Day trip destination
Ancient larch trees in Ultental valley: gnarly giants in St. Gertraud
The 'Urlärchen', or ancient larch trees, in Ultental valley are one of the best-known natural monuments in South Tyrol – the nearly 1,000-year-old trees are silent witnesses to bygone times.
These three larches, standing in St. Gertraud in Ultental valley, are probably the oldest fir trees in Europe . To the locals, the trees are known as 'bat larches', because their brittle hollow trunks are home to woodpeckers, owls and even bats. They received the nickname of 'Urlärchen', or 'ancient larches', thanks to their great age. It is not clear just how old these larches really are – for a while, talk was of 2,000 years old, when the annual rings of one fallen tree were counted in 1930. A more recent investigation in 2004 estimates the remaining three trees to be around 850 years old, however.
Three noble giants
No matter how old the Ulten larches may be, they have definitely stood the test of time for centuries in St. Gertraud in Ultental valley. These three trees were probably the remnants of an originally larger group of huge larches that fell victim to natural events or felling over the course of the past few hundred years. These trees have been protected natural monuments since 1979 and have been stabilised with steel wire and supports.
Traces of the past
The centuries have left their mark on the ancient larches of Ultental valley. Lightning strikes and storms have troubled these noble giants. The three tree trunks reach a diameter of up to eight metres and a height of up to 36 metres. The top of the highest larch has withered after being struck by lightning. The larch next to it has a large growth on its trunk and has also lost its top. The tree standing at the top of the triangle formation is cracked six metres up its trunk and its side branch has taken root at 22.5 metres.
An easy walk
It is definitely worth making a trip to its three oldest inhabitants when on holiday in Ultental valley. The ancient larches of Ulten may be reached by means of an easy footpath that starts right in the valley basin in St. Gertraud and leads to the three venerable giants standing at 1,430 metres above sea level in half an hour. There is a small area nearby with benches and a rustic fountain made of larch wood.