His favorite veteran is in Reinhardswald in North Hesse.

The "chimney oak", crooked and gnarled, more than 400 years old and with an incredible trunk circumference of seven meters.

Even if it is rotten and almost hollow with a chimney-like hole, it is also sprouting fresh buds on some branches this spring.

The wilderness expert and nature photographer Norbert Rosing appreciates such old, lovable tree specimens.

He says: "I like to visit them, preferably alone, and look at every detail in peace."

The bark furrows look like lifelines, the claw-like branches like arthritic hands reaching up to the sky - tree poetry for tree lovers like Norbert Rosing.

Old oaks in the Reinhardswald


His new photo book “Germany's wild forests” tempts you to take lonely walks in the forest, almost to a forest bath under the treetops.

Rosing shows the most mysterious trees in our homeland: from beech trees in the ghost forest in Nienhagen on the Baltic Sea to ancient mountain pines in the Berchtesgaden Alps.

Biologist Monika Rößiger describes the diversity of forests and explores the connection between Germans and the forest as a place of longing - full of stories, anecdotes and exciting knowledge.

This tree is a work of centuries

Source: Norbert Rosing

The hollow chimney oak, for example, is one of around 25 oaks in the Reinhardswald that are up to 420 years old.

Each of them has a name, such as the "Hermit oak", the "Baroque oak" or the "Cyclops oak".


There are also ancient beeches, such as the “Titan beech”, the “Scepter beech” or the “Cascade beech”.

These methushalem trees grow in the Sababurg primeval forest, a 92 hectare nature reserve.

The pasture in the forest

They are all so-called hat trees, which owe their existence to a special form of land use: the forest pasture.

In the 19th century, farmers drove their cattle - especially pigs - into the forest every autumn so that the animals could eat their fill of acorns and beechnuts.

Norbert Rosing also visits the famous twin beech from Mitgenfeld in the Rhön, also a magnificent, ancient hat beech.

Its trunk is thickly mossy and shimmers like dark green velvet.

Play of colors - for those who find it

Source: Norbert Rosing


The Rhön is a low mountain range that extends over three federal states: Bavaria, Hesse and Thuringia.

In the Middle Ages this area was called "Buchonia", the "land of the beeches".

This corresponded to the forest cover at that time, but already in the 18th century more was felled than planted, the hills were barren.

The beginning of sustainability

That already worried forest people back then: Hans Carl von Carlowitz first used the term “sustainability” in a book published in 1713, “Sylvicultura oeconomica or Haußwirthliche Message and Natural Instructions for Wild Tree Breeding”.

He recommended that only as much wood be taken from the forest as could be regrown by sowing and planting.

As a result, the reforestation was not with native deciduous trees, but with fast-growing conifers - especially spruce.

Only later did a rethink set in.

Into the dark forest - it won't be easy to find your way out of here

Source: Norbert Rosing

Today only a few deciduous forests in this country are older than 150 years.

This is also due to the fact that these trees are usually felled in a commercial forest from the age of 120 years.

In doing so, they could be more than 400 years old.

Five areas that represent remnants of near-natural beech forests in Germany have been Unesco World Heritage Sites since 2011: the Jasmund National Park on Rügen and the Müritz National Park in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the Hainich National Park in Thuringia, the Grumsiner Forest in Brandenburg and the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park in Hessen.

Shielded by dense greenery, civilization seems very far away here

Source: Norbert Rosing

Biologist Barbara Rößiger writes: "In the opinion of environmentalists, the Spessart in Bavaria is missing from the Unesco list."

There you can discover an unusually large number of methushalam trees, those that tree friend Rosing so values.

Norbert Rosing and Monika Rößiger:


tschlands wilde Wälder

, National Geographic Verlag, 224 pages, about 180 illustrations, 29.99 euros