baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

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Borjomi Strict Nature Reserve, Georgia

Together with adjacent Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park (588 km 2 ), this reserve (277 km 2 ) is one of the most visited nature destinations of Georgia – nevertheless the hiking trails are not crowded. The reserve was established as early as 1929, the national park only in 1996.

Unfortunately, on numerous Internet sites, e.g. European Wilderness Society 1 , it is given to understand that the nature reserve and the national park form a pristine wilderness. However, it can be seen even from satellite images that there is a dense network of small roads used by local farmers, and in the valleys and on the ridges non-natural meadows are still grazed. There are also cut stumps along the tracks. Actually, it is strange that all this is possible in a strict nature reserve! However, the steep slopes and gullies further away from any track are close to their natural state.

The reserve is located in a rather dry region. Annual precipitation varies remarkably but on the lower slopes is significantly below 1000 mm/v 2 . Altitude ranges from approx . 950 m to approx . 2400 m . The slopes are steep.

The tree flora is slightly richer than in western Europe in similar sites but lower than in eastern North America and especially eastern Asia 3 . Identification is complicated by the fact that there is no good guide unless one can read Georgian or Russian. One possibility is to collect identification information and images from the Internet in advance. A check-list can be compiled from at least two sources 4 5 . Most species should not offer difficulties if you have familiarized yourself with the possible species in advance but numerous Crataegus species, for example, may be impossible to identify without help from a specialist. Opens internal link in current window Picea orientalis (Caucasian spruce), Opens internal link in current window Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) and Opens internal link in current window Carpinus betulus (European hornbeam) dominate on the northern lower slopes. The tallest tree of the region, Opens internal link in current window Abies nordmanniana subsp. nordmanniana (Caucasian fir), grows particularly in protected sites. Super-tall A. nordmanniana up to 85 m 6 have been claimed to exist in moister areas in the Russian western Caucasus and Abkhazia but here it only reaches slightly over 50 m. Opens internal link in current window Quercus petraea subsp. iberica (sessile oak), Opens internal link in current window Carpinus orientalis (oriental hornbeam) and P. sylvestris dominate on dry southern slopes. The uppermost forest zone is occupied by krummholz mainly consisting of Opens internal link in current window Betula pubescens var. litwinowii (Caucasian downy birch) and Opens internal link in current window Sorbus aucuparia (European rowan). The forest floor is fairly open particularly in coniferous forests.

The reserve has two hiking routes. Staying overnight is allowed in a hut located at 1800 m elevation or in your own tent at the hut.



2 Schuerholz, G. (2003): Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park Management Plan. The State Department of Protected Areas, Nature Reserves and Hunting Economy.

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5 Schmidt (2002-7): Bäume und Sträucher Kaukasiens. Mitt. Dtsch. Dendrol. Ges . 87-92.

6 Opens external link in new window World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation, Western Caucasus (Russian Federation) .

Official site:

Picea orientalis (Caucasian spruce) forest at 1200 m. Also Carpinus betulus (European hornbeam), centre background.
Valley bottom at 1140 m. Approx. 50-metre Abies nordmanniana subsp. nordmanniana (Caucasian fir, centre background), small Picea orientalis (Caucasian spruce, centre), A. nordmanniana foliage (extreme right), Corylus avellana (common hazel, left foreground) and Tilia dasystyla subsp. caucasica (Caucasian linden, trunk on the left).
Seedlings of Abies nordmanniana subsp. nordmanniana (Caucasian fir, left) and Picea orientalis (Caucasian spruce).
North-facing slope. Mainly Picea orientalis (Caucasian spruce), Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) and Carpinus betulus (European hornbeam).
South-facing slope at 1280 m. In the foreground Quercus petraea subsp. iberica (sessile oak). In the background mainly Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine).
Low forest on south-facing slope at 1250 m. Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) foliage (left foreground), Carpinus orientalis (oriental hornbeam) foliage (right foreground), Quercus petraea subsp. iberica (sessile oak, background) and Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine, straight trunk).
Prunus avium (wild cherry) on south-facing slope at 1250 m. Also Carpinus orientalis (oriental hornbeam) foliage (foreground).
Some trees (and tall shrubs) at lower elevations.