Fruit trees, part of landscape for centuries, now returning to Krkonoše

Photo: KRNAP

The administration of the Krkonoše National Park in the north-west of the Czech Republic has been reviving fruit orchards and alleys at the foothills of the country’s highest mountains. It has already planted dozens of fruit trees, mainly apples, pears and cherries, which used to be part of the landscape for centuries.

Today people associate the Giant Mountains mainly with vast spruce forests, but in the past its hills were covered mostly by mixed forests. In recent years, the national park’s administration has been trying to replace the artificial monocultures in order to make the forests more resilient to climate change and bark beetle.

It has also been attempting to revive some of the old fruit tree varieties, which were once a common part of the Krkonoše landscape, explains Jakub Fišera, coordinator of the project:

“In cooperation with the Research and Breeding Institute of Pomology in Holovousy, we select mainly old and regional varieties. For instance when renewing the old cherry tree alley in Horní Maršov, we planted new trees but we also kept the old ones. Such an extensive orchards creates a sort of crossing between the forest and meadow ecosystem, a forest-steppe.”

The main goal of the project is to preserve the character of the landscape and also the gene pool of the historic fruit tree varieties, planted by our ancestors hundreds of years ago.

According to Mr. Fišera, fruit trees also provide a natural barrier between populated areas and wild nature. They help to retain water in the soil, prevent erosion and attract all sorts of animal species, mainly birds and insects.

Since launching the project in 2018, the Krkonoše National Park Administration employees has discovered more than 134 regional varieties of fruit trees.

Most of the trees grow in altitudes of up to 700 metres above sea level, but they have also come across an old cherry tree in Modrý Důl, surviving at an altitude of 1,020 metres above sea level.

Over the past three years, the park administration has planted around 60 cherry, pear and plum trees, and nearly 100 apple trees.

This year, they renewed an extensive cherry orchard in the mountain village of Vítkovice and an apple alley near the town of Vrchlabí, says Mr Fišera:

“This year, we cooperated with the Association for Embellishment from Vrchlabí and we supplemented the missing trees in the local alleys. I have planted a few apple trees myself and I hope that one day they will serve my grandchildren.”

The park administration is planting fruit trees not only in the public spaces, but also on privately-owned land, if the owners show interest.

Attempts to return old fruit tree varieties in the Czech landscape are also taking part elsewhere in the country. For example the organisation Česká krajina, known for introducing wild horses into the former military base in Milovice, has recently launched a similar project, with the aim of diversifying the variety of trees in the area.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Eliška Pilařová
run audio