An unexpected treasure in the garden - and how to deal with it.

When I heard the scientific name Himantoglossum hircinum for the first time, I was at first grateful that I had once taken Latin as an advanced course, because thanks to the knowledge I had acquired at that time, it was quite possible to derive the plant species. But that didn't really help ...

The orchid species, known to us as Bocks's Tongue, hitherto mainly native to the Mediterranean region, is spreading further and further north and had now found a nice place on the grounds of the future new building. The Environmental Protection Agency then sent us a notice that we, as representatives of the building owner, had to protect the habitat of the ,,Orchid of the Year 1999".


Although this plant can grow to a height of 25 to 100 cm, four rather small specimens awaited us at a site visit with a lady from the responsible office, so that one could easily step on them carelessly or in ignorance without noticing. The significance of the new garden inhabitants was not really assessable for me as a building architect, especially since a dandelion growing next to it seemed more impressive to me.

20–100Height of growth (cm)

1999Orchid of the year

0Blossoms until today

Bocks strap tongue

This orchid species is protected under the Red List in Germany. Since the 1990s, an increased spread of this species has been observed - the reason is global warming. Although isolated plants have been observed in the past, they usually disappeared again.


Those responsible at the Frankfurt School reacted more clearly: they became aware of their new task as a sustainable university. Immediately after the discovery, the area around the species to be protected was given a suitable fence and signage that pointed out to every visitor the unique selling point of this revolving idea species. Although the fence was never removed during the entire period of construction, the Bock's-bordered tongue has unfortunately never rewarded us for our efforts with its flowering splendour. But that can still change, because the Frankfurt School will continue to house a protected biotope in its beautiful park.

We do not see species protection as an obstacle, but as added value for the building project - and as an exciting challenge.

Thilo Mack