Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

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#1)  Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby KoutaR » Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:12 pm

ENTS,

The tallest tree of the state of Saxony in eastern Germany is a Norway spruce (Picea abies) located in the valley of Kirnizsch creek in Sächsische Schweiz National Park. There is a news from 2003 telling the tree is 60 meters (197 ft) tall and 400 years old:

http://www.medienservice.sachsen.de/med ... 0050?page=

I was interested to know how much the reported height is exaggerated and planned a hike to the tree. I had been in that national park before but not in that valley, which is located along the border between Germany and Czech Republik. The forests in the buffer zones of the park are managed for wood production still today, and only the core zones close to the border are really protected. The forests in the core zone have also been used for hundreds of years, but the difficult terrain has partly protected them, and consequently the gorge has a quite natural look and some older trees are present. Perhaps there were also a protective border zone between Czechoslovakia and DDR in the past - I am not sure because I lived in Finland at that time. Now one can simply walk over the border; only a sign telling that you are now in the Czech Republik. Or if you ford the creek, there are no signs.

Kirnizsch has carved a gorge with very steep slopes into soft sandstone forming a perfect site for tall spruces at the valley bottom, which is at an elevation of only 200-250 meters (650-800 ft), but the cool local climate of the valley allows spruce to compete successfully with broadleaf trees.

               
                       
Kirnizschklamm.jpg
                       
Norway spruces in Kirnizsch gorge. Left from the creek, Czech Republik.
                       
Kirnizschklamm.jpg (75.87 KiB) Viewed 3239 times
               
               


After descending to the valley, I immediately saw a thin but tall looking spruce right at the creek. I took my laser rangefinder. It was an easy measurement: I was vertically positioned at the halfway up the trunk and clearly saw the base and the top. First I did not believe the display of the device. I repeated the measurement three times and got constantly the same result: this tree, perhaps not much more than 100 years old, was 54 meters (177 ft) tall! Next to it, a 52 m (171 ft) spruce was growing.

               
                       
KirnizschPicea54.jpg
                       
54 meter Norway spruce. Behind the creek, Czech Republik.
               
               


There were a lot of tall spruces, but the trail first run about 30 meters over the creek level, and due to extremely steep slopes I mostly could not see the bases and could also not descend to the creek level. Later, the trail reach the creek. On the slopes, Norway spruce is dominant. Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is also plentiful, particularly on almost vertical cliffs. Silver birch (Betula pendula) and low rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) trees are also present as is a small amount of beech (Fagus sylvatica). I also saw a few silver fir (Abies alba) saplings and a few small red oak (Quercus rubra, naturalized). Probably fir has been an important component in the past but it has become rare in many parts of central Europe due to acid rain, oversized deer population and other reasons.

               
                       
Kirnizsch-slope.jpg
                       
Beech and Norway spruce on the valley bottom, and Scots pine on steep cliffs.
               
               


At the valley bottom, the main tree species are Norway spruce, beech, sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and black alder (Alnus glutinosa).

The big tree was easy to find. It is growing right next to the trail few meters from the creek.

               
                       
KirnizschPicea_base.jpg
                       
Base of the big Norway spruce.
               
               


This time, measuring was not so easy because from the trail I did not see either the top or the base. I chose to climb a big stone at the creek.

               
                       
Kirnizsch-stone.jpg
                       
Photo from the base of the big tree. On the right, the stone on which I measured the tree. Top right, foliage of sycamore maple. Background, Norway spruce and beech. Left from the creek, Czech Republik.
               
               


It was uncomfortable to stand on the stone, but there I clearly saw the top and the base. I adjusted my tripod (for my camera and for supporting the rangefinder) and photographed and measured it. The tree turned out to be 59.2 meters (194 ft) tall, very close to the announced 60 meters. A thin spruce 50 m (164 ft) tall was growing next to the big spruce; it can be seen on the right in following photo. (Note that I have stitched the image from three photos. The uppermost photo has been shot to a steep angle - thus, the perspective is misleading and the steep slope behind the tree cannot be seen.)

               
                       
KirnizschPicea59.jpg
                       
59.2 meter Norway spruce. Left, sycamore maple. Right, 50 meter Norway spruce.
               
               


A few hundred meters from the big spruce, I measured a beech 44.2 meters (145 ft) tall with CBH only 227 cm. Thus, this tree was over a meter taller than the tallest beeches Jeroen and I measured in the Heilige Hallen. I found plenty of beeches about 40 m tall.

               
                       
KirnizschFagus.jpg
                       
44.2 meter beech.
               
               


The tallest Scots pine I found was 40.2 m (132 ft).

I made the mentioned height measurements with Nikon Laser 550A S.

This shows that extremely tall Norway spruces around 60 meters are not confined only to the Balkan Peninsula. Perhaps they would be not rare in Central European mountains if there would be no human beings.

But were the tall Norway spruces, I saw in Montenegro two years ago, taller than this? I saw the tallest-looking tree in Durmitor National Park so as the 54 meter spruce in Sächsiche Schweiz: positioned vertically halfway up the trunk; and I am sure that the Durmitor spruce was remarkably taller. I think there are good chances that it is over 60 m tall. Due to "family reasons", I cannot go to measure it this year. I will try next summer. I told about Montenegro here:

http://www.nativetreesociety.org/worldt ... pruces.htm

I have also measured Norway spruces in managed forests. In depressions and creek valleys, spruces 15-17'' DBH and 140-150 ft tall are not rare.

Still one photo can be found here:
viewtopic.php?f=198&t=3108

UPDATE SEP 2014:
A new measurement gave 59.3 m for the tallest Norway spruce of the park:
http://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/deu/s ... htal/3811/

Kouta
Last edited by KoutaR on Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:47 am, edited 4 times in total.

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#2)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby edfrank » Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:00 pm

Kouta,

Fantastic post!

Ed
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#3)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby James Parton » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:12 pm

Kouta!,

The Kirnizsch Creek Gorge is absolutely beautiful and obviously a prime place for tall trees. Those Norway Spruce are awesome. Here in the US we struggle to find them taller than 120 feet with approximately 145 feet being the tallest. It seems that there they fill the same place as Eastern White Pine does in many places here. Their height is comparable. Though at 194 feet tall, the Kirnizch big spruce is a bit taller than any tree currently known in the eastern US.

Kouta, Job well done and an awesome report!

James Parton
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#4)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby Jess Riddle » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:37 pm

Kouta,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your description.  In terms of soils, topography, and elevation the Kirnizsch gorge reminds me of where some of the largest and tallest white pines grow in the southern Appalachians, which is interesting given how ecological different Norway spruce and white pine are.  Those sound like some very significant trees.

Jess
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#5)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby gnmcmartin » Mon Aug 23, 2010 9:15 pm

Kouta:

  Thanks for the post and the wonderful pictures.  Even over here, where we don’t have such wonderful specimens, Norway spruce in one of my favorite trees.  A friend, whom I haven’t seen for a number of years--a University of Maryland Professor and a native of Lithuania, Dr. John Genys--told me that he believed that Norway spruce could grow as well here as in Europe. The problem here is getting the right strain growing on the right site.  Most of our Norway spruce plantations are on poor soil, and most are cut before they get older than 60 years or so. We have a few scattered individuals that were planted near houses as long as 175 years ago.  But most, if not all of these were from Alpine locations, not suited to the substantially different climate that they have faced here.

  I have read reports that the record height for Norway spruce is 65 meters, but there was no reference to any specific tree or location.

  --Gaines
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#6)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby Jeroen Philippona » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:31 am

Kouta,

A very nice report with beautiful photos!
At May 10th of 2007 I was within a few miles from that place but at that moment did not realise one of the tallest Norway spruces of Germany was there. I had a Suunto clinometer at that moment with me but not yet the Nikon laser...

Perhaps you could give a complete list of height measurements of all species (did you measure tall Sycamore maples or hornbeams?), wich we can use for the new height list for Europe based on laser or climbing with tape-drop technology.  Also when you made dbh or cbh measurements it should be nice when you include them.

It is interesting to see this Norway spruce is 9 meters taller than the tallest wich Tomasz Niechoda measured last month in Bialowieza National Park (50,2 m - 164,7 ft, while Bialowieza forest is very large, perhaps there are a few a bit taller there). Probably this is because the growth conditions are more favorable for the species. More shelter from the wind, higher rainfall, especialy in summer, cooler summers in the shaded deep valleys, better water supply, etc.
Bialowieza has rather low rainfall, but the tallest spruces grow on a kind of bottomland forest with good soils and good watersupply, were oak, ash and Scots pine also surpass 40 meters (131 ft).
The tallest spruces in Bialowieza are often wind-thrown, much more often than most broadleaf species.

Hereby I have included a list of tallest known Norway spruces in Europe, made by Frantisek Kala, a man from the Chech republic who sended me a few of such lists, also of European white fir. Probably in former times the firs were even taller and at least bigger than the spruces, but are much rarer now.
On that list the Kirnitsch spruce was also mentioned with 60 m, so I have changed that now. Some of the heights in the list were measured on fallen trees, others with the old tangent based measurement methods. So we still have to visit many areas to know if they are correct!

Jeroen
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#7)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby James Parton » Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:36 am

Jeroen,

You and Kouta are amazing!  Compiling a height list for Europe for ENTS. Wayyyy cool!

James
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#8)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby KoutaR » Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:35 pm

ENTS,

Kirnizsch gorge is really a beatiful place and a good area to search for tall trees. I do not believe that still taller spruces than 59.2 m could be found, but for other species I think I have not yet found the tallest specimens of the area. The Czech side is also a national park: Ceské Švýcarsko National Park.

In the tallest tree competition, Europe slightly leads at the moment, but we have no chances in the broadleaf class.

Jess, I believe the climate in such low elevations in the southern Appalachians is remarkably warmer. For Sächsische Schweiz weather, see e.g.

http://www.holidaycheck.de/klima-wetter ... _7772.html

It gives a climate diagramm for Bad Schandau, a town nearby. The local climate in the gorge is still cooler for sure.


Gaines, Norway spruce is a variable species indeed. In high mountains and in Scandinavia it never develops such a long branchless boles. 63 meters, which Leibundgut reported for the Perucica, Bosnia, and which is also in Jeroen's list, is often mentioned as the greatest height for Norway spruce, though Konrad Pintaric´ writes in the article Forestry and Forest Reserves in Bosnia and Herzegovina: "In 1954 Prof. Leibundgut and myself measured perhaps the highest spruce in Europe located in the Virgin forest 'Perucica'. The height was 64 m and the breast diameter 190 cm." The article can be found here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14777048/FORE ... ST-EUROPE-


I forgot to mention two additional species I measured:

Silver birch (Betula pendula): 33.6 meters = 110 ft.
Black alder (Alnus glutinosa): 27 meters = 89 ft.

The height for the birch is high, but 27 m is not particularly tall for the black alder. I did not measure maples or hornbeams. If I recall correctly, they did not seem very tall for the species. I also had not very much time and thus I concentrated on spruces and beeches.

I measured cbh for the big spruce, but after returning home, I realized, I had made a mistake in the measurement. I will do an another hike there sometimes, it is not far from where I live. Unfortunately, I have not other cbh measurements besides the tallest beech.

I also think growing conditions are better in Sächische Schweiz than in Bialowieza. The latter is probably more continental because beech does not occur there. And the sheltered gorge helps further.

I hope we could begin to compile a European max. list. Unfortunately I cannot help much: I have not too much time, and when I am free, I often travel to my home country or somewhere where there are large wildernesses. If somebody European tree lover is reading this, I urge you to purchase a laser rangefinder, measure tall trees and send the measurements to Jeroen, me or to this forum.

- Kouta
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#9)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby dbhguru » Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:50 am

Kouta,

   You and Jeron are a 2-man army. All of us on this side of the pond stand in awe of your accomplishments. Please keep up the fantastic work. Looking at images of the Norways, just having photographed the bazaar forms on the Tanglewood campus catapults the species to the forefront of my current interest.

Bob
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#10)  Re: Tall trees in Sächsische Schweiz National Park, Germany

Postby James Parton » Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:35 am

Bob, Kouta & Jeroen,

I agree. Norway Spruce is one of my favorites too. I would love to see more ENTS work on the species, Both in North America and Europe.

James
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