Former Virginia depot: A meadow to marvel at

München – It’s almost hidden behind Schleißheimer Strasse, a little north of the BMW area in Lerchenau: the Virginia depot, about 20 football pitches in size and a military site until the mid-1990s. Anyone who is allowed to step through the locked gate today cannot help but be amazed.

One looks almost endlessly over a dry heather biotope. Yellow trefoil blooms between almost waist-high grasses, purple bluebells and blue viper’s bugloss shine, wild thyme and St. John’s wort grow. In between, mulleins tower up, and lichens and mosses grow between gravel stones.

A bit like that, says Heinz Sedlmeier, “it must have looked around Munich even after the last Ice Age 8,000 years ago.” Sedlmeier is a biologist and head of the Munich district group of the State Association for Bird Protection (LBV) and is one of those who maintain the area (which belongs to the federal government) – for biodiversity.

Because nature has been untouched for so long, it has become a paradise for insects, butterflies, birds, grasshoppers and sand lizards, some of which are endangered species. Of the approximately 350 plant species, 70 are also on the Red List.

Until the demolition in 2011, there were still seven high-rise bunkers from the 1930s on the site, which the Bundeswehr last used as warehouses. Two replacement breeding towers were built for the buzzards, kestrels and swifts that had nested there. But the old tank loading ramp has remained – because its concrete pavement has also become a habitat for plants and animals.

So what’s crawling, jumping and flying there? The LBV explains this on this page using a few examples. And there will soon be a guided tour through the biotope, which is normally closed off. Worth it.

Common fringed gentian: spurned by grazing sheep

The flowers are blue, blue, blue… – exactly, the common fringed gentian (Gentianopsis ciliata). It’s rare in the Munich area, but it’s still there. The first specimens are blooming these days on the meager areas in the Virginia depot. There they still find the dry and calcareous soil and open spaces that they need to germinate. Many butterflies and bumblebees flutter around them. The fringed gentian does not taste good to grazing sheep (they used to be out and about here a lot) – which is why it always stopped on the grass heaths.

Blue-winged Wasteland Cricket: Heat-loving hopper

You have to look very closely at the grass to spot them: the blue-winged grasshopper (Oedipoda caerulescens), which is 15 to 28 millimeters in size, well camouflaged and classified as endangered in Germany. She likes warmth and likes to sit around on stony dry grass. Only when you get very close to her does she jump away. Conservationists estimate there are close to 100,000 at the Virginia Depot.

Idas Silverspotted Blue: Endangered Glitter Butterfly

This small butterfly is critically endangered and has found a wonderful habitat in the Virginia Depot: Idas Silverspotted Blue (Plebejus idas) can be recognized by its metallic blue shimmering spots on the underside of the hind wings – there could be close to 1,000 of these pretty butterflies here now give again, estimates the LBV. Their caterpillars eat legumes such as trefoil or alfalfa, which grow luxuriantly here. And they are dependent on certain types of ants: the Idas caterpillars produce a sugary secretion for the ants – and in return are defended against predators.

sand lizard: sunbathing on the pavement

A few patches of pavement remain at the Virginia depot – like on the old tank loading dock. Ideal for the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), which is becoming increasingly rare and therefore considered endangered. In the morning, the 20-centimetre-long reptile(s) needs sunbathing to bring the cold-blooded organism up to operating temperature. When threatened, it sheds its tail to distract the enemy from the twitching appendage.

Green Woodpecker: In the hollows of old trees

Sometimes you can see him hopping across the meadows looking for ants. The green woodpecker (Picus viridis) catches them with its tongue, which can be up to ten centimeters long. Green woodpeckers have a wingspan of up to 50 centimeters and can be recognized by their predominantly green plumage with a red crown and dark face. In Germany, the green woodpecker is listed as endangered in the early warning list of the Red List. In the Virginia Depot, green woodpeckers dwell in the cavities of old trees.

Little meadowsweet: its sweet scent attracts bees

Dry and nutrient-poor grassland like in the Virginia depot is ideal as a location for the little meadowsweet (Filipendula vulgaris), which is so named because it smells sweet and is not often found in this country. It blooms white between June and August, and its scent attracts bees and beetles that are after the pollen. Even the Celts considered it a medicinal plant. The essential oils in the flower have a pain-relieving and fever-reducing effect.


On September 6 (6 p.m.) the LBV will take you through the Virginia depot. Registration: frauke.luecke@lbv.de or 089/20027081.

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