History of the Bavaria Beech

 

The Bavaria Beech

The Bavaria Beech near Pondorf is famous beyond the borders of Bavaria und was said to be one of the most beautiful trees in Germany. It was estimated to be about 800 years old, which is unusual even for beeches. At the last counting of the annual rings of a branch, about 120 years were assessed. It is no longer possible to examine the trunk. The „Bavaria Beech“ has been so named since the 20th century but the source of this tradition is unknown.

As a solitary tree with a wide-spreading, mushroom-shaped stature, the beech stood in open country, in a meadow surrounded by cornfields. In earlier centuries, the beech gave shelter to grazing animals and shade to their shepherds. Due to its isolated position, the 24 metre tree developed a crown that covered about 600 square metres and had a volume of about 5000 cubic metres. It is presumed that the trunk was formed by several trees growing together and it had a circumference of about 9 metres. One day, even a tree that has been strong enough to withstand a great number of storms, will naturally reach the end of its life. It dies back and its wood is broken down by numerous small animals and fungi to form humus. The natural cycle can now begin again. Trees die slowly and the Bavaria Beech had already begun this process years before it was destroyed. Since the 1990s, decaying branches began to break off and the tree gradually lost parts of its crown.

2008In 1950, the hollow trunk was filled with cement. In 1999 and 2004, large branches broke off and on 19th August 2006, a storm destroyed almost half of the crown.

The violent storm „Kyrill“ finally destroyed the Bavaria Beech in 2013. The remains of this Methuselah tree are now strewn on the ground among bushes and small young beech trees. They will not be removed but allowed to decompose on the original site. Even in this condition, the Bavaria Beech provides a habitat for birds, small mammals, amphibians and a great variety of insects.

Some time earlier, specialists had suggested that the tree should be preserved by bracing it with plastic ropes and supporting it with a metal corset. But this would have degraded the once so stately tree to a „caricature“. Even this „tree art“ couldn’t have stopped the decay. Only the form of the tree, seen from a distance, could have been kept a little longer. For this reason, the council for Nature Conservation in the administrative district office in Eichstätt had already decided to save the tree from a fate as a technical caricature and to allow it to die a natural death when the time came.

For safety purposes and in compliance with nature conservation, the tree was surrounded by a wooden fence at a distance that left it ample space.

 

Stages of the beech tree’s life cycle

Buchenblüte

Flower This is what my flowers look like. After a few weeks, they grow into sturdy fruiting heads with beechnuts in the middle.

Fruit I grew from a beechnut inside a fruiting head and then fell to the ground from the crown of the tree.

Beechnut In German, these nuts are called „Bucheckern“ (beech angles) because of their triangular shape.

Seedling In Spring, my two green embryonic leaves sprouted. Now I can „stand on my own feet“ because I can make use of the sun’s energy.

Sapling Because I’m so young, I’m exposed to a lot of hazards. Game may feed on me and storms can cause me great damage.

Growth Sometimes several trunks grow together. This must have happened to the Bavaria Beech.

Mature tree in autumn When a tree becomes old, its branches rot and the tree gradually begins to die.