Don’t tread on my cherry tree!

Our Department of Fruitland Security has tried many things–with mixed success–to keep squirrels and other rodents, as well as birds, from getting the fruit before the humans can harvest and enjoy it. But a snake in the tree could be the most effective yet.

The problem with the snake-in-the-tree solution is, of course, that the snake doesn’t like to hang around in one spot. This one did, however–literally. It got itself caught in the bird netting draped over the cherry tree. To say the least, it was quite a shock for your orchardist as he went to harvest the cherries and was just about to sit down on the ground underneath the tree to untie the netting when he noticed the snake! (And I will admit that snakes give me the willies bad. I’ll put the photo on the inside branch in deference to others with the snake-willies. Click “more” at own risk!)


I know to watch for snakes around the finca, but I do not expect them inside the corralito, which is fenced (with fairly narrow openings in the fencing material used from the ground upwards for a few feet–see the background of the photo).

Fortunately, Merry has a friend who loves snakes. She came out and was able to save the snake. It was quite a delicate piece of surgery, and the bird netting did not fare so well. The snake, however, was last seen crawling away under a grapefruit tree outside the corralito where the snake charmer set it free. (Note the pieces of metal: these I had tied around the bottom of the tree in an effort to prevent rodents from climbing. Their being scattered here was a result of the frightened snake’s thrashing as it tried to free itself while our snake-charmer worked to free the poor victim.)

This incident actually happened just over two years ago–before the virtual orchard had been planted. But right now it is cherry season again, with the ‘Stella’ currently at its peak. Yes, you can grow cherries in San Diego County, and not only at higher elevations. I believe the tree in the photo is the ‘Royal Rainier.’

‘Stella’ has fruited three or four times for us in the approximately seven years that I have had it–first in Carlsbad and now at Ladera Frutal and ‘Royal Rainier’ has fruited just the one time in the four years it has grown here at the finca.

In 2007, Stella fruits all by herself, despite the fact that Royal Rainier also bloomed well and, for the first time, ‘Craig’s Crimson’ and even ‘Bing’ bloomed. Bing appeared to set a couple of fruits, but they do not seem to have developed–pollination failure, most likely. All of our varieties except Bing are self-fruitful, and there is some evidence (so I have heard) that self-fruitful cherries are more likely to fruit in lower-chill climates. Of course, this year, with probably 750+ chill hours, the lack of fruit set must have been attributable to something else (too hot briefly and unusually in early April? too gloomy as usual in late April and May?).

Cherries are not easy to grow here, but they are worth the trouble. Stella is certainly less delicious than Royal Rainier, but it is quite good (and better than most cherries you can buy around here in markets, even farmers markets). And it is a beautiful fruit to look at, too. At least when there are no snakes in the tree.

0 thoughts on “Don’t tread on my cherry tree!

  1. Funny, I was thinking this week about asking your advice on keeping squirrels from stealing my fruit. My meager three-tree orchadito has been practically robbed bare.

    I will refrain from deploying a snake, however.


  2. What a fantastic post. Cherries are my favourite. Unfortunately I live in subtropical queensland and am unable to grow the sweet high chill varieties (by far the best). I do however have an acerola cherry tree they are nice and presumably very healthy eg they don’t taste as good 🙂

    I have always dreamed about getting a huge fridge and putting my cherry trees inside this magical fridge turned to below 4 degrees celcius for 1000 hours and then bringing them out into our subtropical spring.

    ok I had better stop dreaming… but one day….

    I have possum problems with my mango tree and I think your pet snake idea is a beauty.


  3. We are fairly subtropical, too, but the varieties I mention don’t need much chill at all. I am not sure how Qsld. compares to this area, though.

    There is also the Capulin cherry. I have three of them, all from seed. Growing like weeds (I mean, really amazing), but not yet of fruiting age. It is a real cherry in the sense of being of the genus Prunus. I think it has potential, but people who have tasted existing selected varieties say it remains a bit too pea-like in flavor. Maybe one of mine will be the sweet subtropical cherry we’ve been waiting for!

    Good to hear from you, Correy. It has been a long time. I checked Daley’s Fruit Tree Blog a while back and activity seemed rather more minimal than in the past. I hope all is well.


  4. I think I will have to give the capulum cherry a go, you have convinced me. I have never tasted it before but it is one that we do sell at daleys so it is worth a try.

    My Acerola Cherry which is the ultimate subtropical cherry is only 2 years old but has given me a few flowers but so far the fruit has not set. All in good time. I have tasted it at the Daleys Orchard, it crops very well and has a very strong cherry flavour much more then the generic sweet cherries.

    My climate here in Brisbane, QLD Australia is quite warm, we have never had a frost that I am aware of so as you can imagine anything with a chill is out of the question.

    We have a fruit tree forum at Daleys now

    A lot of people have been asking questions and answering them here which has been fantastic for me because I am learning so much. I am sure you would know the answers to most of them 🙂

    I enjoyed learning about the way all the seats work in Australias senate on your Australia election post by the way.

    You certainly have a passion for the way votes format a government.


  5. It is a common error to think that if you have no frost, you must have no chill. The two may be correlated, but chill hours have nothing to do with frost.

    In fact, where we are, when it gets cold enough for significant chill, it is usually very dry. So no frost. And optimum temperatures for chilling accumulation are about 38-47 (F; or about 3-8 C), which are kind of on the warm side for a frost.

    None of this means that you can grow deciduous sweet cherries in Queensland. But the absence of frost does not mean you can’t. Give ‘Stella,’ ‘Lapins,’ or ‘Royal Rainier’ a try. All have chilling requirements that are really low. Under 400 hours for sure, and the first two maybe more like 250-300.


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