Havešová National Nature Reserve, Slovakia

Like Stužica National Nature Reserve, Havešová (1.7 km2) is a part of Poloniny National Park and from 2007 a part of the “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” World Heritage Area. Apart from a small portion of younger forest at the lowest elevations1, Havešová has no signs of any human influence2. Virgin forest on gentle to steep south to west-facing slopes extends from approx. 460 metres to Havešová’s highest point on a ridge at 741 m. Annual precipitation is 800–850 mm and average annual temperature 6.0−6.5°C 3. The bedrock consists of sandstone and shale, the soils are productive3.

Most European old-growth forests are located on higher elevations with suboptimal growth of broadleaf trees. What makes Havešová special is the location of its lower parts on low elevations, with highly productive almost pure European beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest (photo right). The tallest tree I (KR) measured in 2015 and 2020 with Nikon Laser 550A S and TruPulse 200X instruments was 48.3 m. Taller trees have been reported1 2 4 but they have probably been measured using the tangent method, which often results in over-measurement5. However, I was able to measure only a part of the potential record groves, so there may well be beech exceeding 50 metres in Havešová. Specimens over 40 m tall are abundant and many of them have girths of more than 4 m. Undergrowth is very sparse and species-poor, mainly beech regeneration, some sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) and ferns, for example; actually it is possible to find stands with only a single plant species – beech! Near the ridge, where storms fell more trees, the forest is more open and the undergrowth more abundant. The higher elevations also contain occasional other tree species: sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), Norway maple (A. platanoides), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and wych elm (Ulmus glabra). All the forest development stages can be seen, with windthrow gaps of all sizes, mostly small, and plenty of dead wood. In 2014 a storm felled 8 ha of forest1.

One marked but very little used trail runs through Havešová. The trailhead is at N49°00’20.4”, E22°19’48.4”. It is not possible to drive there due to a gate across the forestry road 3.5 km before the trailhead. At the gate there is parking space for two cars only. Once in Havešová, one can enjoy the silence of nature: it is so far from any settlement that not a sound of human activity can be heard. Very rarely someone local may be heard driving along the forestry road, but that is all. A signboard at the trailhead says “mysterious old forest”. Indeed, there is something mysterious in this forest, in its giant-size beeches, deep shade, steep-cut stream gullies, primeval appearance and the lack of human influence and traces!



  1. http://www.pralesy.sk/
  2. Korpel’, Š. (1995): Die Urwälder der Westkarpaten. Gustav Fischer Verlag.
  3. https://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1133.pdf
  4. Drossler, L. & Lupke, B.v. (2007): Bestandesstruktur, Verjungung und Standortfaktoren in zwei Buchenurwald-Reservaten der Slowakei. Allg. Forst. Jagdztg. 178, 121–135.
  5. Bragg, D. C., Frelich, L. E., Leverett, R. T., Blozan, W. & Luthringer, D. J. (2011): The Sine Method: An Alternative Height Measurement Technique. The Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Research Note SRS-22.