Witch-hazel blossoming in Vogelsberg

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Vogelsberg (Bird’s hill) is a large volcanic mountain range in the German Central Uplands in the state of Hesse, separated from the Rhön Mountains by the Fulda river valley. Emerging approximately 19 million years ago, the Vogelsberg is Central Europe’s largest basalt formation, consisting of a multitude of layers that descend from their peak in ring-shaped terraces to the base. The main peaks of the Vogelsberg are the Taufstein, 773.0 metres (2,536.1 ft), and Hoherodskopf, 763 meters (2,503 ft), both now within the High Vogelsberg Nature Park.

Vogelsberg is not a former shield volcano, but comprises many individual volcanoes, which are superimposed. Thus it consists of a multitude of overlapping basalt terraces, which descend from the Oberwald, -the high central plateau, 600 to 773 meters high, in series of stepped rings to the edges of the mountain region. Its present appearance, which is reminiscent of a large flat, shield-shaped volcano with a central dome, is the result of an interplay of uplift processes and  ablation acting on all sides. The division of the Vogelsberg into individual  natural regions is based, on the one hand, on the  relief of the mountain range from its highest point towards the outside and, on the other hand, on its river catchments which radiate outwards: the catchments of the Eder, Lower  Fulda, Main and Lahn. The Vogelsberg massif has stone runs of basalt and tuff, raised bogs and areas of ancient woodland. Numerous hiking trails cross, not only the Oberwald, but also the rest of the area.


The Oberwald (351.2) is the heart of the Vogelsberg and is entirely wooded; its outer boundary roughly follows the 600 meter contour line. In outer areas of the Vogelsberg, by contrast, there is a tapestry of green pasture, arable fields and woodlands.

Large parts of the Oberwald are protected. For example, the beech wood in the Taufstein Nature Reserve has been left to manage itself since 1906. On the northern slopes of the Taufstein are large stone runs of basalt.

Numerous rivers and streams rise in the Vogelsberg, and flow radially from its highest point in all directions of the compass. In clockwise order, the rivers of the main catchments are the Schwalm, Lower Fulda, Kinzig, Nidda and Ohm. Often a well known river is fed by several almost equal tributaries. In recent years the Eurasian lynx has returned. There are rumors about wolves being sighted in the region. Sightings have been confirmed in an area north of the Vogelsberg. Wildcats are also said to exist in the region, although they, like lynxes, are notoriously hard to spot. As in most of Hesse, wild boar are present in large numbers.

Vogelsberg’s sport activities

The Vogelsberg is known for its winter sports areas on the Herchenhainer Höhe and Hoherodskopf (Alpine skiing and 55 km of loipes). In summer, apart from hiking, cycling is well catered for on the numerous long-distance cycling routes such as the Volcano Cycleway. Moreover, there are regular RMV buses, the so-called Vulkan Express running from Büdingen, Stockheim, Nidda, Hungen, Mücke and Schlitz via  Lauterbach at weekends to the heights of the Vogelsberg. These buses are equipped with bicycle trailers. The majority of bus routes run to the Hoherodskopf and so may be used in combination.

The Volcano and Southern Railway Cycleways are tarmacked and may also be used by inline skaters. There is a large network of signposted cycleways in and around the Vogelsberg Nature Fitness Park around the highest summits and also 70 km of signed mountain bike routes.

The Hoherodskopf is the touristic centre of the region. Here you will find the Nature Conservation Information Centre for the High Vogelsberg Nature Park and a tourist information centre for the town of Schotten, which are open daily all year-round. From this point, three nature trails have been set up, covering in the fields of geology, nature and sensory perception.  There is a summer toboggan run, a tree ropes course, numerous hiking trails and several restaurants.

What can we see now in the Nature park? The blossoming of the Witch-hazels!

Witch-hazels or witch hazels (Hamamelis), are a genus of flowering plants in the family Hamamelicadea. The North American species are occasionally called winterbloom. (The name witch in witch-hazel has its origins in  Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”, and is not related to the word witch meaning a practitioner of magic “Witch hazel” was used in England as a synonym for Wych Elm . The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as  hazel twigs were used in England, may also have by folk etymology, influenced the “witch” part of the name).

The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 10–25 feet tall, rarely to 40 feet tall. The genus name, Hamamelis, means “together with fruit”, referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year. H. virginiana blooms in September–November while the other species bloom from January–March. Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 38 inch (0.95 cm) long, containing a single 14 inch (0.64 cm) glossy black seed in each of the two parts; the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 30 feet (9.1 m), thus another alternative name “Snapping Hazel”. They are popular ornamental plants, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter. Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs. hama



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