Left to itself, the beech would cover two-thirds of Germany; it is at home in a wide variety of terrain, from the plains into the mountains. Because of human impact, however, woodrush-beech forests account for less than seven percent of Germany’s land area.
Due to the deep shadow cast by the trees’ crowns, the high shade tolerance of seedlings and young plants and their rapid young growth, the red beech out-competes virtually all other trees in suitable locations. Thus, near-natural beech forests are often poor in companion tree species such as the common oak or sessile oak. In the Atlantic-influenced climate and the acidic soils of the Bergisches Land region, only the holly thrives under the crowns of the beeches. The often sparse herb layer comprises acidophilic species such as white woodrush, which gives this forest biome its name.
Despite this, however, a woodrush-beech forest is anything but species-poor: the richer it is in different structures such as clearings, tree hollows and dead trees, the more rare animal and plant species it offers a habitat to. A natural beech forest with mature growth can support up to 10,000 species. Such animals as the black woodpecker, the common long-eared bat and a variety of beetles feel at home here.