The Annual Rings of the Larch
Of ridders, Romans and Schrumm's larches
For thousands of years, two larches lay sunken in Schrummsee Lake. When the indestructible tree trunks were recovered in 2018, it turned out that one of them had been in the water for around 3,000 years when Ötzi was born.
"Larchiger" is the name given to one that nothing knocks over so easily. And that is no coincidence. Larches have deep roots, and nothing pulls them out of the ground so easily. That is why larches grow older than all other conifers. Especially in the rear Ultental/Val d'Ultimo Valley, well-preserved specimens of true primeval larches can be found. Some are found in lakes and morasses, they have preserved them as bog larches. Others are still firmly rooted in the ground and can be admired by passing hikers. So, when people talk about the Ultental Valley as a rustic valley, they mean something quite different than usual; something that really still goes back to grey prehistoric times.
Two of these primeval trees were discovered in 2018 in the Schrummsee Lake at 2,182 m above sea level. The lake is easy to reach. From St. Gertraud/S. Getrude in the rear Ultental Valley, the hiking trail to the Stübele Spitze peak leads past Schrummsee lake. The area lies on the boarder of the Stelvio National Park. The special conditions of the water and the exclusion of air in this small mountain lake had made it possible for the larch trunks to preserve themselves so well that their age could still be precisely estimated at the Institute for Geography at the University of Innsbruck. The dendrochronological age determination came to an astonishing result. One larch was over 600 years old and had been lying in the lake for thousands of years.
The younger of the two larches stretched its leaves into the sun for the first time when the Romans under the later Emperor Pertinax crushed the uprising of the Marcomanni and stationed a permanent legion in Rhaetia for the first time. It probably sank into the lake shortly after the wars between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Lombards, to which the Roman inhabitants of the Adige Valley also fell victim. That was around 600 years later. The older of the two trees, which grew from 6,506 to 5,892 BC, at the end of the last ice age, has 615 annual rings. How the tree got into the water is just as obscure as the water of the elongated mountain lake, which has apparently been resting at over 2,000 m above sea level for at least 8,000 years. What is illuminating, however, is the realisation that in earlier times there was apparently a forest stand here, above the tree line, while today this quiet place is particularly captivating because of the unique view of the peaks of the Stelvio National Park.