Wetland Woods - Full of ContrastsSlide show

Hard but vulnerable
Species-rich woodland with hard timbers like oak and ash is the natural form of vegetation in the higher, drier areas of the river wetlands. These woods are flooded only about every ten years. The stretch in the southern part of the nature reserve is the most important example of its kind in North Rhine-Westphalia.
An abundance of elderberry bushes and climbers such as ivy show that the soil is rich in nutrients. The poplars that were planted in some parts of the nature reserve are not typical wetland trees and will be replaced.
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Soft but tough
Nearer to the riverbank, the hardwood trees make way for soft woods such as white willow and scrub willow. This area is flooded more often and for longer periods. The flexible branches and the fast-growing, soft wood of the willows are well adapted to these conditions.
The boundary between the two different types of woodland is marked by an old hornbeam avenue. It was planted to protect both the oak-ash wood and Haus Bürgel from drifting ice floes during winter floods.

The change of seasons
In springtime the woods are carpeted with the yellow flowers of lesser celandine. Starting in May, the strong smell of wild garlic pervades the air. The melodious song of the golden oriole may be heard in May and June. Despite their bright yellow plumage these birds are very difficult to spot up in the tops of the trees where they build their nests. The pink flowers of Himalayan balsam lining the paths scent the air with their distinctive smell from June to October. In wintertime, thick clusters of mistletoe in the bare branches of the poplars resemble large green nests.

It's a jungle out there
Lianas climbing up tree trunks and branches towards the light is this really the Rhineland? Yes, it is, and these vines are typical for riparian woodlands. Ivy, hop, and old man's beard flourish on the wetlands' moist and nutrient-rich soil.

He's a wild one
Humulus lupulus or brewers' hop is a well-known ingredient of many types of beer. Its "wild cousin" grows in the river woodlands. Strictly speaking it's a bine, not a vine. Each year its root sends up new shoots covered with stiff hairs to aid in climbing. Hop bines can grow up to a height of six metres and climb by wrapping themselves clockwise around anything within reach.

Old man's beard
The wild clematis does just the opposite and grows widdershins around its support, to which it clings with grooved stems. The long, silky appendages of its seeds gave rise to the plant's common name. The many garden hybrids of wild clematis are popular with gardeners.
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