1902 Encyclopedia > Germany > Germany - Vegetation, Animals and Agriculture

(Part 3)


Vegetation, Animals and Agriculture

The flora of Germany comprises about 3000 species of phaneroganic and about 4000 cryptogamic plants. The country does not, however, form a single natural region, and cannot be characterized distinctively by any of the principal botanical types.

No uniform returns for the whole empire have been published, furnishing details regarding the distribution of the soil in respect of its cultivation, and thus statistics can only be collected from the official returns and estimates or valuations for separate districts. The following tabular statements must therefore be regarded as only approximately accurate:—


From these tables it will be seen that the extent of uncultivable ground in Germany is inconsiderable; and that the arable land, including garden ground and vineyards, amounts to about one-half of the area.

Forests.—The woodlands form about one-fourth of the entire soil, the proportion of forest being far greater than in any other state in the west or south of Europe; the percentage fro France is but 17, for Italy 12, for Great Britain about 3. The state forests alone occupy 17,6000 square miles; and the greatest attention is paid throughout the empire to forest culture. Speaking generally, northern is not nearly so well wooded as central and southern Germany, indeed most of the smaller mountains are covered with timber, as is indicated by the frequent use of the termination wald affixed to the names of the mountain ranges (as Schwarzwald, Thüringer Wald, &c.). The "Seenplatten" are less wooded than the hill country, but the eastern portion of the northern lowlands is well provided with timber. A narriw strip along the shores of the Baltic is covered with oaks and beeches; further inland coniferous trees are the most prevalent, particularly the Scotch fir; birches are also abundant. The mountain forests consist chiefly of firs, pines, and larches, but contain also silver firs, beeches, and oaks. Chestnuts appear on the terraces of the Rhine valley, and in Swabia and Franconia. The whole north-west of Germany is destitute of wood, but to compensate for this the people have ample supplies of fuel in the extensive stretches of turf.

Agriculture—The same kinds of cereal crops are cultivated in all parts of the empire, but in the south and west wheat is predominant, and in the north and east rye, oats, and barley. To these in some districts are added spelt, buckwheat, millet, rice-wheat (Triticum dicoccum), lesser spelt (Triticum monococcum), and maize. In general the soil is remarkably well cultivated. The three years’ rotation formerly in use, where autumn and spring-sown grain and fallow succeeded each other, has now been abandoned, except in some districts, where the system has been modified and improved. In South Germany the so-called Fruchtwechsel is practised, the fields being sown with grain crops every second year, and with pease or beans, grasses, potatoes, turnips, &c., in the intermediate years. In North Germany the mixed Koppelwirthschaft is extending, by which system, after several years of grain crops, the ground is for two or three seasons in pasture. No general statistics on the subject of crops have as yet been published, but, according to private estimates, a fair average season will yield 325 million quarters of rye,1 oats 200, wheat and spelt 170, barley 100. In good seasons the production has been found sufficient to meet the native demand. Formerly the exports of the produce of the wheat and pulse crops exceeds the imports, but the importation of cereals has now for a number of years been constantly increasing. The potato is largely cultivated, not merely for food, but fro distillation into spirits. This manufacture is prosecuted especially in eastern Germany. The Prussian provinces east of the Elbe, including Mecklenburg and Saxony, with a population of about 19 millions, produced 72 million gallons2 of spirits in 1876, while the rest of Germany (population 24 millions) produced only 25 millions gallons. The common


Beet (Beta vulgaris) is largely grown in some districts for the production of sugar, which has greatly increased during the last thirty years. There are two centres of the beet-root sugar production: 231 factories, or more than two-thir5ds of the whole, are in Prussian Saxony, Hanover, Brunswick, Anhalt, and Thuringia, and there are 71 in Silesia, Brandenburg, and Pomerania, the principal centre of the latter group being Frankfort-on-the-Oder. Flax and hemp are cultivated, though not so much as formerly, for manufacture into linen and canvas, and also for the production of oil. The hole supply no longer suffices for the native demand. The cultivation of hops is in a very thriving condition in the southern states of Germany. The soil occupied by hops was estimated in 1873 at 93,680 acres,3—a larger area than in any other country of the globe (Great Britain having about 70,000 acres). The total production of hops is 477,000 cwts., and of this 402,000 cwts. are grown in Bavarian, Würtemberg, Baden, and Alsace-Lorraine. Hops thus form one of the standard articles of exportation from Germany, as well as beer. The following table shows the number of breweries in different parts of the country, and the amount of their production:—


Tobacco forms the most productive and most profitable object of culture in many districts. The total extent under this crop in 1876 was 53,729 acres, no less than 32 per cent. of this being in Baden, 22 in Bavaria, 16 in Alsace-Lorraine, and only 30 per cent. in the rest of Germany. In the north the plant is cultivated principally in Pomerania, Brandenburg, and East and West Prussia. Of late years the production has on the whole diminished, the average amount having been 800,000 cwts. from 1872 to 1876.

The culture of the vine is almost confined to southern and western Germany, and especially to the Rhine district. The northern limits of its growth extend from Bonn in a north-easterly direction through Cassel to the southern foot of the Harz, crossing 52° N. lat. on the Elbe, running then east some miles to the north of that parallel, and finally turning sharply towards the south-west on the Warthe. In the valley of the Scale and Elbe (near Dresden), and in Lower Silesia (between Guben and Grünberg), the number of vineyards is small, and the wines of inferior quality; but along the Rhine from Basel to Coblentz, in Alsace, Baden, the Palatinate, and Hesse, and above all in the province of Nassau, the lower slopes of the hills are literally covered with vines. Here are produced the celebrated Rüdesheimer, Hochheimer, and Johannisberger. The vines of the lower Main, particularly those of Würzburg, are the best kind; those of the upper Main and the valley of the Neckar are rather inferior. The Moselle wines are lighter and more acid than those of the Rhine. The total amount produced in Germany is estimated at 1000 million gallons,—Alsace-Lorraine turning out 400 million, Baden 175, Bavaria, Würtemberg, and Hesse together 300, while the remainder, which though small in quantity is in quality the best, is produced by Prussia.

Live Stock—The cultivation of grazing lands in Germany has been greatly improved in recent times, and is in a highly prosperous condition. The provinces of Pomerania and Hanover are particularly remarkable in this respect. The best meadow lands of Bavaria are in the outer range of the Alps, those of Saxony in the Erzgebirge. The following table shows the results of a live-stock census in 1873:—


The breeding of domestic animals is prosecuted most extensively in Bavaria, and in the maritime provinces. There we find 1000 to 1500 head of the larger kinds (horses, cattle, sheep, goats, swine) for every 1000 inhabitants; in the rest of eastern Germany 600 to 800; and in central and southern Germany only 400 to 600. In the number of horses Germany ranks with Great Britain (about 80 for every 1000 inhabitants); and, although the production cannot satisfy the home demand, the imports being nearly 30,000 in excess o9f the exports annually, the breeding of horses has attained great perfection. The main centre is in East and West Prussia, where there are more than half a million of horses,—about 30 per English square mile; then follow the marsh districts on the Elbe and Wesser, some parts of Westphalia, Saxony, and Upper Silesia, Lower Bvaria, Lower Alsace, and Lorraine, Cattle abound in most South-German states, especially Bavaria and Würtemberg, where there are 180 to 200 head for every square mile. In the northern and north-eastern districts, on the other hand, the numbers are small (in some districts only 30 to 50 head to the square mile), except Schleswig-Holstein and the marsh lands along the shores of the North Sea, whence there is a considerable exportation to England. The aggregate number of sheep in Germany is only exceeded in Europe by that in Great Britain and Russia. The principal sheep districts are Pomerania and Mecklenburg (300 per square mile). As a rule, sheep-farming is resorted to where the soil is of inferior quality and unsuitable for tillage and the breeding of cattle. Far more attention is accordingly given to the rearing of sheep in northern and north-eastern Germany than in Schleswig-Holstein, East Frisia, Westphalia, Rhineland, and South Germany. The exportation of sheep is considerable, amounting in 1871 to 1,460,000 head; in 1875, however, the number was only 1,000,000. At the same time the native demand for wool is not covered by the home production. The largest stock of swine is in central Germany and Saxony, in Westphalia, on the lower Rhine, in Lorraine, Hesse, &c. Central Germany (especially Gotha and Brunswick) exports sausages and hams largely, as well as Westphalia; but the excess of swine imported over the exports for the whole of Germany ranges from 600,000 to 800,000 annually.

Agricultural Population.In the census returns of 1871 the number of persons entered as agriculturists (including persons engaged in rearing stock, in forestry, and the fisheries) was about 12,210,000, comprising 1,844,202 proprietors (1,690,931 males and 153,271 females), 2,101,005 agricultural labourers, &c., with 6,764,747 members of their families (2,338,174 males and 4,426,573 females), and about 1,500,000 (660,000 males and 840,000 females) engaged in household duties. Agriculture thus supports three-tenths of the population.

Wild Animals.—The number of wild animals in Germany is not very great. Foxes, martens, weasels, badgers, and otters are to be found everywhere; wolves are rare, but they find their way sometimes from French territory to the western provinces, or from Poland to Prussia and Posen. Among the rodents the hamster and the field-mouse are a scourge to agriculture. Of game there are the roe, stag, boar, and hare; the fallow deer and the wild rabbit are less common. The elk is to be found in the forests of East Prussia. The feathered tribes are everywhere abundant in the fields, woods, and marshes. Wild geese and ducks, grouse, partridges, snipes, woodcocks, quails, widgeons, and teal are plentiful all over the country. Geese and ducks are found mostly in the flat districts, where the great abundance of standing water affords ample scope for their increase. Tame geese are bred in large flocks, particularly in Pomerania. The length of time that birds of passage remain in Germany considerably with the different species. The stork is seen for about 170 days, the house-swallow 160, the snow-goose 260, the snipe 220. In northern Germany these birds arrive from twenty to thirty days later than in the south.

The waters of Germany abound with fish; but the genera and species are few. Carp and salmon tribes are the most abundant; after them rank the pike, the eel, the shad, the roach, the perch, and the lamprey. In addition to frogs, Germany has few varieties of Amphibia. Or serpents there are only two kinds, one of them being poisonous.

The rearing of bees is particularly attended to in the heathy districts of Hanover. The number of bee-hives may be estimated at 2 millions, and the produce of wax and honey at 100,000 cwts. The cultivation of silk-worms has been attempted, but has either entirely failed or had very indifferent success. In 1852-62 an attempt was made to extend the cultivation of the mulberry in the province of Brandenburg; but disease among the silk-worms, which it was found impossible to repress, rendered it unsuccessful.


FOOTNOTES (page 451)

(1) 1 quarter=2·90781 hectolitres; 1 hectolitre=0·34388 quarter.

(2) 1 gallon=0·22 litre.

(3) 1 acre=0·40467 hectare; 1 hectare=2·4711442 acres.

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