For our project “Of Bats and Men”, financed by the Disney Conservation Fund, we have finished planting fruit trees in several places in the Eastern Rhodope mountains during the month of December. On 20th January, we used thorns to fence the trees – an extremely simple, and yet maximally effective method of protection.
Winter is a period when amongst our lands wild animals are desperate to search for food. Some have accommodated to that by falling into hibernation, but others try to provide nutrients for themselves in various different ways.The fresh bark of the trees, which we planted earlier in December, makes for a great source of energy for does and wild rabbits in the region.
What options did we have?
There are plenty of ways for protection of fruit trees from wild animals, but we insisted on applying the most ecologically responsible and clean way out of all of them. It was possible to place wired fences around each tree, but then the trees themselves would have been in the enclosure. However, that was not the goal of our action; the goal is their successful integration in the ecosystem. For those reasons, we excluded the option of using chemical repellents to apply onto the trunks, and we also tried our hardest to limit the use of synthetic materials.
The best option out of all of them came directly from the locals of the Eastern Rhodope region, who use an old and ecologically sound technology for creating fences, the specifics of which they were so kind as to reveal to us.
What did we do?
The technology for creating the fences is simple – intertwining Jerusalem thorn (Lapiurus spina-christi) branches, of which there are many in the region.
Jerusalem thorn has elastic, thin and long branches and trunks, covered by multiple spines, which are actually modified spinules. The spines themselves are sturdy, sharp and bent, while also being quite densely packed along the branches, which protects the plant from animals. These characteristics make it ideal for our goal. It is important to note that cutting branches from this plant does not harm it – in fact, it stimulates growth.
The method in which we used the thorns for fencing the trees is simple, yet at the same time extremely effective. Around each tree are lodged around 6-7 branches from the thorns with length varying from 1,50 to 2m. Each branch has smaller branches protruding, and small thorns and spines, which are used for each one to intertwine to the other. This creates one sturdy construction, and within it is the tree, which is then impossible to reach. Additionally, among them smaller branches are intertwined with the spines, which blocks the wider gaps. This will ensure the small tree a couple of years, secure from wild animals, in which it has the opportunity to grow and develop a sturdy trunk. For strengthening the construction, wire is used to wrap around and tighten the fence.