Cactus hedges as landmarks in the Arubian landscape
Cactus hedges are the eye catchers of the Aruban landscape. These hedges are mostly made of a cactus species (Ritterocereus griseus). The purpose of these hedges is to demarcate a territory and prevent the trespassing of people or animals. Their main values are esthetical and cultural-historical. The traveler can find the esthetical values as an intimate feeling arises on him, on the small roads fringed by high hedges of cactus. In addition, a beautiful visage discerns in areas with many hedges as people can see the partition of the different agricultural plots.
Its planting, maintenance, usage and age set the cultural- historical values of the hedges. Traditional practices and equipments entangle the planting and maintenance of a hedge. Usually the traditional cultivator, who uses certain implements to tackle the cactus stems and to transport them to the hedge in making, makes these hedges. The implements are necessary since thorns cover the stems of the cactus, and they can be heavy with water according to the season. The picking of cactus fruits by little children is an example of the use of these hedges rarely seen nowadays.
One aspect of the cactus hedges often overseen is their biological value. Cactus hedges consist of living cactus stems closely planted, creating an ideal microclimate for the germination of seeds of wild plants. Birds, other animals or the rainwater deposits the seeds at the feet of the hedges. Cactus hedges are attractive to birds and other animals as they can find refuge, food, nest locations or simple surveying posts. Few people know that a certain bat species pollinates the cactus flower. Through the years, a well-established cactus hedge will contain different plant species and many animals, which are living in and by it. Than such a cactus hedge will also fully perform the role of communication channel between natural areas.
Cactus hedges nowadays are diminishing on Aruba, due to several factors like urbanization of the countryside, regression of the primary sector and construction trends. The department of Agriculture, Husbandry and Fisheries (DLVVM), accentuates the cactus hedges as their cultural-historic values make them part of the national events celebrated in March. Undertaking conservational activities will be a necessity because of their diminishing rate and their biological value. The regression of the primary sector would be difficult to tackle as a conservational effort since traditional farmers are less common nowadays. Incorporating existing cactus hedges in building plans is at the other hand one of several possible solutions.
For more information call +297 585 6473 or email Department of Agriculture, Husbandry and Fisheries directly.
[Information courtesy of Mr. Facundo Franken of the Department of Agriculture, Husbandry and Fisheries (DLVVM) - Nature Management]