Neighbouring to the English-style castle palace park is another green highlight in Weinheim: the Exotic Forest.
It is a local recreational area for residents and visitors and is unique in its form in Europe. Over 60 hectares of land, 170 different species of foreign trees and bushes can be admired. The dendrological gem houses, for example, the largest collection of redwood trees outside of North America with tree giants up to 60 meters tall. For a walk through the forest you can choose from three well-signposted circular hiking trails.
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A tree carrying sweets, that was certainly a dream of many in childhood or even today. Unfortunately, the exotic forest cannot offer the desired gummy bear tree, but many other interesting and exotic tree species. Among them also specimens which at least smell of sweets and pastries.
The trails, which were designed for carriage rides 150 years ago, allow walkers, hikers, walkers, joggers and cyclists to explore the exotic forest. At the entrances to the Exotic Forest, large hiking signs point out the three circular hiking trails: No matter whether the Black Pine Round Trail (length: 2. 4 km), the Exotic Forest Round Trail (length: 3. 1 km) or the Large Round Trail (length: 4. 4 km) – visitors can enjoy a unique forest experience on the signposted trails. Information boards on a part of the tree population also provide information about the species and its particularities.
At the beginning, North American tree species were planted in the exotic forest. In the meantime, however, the population has been expanded by other forest regions, e. g. from East Asia. Today, the exotic forest is home to trees from 18 forest regions of the world. Particularly worth seeing are the redwoods (three stands), ancient world redwoods, atlas cedars, sham cypresses, river cedars, thujas, coastal redwoods and araucarias.
A visit to the exotic forest in Weinheim is worthwhile at any time of the year. In spring it seems almost like watching the trees grow in the sun-drenched forest. In summer you can enjoy the coolness in the shade of the giant trees. In autumn, when the woods are bright yellow, orange and red colors you think you are at the Indian Summer. Even in winter it is green in parts of the exotic forest, where the coniferous trees stand.
Together with the castle park and the Hermannshof show and viewing garden, the Exotic Forest forms the heart of the Green Miles in Weinheim.
For visitors, the exotic forest is accessible throughout the year and does not cost admission. Fresh forest air and pleasant tranquility included.
Origin and development of the exotic forest In 2022, the Exotic Forest already celebrates its 150th anniversary. At the beginning, the founder of the Exotic Forest, Christian Friedrich Gustav von Berckheim (1817 – 1889), probably only wanted to expand the palace park. The “exotic” cultivation was quite fashionable in farms and parks at that time. In 1872 he first had tree-rich avenues planted along the network of paths he had planned. Forest stands with interesting foreign trees were created between the avenues. They come mainly from North America, Asia Minor, North Africa and the Mediterranean region. While most of the avenues fall out early, the forest stands develop into highly interesting and impressive tree stands.
After a “sleeping slumber” of 50 years, a second cultivation phase began in the 1930s, bringing in mainly Japanese and East Asian tree species in addition to daughter stands of the Wilhelminian period.
In 1955, Constantin Graf von Berckheim sold the exotic forest to the state of Baden-Württemberg for 450,000 marks. To date, the forest area has expanded to around 60 hectares through acquisitions and a forest exchange with the city of Weinheim.
As early as 1990, some of these stands were characterized by tree species, which stood out due to their distinctive flowers or special autumn colouring. In the meantime, this approach has been significantly expanded: Kobushi magnolia and large-leaved Japanese magnolia were joined by the blue bell tree, the Chinese lily magnolia, the pigeon tree and in the neighbouring American area the cucumber magnolia and the umbrella magnolia. A few years ago, this spectrum was expanded by distinctive flowering cherries such as the Tokyo cherry, the Kanzan cherry and the Sargent cherry.
The Giants of the Trees
The sequoias form the most impressive stock of the exotic forest. The tallest trees – now only 150 years old – have reached almost 60 metres in height. Due to their red glowing, soft and thick bark, the tree giants stand out clearly from the surrounding neighboring stands. They grow up to 80 metres tall, up to 3500 years old and reach a diameter of 10 metres and more. The review of the “mammoths” is also interesting: Between 1873 and 1882, von Berckheim planted 1460 sequoias on more than two hectares of land. The first delivery of plants is enormous, it includes 1128 small trees, which come as four-year-old potted plants with ship and carriage from London.