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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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/