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Native Trees in Bavaria: Losses, Legends, and Legacy

Many native trees suffer from stress. Drought, storms and all kinds of pests have taken their toll on them in recent years. Even thick-trunk giant trees that had defied the forces of nature for centuries were finally knocked down like matchsticks. When defining trees like these disappear from the landscape, it creates painful gaps in landscapes that have already been largely over-formed, thereby further impoverishing them aesthetically.

For example, the Bavaria beech tree from Pondorf near Eichstätt, a natural monument that only exists a few in Bavaria, has said goodbye. The biologist Jürgen Schuller has therefore dedicated an obituary to her at the beginning of his new book “Fascinating Trees in Upper Bavaria”. The beech tree, which was estimated to be up to 800 years old, was destroyed by a storm ten years ago. But there are countless pictures of her; she was one of the most popular photo subjects in Bavaria. “The Bavaria beech was able to convey the idea of ​​perfect beauty and seemingly invincible life force of nature like no other tree in Germany,” writes Schuller. Its end began in 1995 when a large branch broke from the crown. From then on she was allowed to die with dignity. The storm of 2013 did the rest. The SZ wrote at the time: “The most beautiful beech tree in the world is dead.”

Despite all the losses, one thing remains clear: Bavaria is still a tree country in which there is no shortage of giant trees and veteran trees. The numbers that Schuller presents are impressive. In Upper Bavaria alone there are a good five billion trees, spread over a good 50 tree species (for example maple, ash, willow, poplar, beech, linden, chestnut as well as conifers and fruit trees). The number of trees that are more than 200 years old is in the millions in Upper Bavaria alone. “Trees and their diversity were also the reason why I studied biology,” says author Schuller, who has already published two tree books about the outstanding stands in the Upper Palatinate and Lower Bavaria.

Open detailed view

The yew forest in the Weilheim-Schongau district is now a natural monument.

(Photo: Jürgen Schuller)

The most mysterious native tree species is probably the yew. These trees do not grow particularly tall or particularly thick, but they are extremely long-lived and deeply rooted in mythology. In his book, Schuller presents the Paterzell yew forest in the Weilheim-Schongau district. It is a mixed forest in which five percent of the population is yew. Some of the 2,300 specimens could be 1,000 years old. The slightly swampy forest with its ancient yew trees was probably forgotten by the forestry industry, as Schuller suspects. Today the area is designated as a natural monument and is a visitor attraction, although not appreciated by everyone. The largest yew tree fell victim to an arson attack in 1997.

As impressive as the more than 50 trees featured in the book are, some of them have long since paid tribute to their age. This includes the old linden tree in Wald near Winhöring, which has a trunk circumference of eight meters and is on its last legs. Schuller estimates her age to be at least 400 years old. The twin linden tree on the Buchberg summit in the Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen district has a circumference of 9.5 meters. The tree stands freely in the wind at an altitude of 855 meters, its two trunks have grown together. The oak at the Bichl swimming pool (also in the Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen district) even consists of seven trunks that were once planted so closely in a planting hole that they grew together to form a mighty tree. This bush planting was common in the 18th century because it meant that appropriate park trees could be grown in the parks more quickly.

The thickest pear tree in the world

The thickest pear tree in Upper Bavaria, which can be found in St. Georgen in Berchtesgadener Land, also looks impressive. The cider pear is 250 years old and has a trunk circumference of 5.72 meters. Schuller considers the specimen to be the thickest pear tree in the world.

Almost as famous as the Bavaria beech from Pondorf is the 30-meter-high Great Linden tree near Ramsau (Berchtesgadener Land district), whose trunk circumference is eleven meters. Until a branch broke in 1997, it shaded a record-breaking area of ​​900 square meters. Her age is estimated at 800 years. In September 2022 it was declared a National Heritage Tree. It also sparked a political dispute. After Reich President Paul von Hindenburg was made an honorary citizen of Ramsau in 1933, it was henceforth called Hindenburg-Linde. The name was no longer approved by many after the Nazi era, but it is still sometimes called that today. Schuller writes that this wonderful tree does not deserve such a controversy; for him it will deliberately remain the large linden tree.

There are many strange stories about the country’s large trees. The lime trees at the St. Valentin pilgrimage church in the Traunstein district, for example, are characterized by the fact that they appear to be rejuvenating. A photo from 1904 shows at least that one of these linden trees was much larger back then than it is today. She also looks older than she currently does. In a publication from back then it was described as a decrepit plant. Now it seems much more vital than it did 120 years ago. According to Schuller, linden trees have a property that has so far been denied to humans: they can renew their aging trunks.

Jürgen Schuller: Fascinating trees in Upper Bavaria, Battenberg Gietl Verlag, 207 pages, 34.90 euros.

2024-01-21 15:44:10
#Trees #Upper #Bavaria #Sensitive #giants

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