World of Hedges

Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, is a truly exquisite plant. You don’t usually discover it in towns, where its sucker production can affect gardens and flower beds, I presume. These attributes make it a great hedge plant however, regardless of the fact that the large, sharp thorns can make it agonizing to lay. They’re significantly more agonizing than Hawthorn spines and will pierce any gloves, making cuts that regularly turn septic. Some people I know in Lancashire don’t care for Blackthorn in enclosure fences as they stress its thorns will harm their livestocks eyes.

Being a member of the Prunus family it produces a fruit called the sloe. Local birdlife appears to like Blackthorn sloes and there is also the possibility of creating sloe gin, a rather tasty liquor. In order to get the best out of the Blackthorn sloes the trick is to pick the sloes after they’ve been iced by a nice heavy frost.

Blackthorn is a plant rich in mythology, as all these old local species seem to be. It was firmly connected with Hawthorn, and both plants were said to have been used for the crown of thistles. Witches’ wands were supposedly made of it, but more importantly Blackthorn wood is hard and generally utilized for walking sticks or clubs. Its has a beautiful clear white bloom which develops in the early Spring and has a nice light fragrance.

The early development of the Balckthorn bloom is beneficial to honey bees, which is the reason a lot of people in Lancashire and beyond prize it, as it is well in advance of the bloom of another local Prunus, Myrobalan. Beekeepers realize that when the Blackthorn bloom is out they can quit stressing over their bumble bees starving. It’s a brilliant plant for local wildlife; a thorny asylum for feathered creatures and warm blooded animals alike. It also provides sustenance for Hairstreak butterflies (among other lepidoptera), who lay their eggs on it. These important factors should be more than enough to encourage people to support and plant Blackthorn hedges wherever possible.

Fortunately, even in the most ideal conditions, it won’t develop to be a major tree – thus making it a low maintenance option. It’s a tough and rugged plan which can grow in any position or soil, you can even see specimens half way up a mountain. I would love to see Blackthorn planted as frequently in single species hedgerows as its better supported sister, the universal Hawthorn. See if you can help and start a Blackthorn hedge today.

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