baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

©2019copyright christoph hase

Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany


The park (242 km2) mostly consists of former managed forest but also has a few small old-growth remnants, the most important of which are briefly described below.


The Höllbachgspreng (51 ha) is one of the best virgin forests of Germany. The Bavarian King Max II protected the area as early as 1850. Paths are the only visible sign of human influence. The most abundant tree is Opens internal link in current windowPicea abies (Norway spruce) followed by Opens internal link in current windowFagus sylvatica (European beech), Opens internal link in current windowAbies alba (European silver fir) and Opens internal link in current windowAcer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple). A few further species occur here and there; all are easy to identify. The elevation is 970–1150 m. The slopes are quite steep and stony.


The Rachelseewand (about 50 ha) is also virgin forest1, though a part of it was pure P. abies, now killed by European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus); the rest is mixed P. abies–A. alba–F. sylvatica. The trees are not large due to the high elevation (above 1070 m). A trail runs through the eastern part of the reserve.2


The Ruckowitzhäng (41 ha) may be the most virgin location in the park but access is prohibited. The upper part is pure P. abies and the lower part F. sylvatica–A. alba–P. abies with some A. pseudoplatanus. Also here the trees are not large – the reserve is located at 990–1170 m on steep north-facing slopes. The oldest trees are about 300 years old.2 3


The Mittelsteighütte (38 ha), which directly adjoins the village of Zwieslerwaldhaus, is somewhat less primeval but nevertheless has 500-year-old 1 A. alba trees. The elevation is 720780 m. The forest is composed of F. sylvatica, A. alba and P. abies. The latter two reach heights over 50 m. Only F. sylvatica regenerates and the area will probably develop to pure F. sylvatica forest in the future. The undergrowth is very sparse. In the past, old trees near trails were felled due to safety concerns2 (in my personal opinion, completely exaggerated: it is the intention to present an old undisturbed forest to the public and then some of the old trees are felled!).


The Hans-Watzlik-Hain (38 ha) is again slightly less primeval but has the biggest trees of the park. The forest is dominated by F. sylvatica and A. alba. Over 50-metre A. alba trees are abundant and the tallest, standing at the edge of an opening, is 53.8 m, one of the tallest A. alba trees in Germany. It has a girth of 665 cm and a volume of over 50 m3 4. Old cut stumps can be seen in places. The undergrowth is very sparse making walking easy. The elevation is approx. 670680 m.


There are also a few smaller old-growth stands.


Annual precipitation in the mentioned areas is 12001800 mm and average annual temperature 3.5–7.5°C 3 5. The forests can be classified as temperate rainforests6. Camping is not allowed but there is a log cabin for hire at the edge of the Höllbachgspreng. The park is also a UNESCO biosphere reserve.



1       Sperber, G. & Thierfelder, S. (2005): Urwälder Deutschlands. BLV Verlagsgesellschaft mbH.

2       Michler, T., Bavarian Forest National Park , pers. comm. (2014, 2017)

3       Ausgewählte Naturwaldreservate in Bayern. Freistaat Bayern.



6       DellaSala, D. A. (ed.). 2011: Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World. Island Press.


Official site:

Picea abies (Norway spruce) forest in Höllbachgspreng. Abies alba (European silver fir) saplings.
Picea abies (Norway spruce) forest in Höllbachgspreng. Abies alba (European silver fir) saplings. Fagus sylvatica (European beech) foliage, left. Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple) foliage, right.
Picea abies (Norway spruce) forest in Höllbachgspreng. P. abies and Abies alba (European silver fir) saplings, the latter with bluegreen foliage. Large Fagus sylvatica (European beech), centre background. Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple), left centre.
Picea abies (Norway spruce) forest in Höllbachgspreng. Abies alba (European silver fir) and Fagus sylvatica (European beech) saplings.
Picea abies (Norway spruce) - Fagus sylvatica (European beech) forest in Höllbachgspreng.
Picea abies (Norway spruce) forest in Höllbachgspreng.
Höllbachgspreng. Picea abies (Norway spruce, straight trunks), Abies alba (European silver fir, large tree centre background and foliage right), Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple, thin trunks and foliage, foreground), Fagus sylvatica (European beech, right centre and below the cliff).
Höllbachgspreng. Picea abies (Norway spruce) seedlings. In the background P. abies (larger trunk) and Fagus sylvatica (European beech).
Large Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple) in Höllbachgspreng. Two further A. pseudoplatanus, left background. Fagus sylvatica (European beech), thin trees.
Large Abies alba (European silver fir) and Picea abies (Norway spruce, the larger of the fused trunks) and thin Fagus sylvatica (European beech) in Mittelsteighütte.
Fagus sylvatica (European beech) in Mittelsteighütte.
Hans-Watzlik-Hain. Abies alba (European silver fir, centre and large trees background) and Fagus sylvatica (European beech).
Hans-Watzlik-Hain. Two Abies alba (European silver fir) with rough bark. Fagus sylvatica (European beech), other trees.