Archive for the ‘Hawthorn’ Tag

Protecting nature from nature

We’ve all seen them, those plastic spheres around newly planted trees, protecting them from…well, what exactly? Had me fooled, but a recent article by Richard Mabey, challenged my assumption that those who plant the trees actually know what they are doing. I’m not trying to challenge experts; my goodness, too many experts have been inexpertly challenged in recent years. But ask yourself, does someone go round and take off those plastic covers when the saplings are strong enough to cope with the elements? Seemingly not. They just stay there and either strangle the tree/plant or break off and add to the plastic problem of the countryside.

Of course saplings need protecting against the wind. Well, no actually. The history of our planet is littered with examples of saplings coping with wind quite well. Very well, in fact. Better, in fact. Trees and shrubs exposed to wind seemingly root better, because they have to. “Protecting” them does them a disservice.

What about grazing animals? Surely, the plastic protects against being eaten before they get established? Perhaps if they were higher than a sheep or deer, but they tend not to be. So sheep will eat them as they pop over the top of their protection. Actually, when they are planted because they are rarely totally “protected”.

Mabey highlights another feature of this replanting. It is monoculture. The variety being planted is a fraction of that from the past; often it is just hawthorn. I love hawthorn, but diversity is better – ash, aspen, sycamore, wild cherry and sweet briar. A mix attracts a range of other creatures, birds and insects.

This is not universally the case. On the Combe Valley in Hastings, UK, thousands of trees have been planted, many of them Hawthorn (right). These trees were given their own stick to offer support. Many of them have happily outgrown the sticks which will, in their own time, return to the earth.

The other thing that we notice in the autumn is the absolute brutality of the hedge trimming. The cutting equipment used could lay waste to the Amazon, let alone a roadside hedge. Let’s be kinder and more inclusive.

I’m now on the lookout for these protective tubes, not far from Combe Valley I did find a spot where they have clearly been removed from trees, but not removed from the landscape (left).