The sequoia grove in the Wilhelma is very popular with visitors, as the giant trees radiate a gentle calm. In order to protect the base of the trunk and the root system of the unspoilt giants, which belong to the cypress family, access to the trees was previously only permitted at one tree.
This tree has suffered more and more in recent years, especially in the root area. In order to continue to provide guests of the Stuttgart Zoological and Botanical Gardens with a haptic experience, a circular wooden platform was built around this tree, the shape of which is reminiscent of an opening cone.
This allows visitors to walk around the tree, touch it and look up at the trunk. In this way, an ideal balance was found between tree protection and the interest of the visitors: “The self-supporting platform was built in a particularly tree-friendly and lightweight manner without concrete foundations and with only a few supports,” explains Katja Siegmann, head of the park maintenance department. The platform, whose wooden floorboards radiate towards the trunk, is financed by the friends and sponsors of Wilhelma and the Hans Henssler Foundation.
The platform is the conclusion of an extensive redevelopment concept in the sequoia forest. “Climate change and increasing drought are stressing the trees,” explains Katja Siegmann. “They don’t develop optimally with us.” In order to improve the growing conditions, water pipes were laid, hydrants installed and the soil methodically aerated. Sensors measure the soil moisture at four different depths and signal when targeted watering is necessary.
Originally from the western USA, sequoias can grow up to 3000 years old and over 100 meters high. In contrast, the giant trees in the Wilhelma, whose seeds King Wilhelm I of Württemberg had brought from America in 1864, are still in their infancy at 160 years old. The tallest tree in the redwood grove of the zoological and botanical garden in Stuttgart is “only” 38.6 meters, which is also due to the fact that around 70 trees stand together here and compete for water and nutrients.
The largest sequoia in Germany, which can be found in the Rems-Murr district, is a proud 57 meters high. It also comes from the so-called Wilhelma seed. According to legend, due to a linguistic misunderstanding, King Wilhelm received thousands of seeds – he ordered a solderabout 15 grams, the Americans supplied a lot, so many. A pound of seeds is said to have been handed over to the Wilhelma gardeners. This gave rise to countless seedlings, which the monarch – after all a Swabian – had planted in many parks and forests in his country, but also sold to private individuals.
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