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Projects: Benjes Hedges

Habitat for Wild Animals and Plants

Beautifully blooming plants in a Benje's hedge at the edge of the woodsWhere can larger and above all, smaller wild animals find a place to live? – in the field hedges. The present-day intensive agricultural methods and increasing urbanization of our countryside leave almost no habitats for wild animals. With the relocation and consolidation of agricultural land that has taken place in Germany since the 1950s, many hedges and natural areas on the edges of fields and woods have disappeared. Everything was even cleared away from the edges of the field roads running through our sterile cultural landscape. Almost nothing was left standing. It becomes ever more difficult for animals and plants to survive.

Blossoming high perrenials at the edge of a Benje's hedgeDuring 2003-2004 we established so-called Benjes hedges on the edge of our meadows and pastures. Over 1000 young trees were planted along the hedges. Since then, the wind and the birds have provided the hedges with seeds. Now all kinds of wild plants are growing in there. During the first year, the hedges have already filled in with wonderful high perrenials. See pictures above and right.


Impressions from a late-summer day

These are photos take on a part of a Benjes hedge that is about 30 meters long. Over 20 various blooming plants can be found there. Click on the pictures to see more details. All kinds of insects can be seen on the plants and blossoms. One can imagine the soft humming of the insects and fine fragrance of the blossoming plants. A Benjes hedge develops into a biotope for a myriad of living beings and is thus truly a place filled with life. Medicinal plants, such as St. John’s Wort, yarrow and stinging nettle can also be found in the hedge.

High perrenials with bees
Delicate blossoming plantsNew plants grow from beneath the dry branches
Various kinds of burdocks are among the first plants to settle into the Benje's hedgesAt the edge of the hedge, blossoming chicoryThe medicinal plant yarrow grows in the area between hedge and field

2 meter high perrenials grow out of the base of the hedge

Thistle flowers attract more insectsThe zone beside the hedge provides excellent growing conditions for St. John's Wort
This perennial is c. 2 meter tallLife springs up everywhere between the old branchesStinging nettle gone to seed
A view of the layered branches and twigs

Where does the name \BBBenjes hedge\AB come from?

The Benjes hedges are named after their inventors, the brothers Hermann and Heinrich Benjes. This has meanwhile become a well-known term to nature protectors and Nature Protection Societies.

\BBA hedge attracts animals like a magnet; it is the finger on the hand of the woods.\AB (Heinrich Benjes). According to an article in the German magazine SPIEGEL, Benjes hedges are considered to be \BBthe most successful plan for bringing life into the fields in the history of nature protection.\AB

Hermann Benjes had the idea of thus restoring our excessively relocated and consolidated landscape to its original state. These hedges shield the farm fields from the wind, thus providing microclimates in the farmland. In addition, they are a suitable habitat for all kinds of animals and plants. Many species of birds find protected nesting places and field hares and raises their young undisturbed.

Habitat for insects

A flower with lots of insects

In our industrial farmland the multiplicity of species of plants and tiny living beings is fought against with fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and liquid and solid manures. A Benjes hedge with it many kinds of plants offers many diverse habitats. Just count them. In the picture you can find 20 insects of various sizes. Bees and other insects find good, nonpoisonous food in the many blossoms of the plants that have settled in the Benjes hedges.

Habitat for birds

As soon as things become tranquil in a hedge, the first birds move in. They find nesting places in the growing bushes. Other birds carry new seeds into the hedges. The undigested seeds in the fruits they have eaten, such as white hawthorn and rose hips, are thus “sown” in the hedges. Various kinds of birds are attracted by the many species of developing wild plants with their seeds and fruits, as well as by the many insects. Some birds prefer seeds, others insects and both are abundant in the habitat provided by the Benjes hedges.

Habitat for rodents and other animals

With the continuing development of the hedges and depending on how good the connections are to existing habitats, many other animals find a home, shelter and food in the hedges.

Linking the hedges allows the animals to settle in faster

Smaller animals in particular cannot travel a long way and thus need to reach a new habitat quickly. The linking of the hedges enables the animals to move from place to place without having to die on one of the endless fields of modern farming.

Medicinal plants

Medicinal plant - St. John's Wort, wonderfully developedIt is astonishing how often we can find wonderful and well-developed medicinal plants in the hedges. I have not found such well-developed and large St. John’s Wort plants anywhere else. The make-up of a Benjes hedge with its sunny places, wind protection and shady places create specific conditions (micro-vegetation-zones) that the plants seldom find elsewhere.

How we develop a Benjes hedge

A Benjes hedge should actually be understood as a principle, and therefore there are several kinds. The respective requirements can be flexibly adapted according to location, and material and manpower available.

A mound of soil about 50-100 cm high forms the core. Brush is generously piled on this mound. On the outside, toward the street, young trees have been planted. Over the course of time, various zones of habitat will form for the various kinds of plants and animals.

The blooming hedges are an enrichment for the otherwise dreary farm landscape After just a short time, birds and insects settle into the brush in the hedges. Various bushes, herbs and grasses grow and fill in the hedges.

The birds and the wind are the first to carry new seeds to the hedges. But the soil itself also awakens to new life when the appropriate conditions for spouting the seeds have developed.

Mother Nature takes her course; everything sprouts, blossoms and turns green under the protective brush. A hedge, a small biotope, develops, a so-called Benjes hedge.

Thank you to all friends of nature and animals

We thank the many friends of \BBHomeland for Animals\AB who have made this important project possible through their financial support.


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