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Haus der Natur

The beech tree – the mother of our forests

If humans had not interfered with nature, most of Germany would still be covered by beech forests. In the Kottenforst beech trees are common alongside oak trees.
The long-term aim of forestry in the Kottenforst is to transform it into a mixed forest.

This is why young beech trees have been planted under spruce trees for the past 40 years.

Beech trees prefer loose soil with good rootability, which must neither be too wet nor too dry. In the Kottenforst, however, they can also get by on waterlogged soil because their roots are deep down in the soil where they can tap groundwater. However, due to climate change, they are now suffering from extreme dry seasons and extreme wetness.

Beech forests are very shady because the dense foliage barely lets any sunlight through. This explains the relative lack of undergrowth. Sufficient light can only fall on the forest floor in spring, when their foliage has not yet fully developed. Then bush anemones and celandine can flourish. Young beeches also thrive in the shade of old trees. They wait until a gap opens up in the canopy through which they can grow.

Beech trees can grow up to 300 years old and 40 metres high. In commercial forests they are usually harvested when they are between 120 and 140 years old. Their wood is hard, somewhat reddish and is processed into plywood, furniture, parquet flooring and toys. It can also be used as firewood.

  • Beech trees bear fruit in autumn. When their seeds are ripe, the fruit cups burst open and the beechnuts fall to the ground. They are an important source of food for forest animals. They are mainly spread by jays, squirrels and mice, which collect the nuts and sometimes even forget where they have hidden them.
  • The jay's warning-call can increase in volume from a ratcheting song to a loud screech. They are also called the forest police. Jays are excellent imitators of other bird calls.
  • The forest caterpillar hunter is a large beetle that is active during the day. It hunts for caterpillars and the pupae of butterflies and wasps on trees and the ground. Its larvae also feed predaciously. It thus helps to maintain the biological balance in the forest. It is very rare, and extinct in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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