baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

©2017 copyright christoph hase

Shiretoko National Park, Japan

Shiretoko is a peninsula in the northeastern corner of Hokkaido. Shiretoko National Park became a World Heritage Site in 2005. This has resulted in a marked increase in visitors, so in the most popular places, such as Shiretoko Go-Ko, at peak periods there are such dense crowds of Japanese tourists that moving can be difficult. However, most of the park is very wild.

Annual precipitation is 1000–1400 mm and at least parts of the park can be called temperate rainforest 1 .

What makes tree identification problematic is that Japanese identification guides are unreadable for most westerners. However they have superb photos (better than in any western book I have seen), and identification is often possible simply by comparing photos. J. Ohwi’s old “Flora of Japan” (in English) helps, too. Otherwise tree identification is not difficult. The forests are mostly mixed; the most common tree species include Opens internal link in current window Abies sachalinensis (Sakhalin fir), Opens internal link in current window Betula ermanii (Erman´s birch) and Opens internal link in current window Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak). Above the forest limit Opens internal link in current window Pinus pumila (Siberian dwarf pine) grows in almost impenetrable thickets. Unlike most other conifers, it is able to resprout from roots, thereby spreading over slopes 2 . At lower elevations off-trail hiking can also be difficult, due to the many steep slopes.

CAUTION: Toxicodendron orientale (Asian poison ivy) is common i n the undergrowth of these forests. Touching the plant can cause a severe allergic reaction.

Ticks are very abundant in places.


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

2 Farjon, A. (2008): A Natural History of Conifers. Timber Press.

Official sites:

Abies sachalinensis (Sakhalin fir) dominated forest; also Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak), left. Elev. 160 m.
Abies sachalinensis (Sakhalin fir) dominated forest; also Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak), centre foreground, old Betula ermanii (Erman's birch), right, and Acer japonicum (downy Japanese maple), foliage top left. Elev. 500 m.
Betula ermanii (Erman's birch, with smooth bark) - Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak) forest at 600 m.
Betula ermanii (Erman's birch) forest at 650 m.
Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak) forest at 700 m.
Betula ermanii (Erman's birch) krummholz at 800 m.
Dark areas: Pinus pumila (Siberian dwarf pine); lighter green areas: Betula ermanii (Erman's birch) dominated krummholz.
Magnolia obovata (Japanese bigleaf magnolia). Elev. 500 m.
Betula ermanii (Erman's birch).
Acer pictum (painted maple).
Phellodendron amurense (Amur cork tree).
Cercidiphyllum japonicum (katsura tree).
Picea jezoensis (jezo spruce).
Tops of Abies sachalinensis (Sakhalin fir, left) and Picea jezoensis (jezo spruce).
Abies sachalinensis (Sakhalin fir) - Betula ermanii (Erman's birch) - Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak) dominated forest. Elev. 500 m.
Some broadleaf trees ( Sorbus matsumurana is shrub) of higher altitudes (500-800 m). Alnus maximowiczii = A. viridis subsp. maximowiczii .