Kleinbasel, Rheinufer. Foto/Photo: TES.

Basel and its Love for Trees

Basel has something with trees. Not only the liberty trees at the French entry in 1798 or the Persian ironwood tree (Parrotia Persica) by artist Klaus Littmann on the Münster in autumn 2021. Every day trees also attract the involvement and attention of the inhabitants. The felling of trees always causes protests.

Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, 1405-1464 (later Pope Pius II (1458-1464) and founder of the University of Basel in 1460, already wrote in 1438 (at the time of the Basel Council): “There are many resting places with trees in the city, in the summer smiling greenery and shade, mighty oaks and lindens“.

The city is still a place of and for trees, parks, avenues and greenery in front of and behind houses. Several neighbourhoods resemble covered tree galleries.

An anecdote from 1632 confirms the long love affair between Basel and its trees. On the St. Petersplatz, near the church of the same name, stood a huge centuries-old oak tree. A staircase led to a bench and a table In the foliage. A visit of dignitaries to Basel included a drink in this giant oak tree.

Due to the threat of Swedish and French soldiers during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the city council of (neutral) Basel (member of the neutral Eidgenossenschaft since 1501) decided to cut down the tree to make room for cannons. It led to great anger among the citizens. However, the plundering of the nearby village of Allschwil in 1634 vindicated the town council. The oak tree was cut down in 1632.

This love is still present. The Landschaftspark Wiese (see under nature), its centuries-old trees, and the approximately 26,000 city trees maintained speak for themselves.

To express and visualise this relationship, the city has initiated the website www.Basel-baeume.ch a free app and the book Basel und seine Bäume (see under publications).

(Source: M.Fürstenberger, ‘Grün in und um das Basel vergangener Jahrhunderte’ in Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Forstwesen/Swiss foresty journal, Band (129) s. 613, 1978).