NThe flower is inconspicuous. In the tall grass of the Schifflache nature reserve near Hanau-Großauheim, the plant with its long yellowish green leaves is hardly noticeable. The flowering of the autumn crocus has not yet opened. But she is not allowed to do that either, if Michael Heilmann has his way. The nature conservation ranger wants to prevent the plant from spreading in the nature reserve: after all, the autumn crocus is a poisonous plant, as Heilmann explains.
Bulbs and seeds contain a particularly high amount of toxins. A person should not even touch the bulb, as touching it can cause slight burns to the skin. A person should definitely not put the seeds in their mouths because even five grams contain a lethal dose of poison that attacks the blood vessels in the gastrointestinal tract.
Animals instinctively steer clear of the autumn crocus, as the forester knows. The plant is harmless to cattle and sheep in a pasture. But if a meadow is mowed on which the autumn crocus grows, the plant and its poison get into the hay. When animals eat the hay on the farm, they do not recognize the shrunken poisonous plant mixed with the grass. For this reason, Heilmann wants to take action against the autumn crocus in the Schifflache nature reserve and prevent their further spread.
Once it grows in a meadow, it multiplies quickly
The fact that a forester has to intervene at all is due to the environmentally friendly management of the meadows. If the grass were mowed often during intensive cultivation, a flowering plant like the autumn crocus would not thrive in the first place. But then there would be no room for other flowering plants. Bees as well as other insects and small animals need a natural meadow with tall grass and flowers. So grass and flowers are allowed to grow with consideration for small animals and biodiversity. With this extensive use, however, humans have to intervene if the autumn crocus spreads too much. Once it grows in a meadow, it multiplies very quickly thanks to thousands of seeds.
Every specimen of the poisonous plant must be dug up or at least plucked out. Pupils from the neighboring Großkrotzenburger Kreuzburg-Gymnasium help out in the Schifflache. A group of eleven teenagers from the twelfth year have gathered in the meadow in jeans or sportswear. For them, the relief effort is part of the lessons in the biology advanced course, as the teacher Gabriele Drews says. Heilmann explains to the young people how to stick the spade next to the flower in order to dig up a clod of earth with the tuber.
Preserve the state of the nature reserve
The use against the poisonous plant shows that nature does not have a free run in the nature reserve and that plants cannot spread there as they actually do. Rather, humans intervene and prevent a species from spreading. He must help to maintain the condition of the nature reserve, explains Heilmann. But that also means that people shape the nature reserve according to their ideas of how nature should look. Thus, the nature reserve is actually an elaborately maintained cultural landscape. Human intervention does not only affect the autumn crocus. Heilmann is of the opinion that the raccoon should be hunted harder because it eats the young of eagle owls and red kites.