Nature and Landscape

If you look at the landscapes that unite in the Geo-Nature Park, it is easy to imagine that we are not dealing with a uniform climate here: the differences in altitude and therefore in temperature are too great. Starting from the Rhine Plain in the west over the domed Bergstrasse facing the sun, the crystalline Odenwald, the red sandstone Odenwald to the Bauland in the very east of the area, the differences in landscape and vegetation result from the interaction of geography, climate and geology.

The Rhine Rift and Bergstrasse are among the warmest and climatically mildest areas in all of Germany. The Rhine Valley is famous for its asparagus cultivation. Until the middle of the last century, there was an important tobacco growing area here. Here we also find the largest floodplain forest relics on the Upper Rhine: Hesse’s largest nature reserve “Kühkopf-Knoblochsaue”.

The narrow landscape of the Bergstrasse , extending in a north-south direction, is characterized as the lower warm slope zone of the western edge of the Odenwald. The warm air current from the Rhine plain and the sunny slope zones on the western edge of the Odenwald contribute to the fact that almonds, cherries, apricots, forsythia and magnolias usually blossom two weeks earlier than is usual in our latitudes. And that wine can be cultivated here was already known to the Romans, who practiced viticulture along the “Strata Montana”, the mountain road. Emperor Joseph II said of the Bergstrasse: “This is where Germany begins to become Italy!”

The Anterior or Crystalline Odenwald is the tectonically uplifted and exposed basement of the Odenwald in the altitude range from 200 to 605 m above sea level. NN. The highest elevation is the Neunkircher Höhe at 605 m above sea level. A prominent landmark on the western edge is the Melibokus at 517 m above sea level. NN. The landscape is characterized by a very finely branched network of watercourses with numerous spring creeks and flowing waters as well as strongly interlocked small structures consisting of hedges, field copses, succession areas, numerous orchard meadows, hollow paths and rough grasslands. Larger forest areas (oaks, beeches and deciduous hardwoods) alternate with open land areas (farmland in the north, grassland in the south). A special feature are the boulder debris overlays on steep slopes, the “rock seas” with typical boulder debris forests.

In the adjoining Hinterer or Buntsandstein-Odenwald, the mixed forest dominates. It is located at altitudes between 150 and 550 m and is structured by large-scale, north-south oriented valley structures. With a height of 626 m, it is also home to the highest elevation of the entire Geo-Nature Park area, the Katzenbuckel: a former Maar volcano that was exposed by erosion processes. The area south of the Neckar is called the “Little Odenwald”. The distinct landscape boundaries are marked by the different bedrock, which continues to striking climate differences. In contrast to the Vorderer Odenwald, where mixed forest dominates, forest areas with a high proportion of coniferous wood are found in the Hinterer Odenwald. The non-forested areas are mostly used as grassland.

The adjoining building land to the east is characterized by open land and reaches heights of 150 m above sea level. NN in the area of the Neckar up to 400 m above sea level. NN on the ridge. It is bordered by the Neckar Valley to the west and the Odenwald Forest to the north. The bedrock consists of shell limestone, which is covered in places with Lettenkeuper and in hollows with loess loam. The landscape alternates between highly decomposed areas and plateaus, along which runs the watershed of the Main and Neckar rivers. Typical are karst phenomena, such as the doline field near Hettingen, karst springs like the Morrequelle or cave systems like the Eberstadter Tropfsteinhöhle near Buchen.In addition to the wide open areas, there are isolated large-scale forest islands. Arable farming is the dominant form of land use in the landscape. Intensive grassland farming and fruit growing takes place in the valley meadows and lowlands. In the stream valleys we find valuable wet meadows. On the water-poor uplands and on the sunny slopes, juniper heath, semi-arid grasslands and calcareous grasslands are landscape-defining elements.

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