Do you enjoy fields upon fields of vibrant flowers and travel to flower festivals? Check out the 6 million winter aconites in Jena, right in the heart of Germany.
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What are winter aconites?
They are early spring flowers that are native to Southern and Eastern Europe and grow natively as far as Japan. The winter aconites in Germany are not endemic, which is why their sheer number is so fascinating.
Their Latin name is eranthis and they grow every year from their little bulbs. Winter aconites can reach a height of 10–15 cm (4–6 in) and have yellow flowers, which makes them easy to spot on the ground.
How to find winter aconites near Jena?
First and foremost, where is Jena? Find it in the most central state of Germany, in Thuringia. It is the second largest city of the state and nestled in a valley, surrounded by many hills, castle ruins and hiking trails.
Here is some more info in case you want to visit Jena, Germany:
- The best 50 sights in Jena
- What to expect of the three Christmas markets in Jena
- Finding rare wild orchids on Jena hiking trails
You can easily reach Jena via direct train from Leipzig or Erfurt. From Berlin, it takes about 3 hours to get there and from Munich, it’s about four. The city has multiple train stations, so watch out for that. The closest stop would be Westbahnhof.
There are some parking spots in “the wild” close to the Tal der Winterlinge (valley of the winter aconites) in the Rautal of Closewitz near Jena.
Drive through the city of Jena towards the north along the B88 and turn left into the street Am Steinbach, which will change names to Am Rautal. Just follow the street and you will reach the village Closewitz. Park here and follow the signs.
You can’t miss them, they have the yellow flowers painted on them. Walk past the fields and into the forest. You will immediately see them when it’s their time to bloom.
By public transport/on foot
Take bus 16 from the city centre at Löbdergraben to the stop Closewitz. And walk from there. A bus ticket costs 2.20€ (2,66 USD).
Or you can get off at the stop Am Steiger and take the steps up the mountain towards the restaurant Landgrafen. Cross the fields towards the famous Napoleonstein, which marks the victory of Napoleon over German troops from 1608.
If you want to walk a bit more after your visit of the winter aconites in the Rautal, walk down the hills towards Jena by following the direction of the road. You’ll reach a supermarket, where you can catch the local tram 1 back into town.
When do the winter aconites bloom?
To catch them in full bloom, visit Jena in February. Every year, it seems like the little yellow flowers are blooming earlier and earlier. Generally, the time for winter aconites to bloom is from mid February to March.
I usually check the flower beds in front of houses in the city because they bloom a bit earlier. When I see the buds opening up, it takes at least another week before they also open up in the valley.
Depending on the weather, the blooming schedules vary. If it’s been cold, it takes a bit longer. When winters are warm, they bloom sooner.
The best time of the day to catch the winter aconites in the green is in the mornings when not that many people come to visit. It gets really busy on the weekends as many locals flock to the Rautal to see the winter aconites.
What makes the Jena winter aconites so special?
As mentioned, they are not native to Germany. In fact, they were originally imported in the 17th century and a local professor had planted some intentionally in the valley Rautal near Germany at the end of the 19th century.
Since then, they’ve been steadily increasing so that by now there are around 6 million winter aconites over an area of five hectares. That’s one of the biggest areas for winter aconites in Middle Europe. (Source)
Helpful information for your visit
I recommend starting clockwise by following the path to the of left first. At the start of the path for the winter aconites, you can find an information board (in German), but you can also follow the signs and tree markings for the trail.
The loop trail will lead you along the upper fringes of the forest and allow you wonderful views over the yellow forest carpet.
Then, you can walk a small trail downward and onto the main parts of the winter aconite trails back to the beginning of the trail. There are a few railings to keep people from walking among the flowers.
Remember that the flowers are protected and the area is a nature reserve. This means, you cannot step outside of the trails and definitely don’t take any flowers with you.
If you visit with pets or kids, take extra care because the plants are poisonous.
For photography lovers, I recommend packing a macro lens because taking them up close and with the yellow background really makes the flowers pop.
Have you ever seen winter aconites in nature before? Would you like to visit them?
More tips for travelling central Germany