In Val d’Ultimo there are three ancient larch trees, which are among the oldest conifers all over Europe.
In Santa Geltrude at 1,425 m asl, located on the verge of an avalanche forest to protect the surrounding farms from avalanches, there are three European larch trees. In 1930 one of the originally four trees tipped over, which made it possible to count the growth rings. It resulted in an age of 2,000 years. Therefore this age was also accepted for the other trees. But the rotten inside makes an exact estimate impossible. So in 2004 different methods of calculation were applied, which revealed an age of 850 years. The three larch trees that still stand there are among the oldest conifers all over Europe.
The tallest larch is 36.5 m high, the perimeter of the trunk is 7 m, but the tree is withered consequently to a lightning strike. The perimeter of the trunk of the biggest larch is 8.34 m. This tree is 34.5 m high and its tree top had to give away to forces of nature. The third larch has a big cave in the trunk and cracked already generations ago at a height of 6 m. Now the treetop rises up to the sky shaped like a side branch. Still the trees are greening every year once more. By the way: for hundreds of years in the Val d’Ultimo the larch wood is used for the typical roof shingles, which characterize the traditional farm architecture of the valley.
The three ancient larch trees in Val d’Ultimo are shelter for several plants and animals, including bats. This is also why the inhabitants of Val d’Ultimo call the larch trees “Fledermauslarch”, which means bat larch trees. In 1979 the Autonomous Province of Bolzano put the three ancient trees under conservation before stabilizing them. Furthermore they have been declared World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Below of S. Geltrude a 30 minutes walk starts, which proceeds to the ancient larch trees. Also the Val d’Ultimo Farm Path (Ultner Höfeweg) leads to the larches, starting in Pracupola (approx. 2.5 hours). More ancient larches can be found in the Upper Val Passiria, along the “Urlärchenweg” trail (Ancient Larch Trees Path) in Plata.