DIt’s hard to believe that these young trees, which are less than a meter tall and as thin as small twigs, can grow into shade trees and vast shrubs in just a few years. More than 400 such seedlings from a wide variety of local tree species are available in the demarcated area of approximately 120 square meters of the green corridor on Gederner Straße in Eckenheim. 30 primary school students from four classes from the neighboring Theobald Ziegler School came with their teachers and parents to plant Frankfurt’s first mini forest, also known as “Tiny Forest”, in a public space. Such a microforest has existed in Darmstadt for two years.
The purpose of the mini-forest is not to create a comfortable place to play or linger. Rather the opposite. A fence protects the area so that the very dense plantation can flourish quickly and a forest ecosystem can develop in a small space. With the desired consequences on the microclimate: plants help to cool the air in summer, they form a noise barrier and rainwater can slowly infiltrate.
Plant diversity should also attract a wide variety of animal species, insects, birds, spiders and more. In the mini-forest on Gederner Straße, not only trees were planted, but deadwood was also distributed over the entire area. And the water is supposed to collect in a tub buried deep in the ground to provide a habitat for dragonflies or toads.
Difficult search for a suitable area
The “Main-Wäldchen” initiative came up with the idea of planting such “small forests” in the heart of the city of Frankfurt – with the help of children and citizens – about a year ago. At that time, the citizen science project initiative “Main-Stadtbaum”, initiated by the Senckenberg Society, applied together with Greenpeace Frankfurt for the first “Frankfurt Biodiversity Ideas Competition”. Although a total of 38 initiatives participated, “Main-Wäldchen” won the first prize worth 15,000 euros in the spring. The competition was organized by Goethe University Frankfurt, the Senckenberg Society, Palmengarten, the city’s climate service and the Frankfurter Sparkasse.
The biggest challenge for Frankfurt’s first mini-forest turned out to be finding suitable land. Ultimately, there must be an area where a wild forest can grow and where the city can still guarantee the so-called road safety obligation. No tree or branch may fall on the sidewalk or in the street and injure a passerby.
Citizens want more natural greenery
As Mane Stelzer from the “Main-Wäldchen” initiative reports, the local advisory council of Eckenheim campaigned for the creation of a mini-forest in his district and allocated an additional 15,000 euros for this purpose. The green corridor of Gederner Straße was chosen, whose clear design by the parks service did not meet the wishes of the citizens. According to Stelzer, they wanted a more natural green. This is how Frankfurt’s first mini-forest is being created, six meters from sidewalks and cycle paths.
Planting is carried out using the Miyawaki method. It is named after the Japanese forest scientist Akira Miyawaki. In the 1970s, he invented the “Tiny Forest,” a fast-growing, intensive form of greenery for big cities. And how is the plantation, which is currently not yet recognizable as a mini-forest, received by the students? Six-year-old Asya is impatiently waiting for the green. “I love trees,” she said. She definitely does not want the plants to “die” from the summer heat. Eight-year-old Jonathan is also passionate about planting. The fact that a desert could now emerge from it does not suit him. “I don’t like all this undergrowth.”