In some deciduous forest areas in the Kottenforst, head trees, mainly red beech (Fagus silvatica), testify to a form of forest use that has been practiced for centuries, forest pasture. The trees are estimated to be around 150 to 250 years old. The head tree shape was created by cutting the branches at regular intervals above the reach of the grazing cattle. The wood was mainly used as firewood, younger branches and twigs were also dried in leaves and were used as a substitute for hay for winter feeding of the cattle. Due to the abandonment of forest pastures and the use of the head trees, these have in some cases developed growth patterns that seem rather untypical for trees ; This is where the popular name of the often very imposing tree individuals as "ghost beeches" is derived. Another, rather negative consequence of the abandonment of use is the unchecked growth of the canopy, which at some point becomes a static problem for the tree. When the large branches break, large areas of breakage and trunk injuries occur, which then quickly endanger the stability of the trees as a whole. Therefore, more and more of the head trees near the paths have been and are severely shortened or even felled for reasons of traffic safety. The old head trees with their tree hollows are habitats for many rare and threatened animal species in our current cultural landscape, such as the little owl and Stock dove, various species of beetles and bees, and also bats; therefore they are particularly valuable ecologically. In addition, they are the last evidence of a historical form of forest use and, for this reason, are absolutely worthy of preservation.
January 24, 2021
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