Every year environmental groups in Germany devote special attention to threatened animal and plant species. The Wild Bee Working Group from Baden-Wuerttemberg selected the two-colored snail-nesting bee as its Wild Bee of 2013. As its name suggests, this little animal makes it nest in old snail shells and fortifies it with cement and stones to protect its young.
The caterpillars of the pearl-bordered fritillary need marsh violets or other violets for food. That's why the Butterfly of the Year, selected by Germany's BUND NRW, typically lives in wet meadows, marshes and swamps. These days the unique butterfly can also be found in dry, nutrient-poor grasslands in search of suitable violet species.
The snipe cannot survive without moors and wet meadows. It is an endangered species in Germany. About the size of a pigeon, the bird makes loud groans during its mating season to attract members of the opposite sex. NABU has selected the snipe as its Bird of the Year to draw attention to wetland conservation.
The trout was chosen by the German Association of Sport Fishermen as its Fish of the Year as part of efforts to restore rivers to their natural state. Brook trout, lake trout and sea trout need unspoiled rivers without dams and weirs need to move to their natural spawning grounds. Trout lay their eggs in the gravel of the upper reaches of rivers, where the young fish then grow.
European oysters are in danger. The problem? They're being displaced by the more hardy, Pacific oyster. The European oyster has been named Oyster of the Year this year in Germany. It works as a type of cleaning filter for the North Sea and the Atlantic, removing algae and suspended particles from the water.
The Snake of the Year, chosen by the German Society for Herpetology and Herpetoculture, is the smooth snake. It is actually harmless but nevertheless is frequently killed by people who mistake its for the poisonous crossed viper. Smooth snakes hunt lizards and mice and love warm and dry habitats such as heathlands. The reptile is considered endangered.
This wild apple tree may look like a normal apple tree, but there are many differences. Germany's Tree of the Year is also one of its rarest. It produces bright flowers and small fruit, which wild animals and birds like to eat. The tree lives only on forest edges and small tree islands in open areas. Its maximum height is 10 meters.
Entoloma incanum, which the German Mycology Society selected as its Mushroom of the Year, grows in dry and nutrient-poor grasslands, which are becoming increasingly rare. The mushroom, with its green camouflage, suffers from modern land management and the use of fertilizers.
The umbrella liverwort has a strong antifungal effect, even though it is rarely used today for medical treatments. Because of the shape of its leaf, which looks like a liver, people in the Middle Ages people believed it could heal liver ailments. The Moss of the Year prefers moist habitats, like streams, wells, cellars and old damp wooden beams.
When consumed by humans, Nasturtium can improve blood circulation and cure sinus infections. The plant can also help treat bronchitis and cystitis. Both its flowers and leaves are edible and have a relaxing effect. The Plant of the Year stems from South America, where the Incas are said to have used it for healing wounds.
The milkweed is the Perennial of the Year, selected by the Federation of Perennial Gardeners. It offers plenty of colorful variety with more than 2000 species. But, its Euphorbon venom can lead to skin blisters and, if it spreads to the eye, can cause blindness. If swallowed, it causes gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting. Animals avoid the plant instinctively.
Even tiny creatures deserve their time in the spotlight. The Unicellular Organism of the Year, the heliozoa, lives as a predator in pools, ponds, lakes and slow-moving waters. It's known to eat everything that comes its way - assuming it is small enough, of course!
Each year, environmental groups in Germany honor specific endangered animals and plants to draw attention to their importance to the environment. Here are the plants, animals and organisms of the year for 2013.