Photo: M. Wilanowska Photo: M. Wilanowska

In Rogalin and the surrounding area, numerous, loosely arranged magnificent specimens of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) can be found. In 1992, 1,435 of them were inventoried, which measured in DBH (trunk at a height of 1.3 m) have a circumference greater than 2 m. Many of them are monuments of nature - the undisputed icons of the Wielkopolska landscape. The most famous, named LECH (6.33 m in circumference), CZECH (7.35 m in circumference, unfortunately dead since 1992) and RUS (9.15 m in circumference, currently the thickest oak grove in Rogalin) and EDWARD OAK (6.18 m in circumference) grow close to the palace, in the charming scenery of the naturalistic landscape park (27 hectares today but once 300 ha).

This vast area of the Warta River valley, with its steep slopes and wide floodplain, is covered with meadows and numerous oxbow lakes and ponds. Many majestic oaks can also be seen in the surrounding fields of the former estate, forests, and even amongst human settlements. Representative items (eg, Lech and Rus) are used for the protection of forest genetic resources. The seedlings from them are used annually to recreate the original forests. All these old trees create a biodiverse habitat for life, especially for extremely rare insects. These include: the Hermit beetle (osmoderma eremita), a rare species, particularly in Europe, and a protected touchwood eater; the Capricorn beetle (Cerambyxcerdo) found here in numbers, its larva gnaws metre deep holes into wood; and the Stag beetle (Lucanuscervus), which eats touchwood, roots and, in adult form, drips juice from damaged trees.

The dilemma as to whether to protect rare insects that damage old trees or old trees themselves has been resolved by protecting both. Care of the harmless insects strengthens the trees and replacement plantings help to renew the Rogalin oak forests. Today, a more serious threat is adverse climate change (in the Wielkopolska landscape), changes in water ratios (control of the Warta river channel and reduction of the threat of flooding by the dam in Jeziorsko), water stress (i.e., consecutive dry and wet years), strong winds, lightning and increasing damage done by humans. It seems that man has always been fascinated bythe vastness and majesty of old trees – the island mountains of the primeval forest.

For the Slavs and many other peoples of pre-Christian Europe, the magnificent oaks were especially sacred. Their "tangible" presence in landscaped forests (serving as the temples of today) was weaved into the colorful mythology and repeated by generations in religious messages. These traditions refer to the legend of "Lech, Czech and Rus" - brothers who arrived in Rogalin centuries ago to plant the most famous oaks in Wielkopolska, which bear their names. The survival of these trees for centuries has moved the imagination of many generations of human beings. Tangible proof of their strong influence on artists are the excellent images of Michal Wiewiorski (presented in the Rogalin Gallery) and Leon Wyczółkowski (presented in the Museum in Bydgoszcz).

Author: Piotr Wilanowski

 

Glossary:

  • diameter at breast height
  • naturalistic park
  • ha
  • floodplain terrace
  • oxbow
  • Forest genetic resources
  • biodiverse
  • touchwood eater