Arbor Day in Germany (Tag des Baumes)

Larch

Larix decidua

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For 2012 the Dr. Silvius Wodarz Foundation has chosen the European Larch, Larix Decidua, as Tree of the Year for Germany.

Larches are very graceful trees, and their fresh green in early spring and golden yellow in autumn add colour to our forests. The flowers in March/ April are beautiful… take a closer look if you have a larch near you. (Larch trees like to be admired!) The female flower is red, and upright, while the male flower is light green/yellow and hangs downwards. They are pollinated by the wind, since they flower so early, even at high altitudes.

The larch is the only indigenous conifer that loses its needles in winter, which is believed to be a kind of protective, energy-conserving measure against alpine winters with permafrost, or summer drought. It grows at heights of up to 2,000 metres and in the German Alps the larch serves as protection against avalanches. It is also cultivated for building material, as the wood is very hard and weatherproof.

Yet the needles look so soft and delicate!

 I often collect the cones in December, and use them as part of my Advent decorations. The cones remain on the branches for several years, opening only when the weather is mild and dry, releasing just a few seeds at a time, then closing again.

The larch has also been the subject of legend since time began. Forest fairies inhabit their trunks and branches, giving magic self-replenishing purses, bread and cheese to the poor! These fairies are also said to put lost hikers back on the right track!

In the Alps you will often see a larch standing near a mountain cabin or farmhouse… the “house tree”. It protects the dwelling from evil spirits and lightning.

What’s more, these trees can possibly live for up to a thousand years. So just think; if you plant one today, who may be admiring it in the year 3012? How many fairies will have lived in it? And how many of its seeds will have successfully germinated into new young larches? How many generations have watched it turn golden in the autumn? Or will it have been felled and used to build a beautiful house, a bridge, a boat, or even a tower…?

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By the way, the man who introduced our Arbor Day in 1989, Dr Silvius Wodarz, was active in the state forestry commission for over 50 years. He has been responsible for many changes in forestry management, and for increasing the awareness of both the forestry industry and the public regarding the environment and the threat to many tree species.

“We want to familiarise people with trees and create concern for this living heritage. We are planting trees in the hearts of people – young and old – in order to initiate a change in our way of thinking”.

Dr Silvius Wodarz