passable on foot, by bike, with a pram and a wheelchair. GPS: 46° 51’ 26,198” , 19° 59’ 15,502”

2014. 12. 11. Oldal nyomtatása
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