Canopy Layer

Permaculture Plants: Mulberries

Common Name: Mulberry (Black, Red, and White)
Scientific Name: Morus species
Family: Moraceae
Common Species:

  • White Mulberry (Morus alba)
  • Chinese or Korean Mulberry (Morus australis)
  • African Mulberry (Morus mesozygia)
  • Texas Mulberry (Morus microphylla)
  • Black Mulberry (Morus nigra)
  • Red or American Mulberry (Morus rubra)

 

There are a number of Mulberry species and many varieties and cultivars.

There are a number of Mulberry species and many varieties and cultivars.

Description:
I was not a fan of the White Mulberry fruit that grew in my backyard when I lived in Kentucky.  It was quite bland, and that is the reputation that Mulberries  hold by most eaters.  Unfortunately, this is because most people in the U.S. eat unimproved varieties that have grown wild. It wasn’t until I lived in Turkey that I really rediscovered the Mulberry. They were everywhere. Dried. Fresh. Used in baked goods. Used in ice cream! There were a number of Mulberry trees that grew along the road near my house, and these fruits were delicious! I was able to visit carpet makers who where creating amazing works of art with the silk created from caterpillar who dined on the Mulberry leaves.  Then I learned about using the fruit and leaves to feed livestock, and that the cooked leaves and stems can be eaten by humans as well. I think it is about time for Americans to rediscover this amazing tree!

I am thrilled to have found numerous wild Mulberry trees on our new farm. I can’t vouch for their taste yet, but even if they don’t taste very good, that’s okay. I now know for sure that Mulberries will grow on my land.

Mulberry Trees are large trees that produce fruit that resemble a blackberry, but the fruit doesn’t taste much like a blackberry.  There are about 15 Morus species and many more hybrids, but the three most common species (the Black, Red, and White) have ripe fruits that typically develop the color of their name… the Black Mulberry has dark purple, almost back fruit; the Red Mulberry has reddish fruit that will ripen to deep purple; the White Mulberry has green, unripe fruit that will turn white when ripe.  However, there are varieties of all these trees that have a range of fruit colors.  It is said that the Black Mulberry has the best flavor, and the White has the worst (or least best) flavor.  I would have to agree in part, although the White Mulberry makes the best dried fruit. I think it resembles a fruity raisin with a bit of a crunch.  Fresh Black Mulberry fruit is delicious, especially the improved cultivars.  They are sweet and slightly tart and taste like… well, mulberries.

Mulberry

White Mulberry (Morus alba)

History:

  • Black Mulberry Trees (M. Nigra) are native to southwest Asia.  It has been cultivated for thousands of years in that area, and was brought to Europe before the Roman Empire where it has continued to be grown for its fruits.
  • White Mulberry Trees (M. alba) are native to northern, eastern, and central China and has been cultivated for thousands of years for fruit and to feed silkworms. It was introduced to North America during colonial times as part of an attempt to create a silk culture, and multiple sericulture (silk farming) endeavors were made over the next 300 years. Ultimately, these all failed due in part to a blight in the mid 1800’s, but mainly due to the fact that silk required intense labor to produce. Farmers would rather raise less labor-intensive crops like tobacco and cotton!
  • Red Mulberry Trees (M. rubra) are native to eastern North America and was used quite a bit by the native population. The fruit from unimproved Red Mulberries are often bland (but not always!)

 

Mulberry Tree by Vincent Van Gough

The Mulberry Tree by Vincent Van Gogh (October 1889)

Trivia:

  • The Mulberries hybridize easily, and many of the hybrids are fertile. This has led to confusion in taxonomy, and there are dozens of “species” and “subspecies” on which botanical authorities still do not agree. The good thing for the grower of Mulberries is that there are numerous varieties and hybrids that have been developed for improved flavor, increased production, and higher yields of fruit.
  • Mulberry fruits, a.k.a. the “berry”, is not a true berry but a collective fruit.
  • Murrey – a medieval term used to describe a fruit puree eaten as a pudding or cooked with meat. The term “murrey” was also used as an alternative word for “mulberry”. “Murrey” is also used to describe the mulberry color, somewhere between red and purple.
  • How did the Mulberry get it’s Latin name, Morus? Let’s start with some mythology!
    • The Tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (as told by wikipedia)In the Ovidian version, Pyramus and Thisbe is the story of two lovers in the city of Babylon who occupy connected houses/walls, forbidden by their parents to be wed, because of their parents’ rivalry. Through a crack in one of the walls, they whisper their love for each other. They arrange to meet near at Ninus’ tomb under a white mulberry tree and state their feelings for each other. Thisbe arrives first, but upon seeing a lioness with a mouth bloody from a recent kill, she flees, leaving behind her veil. The lioness drinks from a nearby fountain, then by chance mutilates the veil Thisbe had left behind. When Pyramus arrives, he is horrified at the sight of Thisbe’s veil, assuming that a fierce beast had killed her. Pyramus kills himself, falling on his sword in proper Roman fashion, and in turn splashing blood on the white mulberry leaves. Pyramus’ blood stains the white mulberry fruits, turning them dark. Thisbe returns, eager to tell Pyramus what had happened to her, but she finds Pyramus’ dead body under the shade of the mulberry tree. Thisbe, after a brief period of mourning, stabs herself with the same sword. In the end, the gods listen to Thisbe’s lament, and forever change the colour of the mulberry fruits into the stained colour to honour the forbidden love.
    • The above story was the Roman version based on a similar Greek mythological story where Moros, the personification or spirit of impending doom, drives people to their fate (usually death).
    • We get our modern word, morose (meaning sullen or gloomy), from the name of the same Greek spirit (Moros).
    • The word for Mulberry in modern Greek is Mouro.

 

Mulberry Tart

Black and White Mulberry Ricotta Tart (click on image for recipe)

Stuffed Mulberry Leaves

Stuffed Mulberry Leaves (click image for link to information and recipes)

Another stuffed Mulberry leaf recipe!

Another stuffed Mulberry leaf recipe! (click image for link to information and recipes)

Yet another!

Yet another! (click image for link to information and recipes)

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Fresh eating – Fruit!
  • Cooked –  Preserves, jellies, jams, fruit leathers (may need to be mixed with more fibrous fruit juices/pulps), compotes, and desserts.
  • Dried – kind of like crunchy raisins!
  • Syrup – This is another use of mulberry juice and can be used in salad dressings, desserts, and drinks.
  • Juice – This is a growing market as the juice is very high polyphenols and other antioxidants.
  • Murrey – a fruit puree eaten as a pudding or cooked with meat.
  • Primary or secondary/adjunct flavoring in wines, cordials, liqueur, and other alcoholic beverages, including beers.
  • Edible Leaves and Young Stems – needs to be cooked. Used like grape leaves to wrap foods, can be used like cooked greens, just discard the water in which you cook the leaves.
  • Sericulture (silk farming) – Mulberry trees and silkworms have a long history with humans!
  • Tea Plant – Mulberry leaves have a long history of being used to make tea.
    Making Mulberry Leaf Tea:

    • Fresh Leaf Tea – Clean, whole, unblemished leaves are harvested and washed. They are cut or torn into strips roughly 0.5 inches or 1 cm in width. The torn leaves are dropped into boiling water. Leaves are boiled until the water turns light green. Leaves are filtered out.
    • Dried Leaf Tea – Clean, whole, unblemished leaves are harvested and washed then allowed to dry in a single layer. Once dry enough to crumble, they are ready to be used to make tea. Use like black tea (from Camellia sinensis leaves) for an herbal, non-caffeinated drink.

 

Pakistan Mulberries are huge!

Pakistan Mulberries are huge!

White Mulberries can be less sweet when fresh...

White Mulberries can be less sweet when fresh…

...but make the best dried Mulberries, in my opinion!

…but make the best dried Mulberries, in my opinion!

Secondary Uses:

  • Food for wildlife, especially birds!
  • Coppice or Pollard Tree – for fuel (wood), forage (leaves), or crafts (twigs); 1-4 year cycle is typical. The reliability of coppicing is varied depending on the source of information.
  • Windbreak, typically only the “Russian Mulberry”, M. alba var tatarica is used.
  • Traditional medicinal uses – it is reported that Mulberry root may help tapeworm. Overeating the fruit or eating the inner bark of the tree has been reportedly used to treat constipation (this information has not been verified). Tea made from Mulberry leaves has been reported to help with the common cold, diabetes and weight loss (by stabilizing blood sugars), and used as an antioxidant.
  • Mulberry Fruit as a Forage Crop
    • Mulberries (fruit) are choice food for poultry and pigs.
    • Mulberries bear fruit crops with regularity. Many nut and fruit tree species have good years and bad years, but Mulberries are reliable.
    • Mulberries have a long fruiting season. By planting early to late fruiting varieties/species, the fruiting season can be extended further.
    • Mulberries can recover and still fruit if there is a late frost.
  • Mulberry Leaves as a Forage Crop
    • While historically used as a supplementary forage, recently there has been more focused research on using Mulberry leaves as a forage crops for livestock including monogastrics (pigs, rabbits, etc.), ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.), and poultry (chickens, ducks, etc.).
    • The leaves contain between 18-25% protein (dry matter content) and have high digestibility (70-90%).
    • Yields of leaves and stems used for forage, based on information gathered from around the world and compiled by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), ranged from 3.2-21 tons/acre/year (8-52 tons/hectare/year) with most in the 8-12 tons/acre/year (20-30 tons/hectare/year).
    • Compare this to alfalfa/lucerne (Medicago sativa), the “Queen of Hay Crops”, which yields 3-4 tons/acre/year (7.4-9.9 tons/hectare/year).
    • There is good reason that J. Russell Smith included Mulberries in his revolutionary book, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. He called the Mulberry the “King (of Crops) Without a Throne”.

 

Mulberries can be used to make cordials and wines!

Mulberries can be used to make cordials and wines!

Mulberries can be frozen just like raspberries or blackberries!

Mulberries can be frozen just like raspberries or blackberries!

Yield: One source states 5-25 lbs per tree, and this may be true for young or small trees. Another source states 10 bushels (equivalent to 80 gallons), and I think this is more accurate for a large, mature tree’s yield.
Harvesting: Varies according to local climate. Fruit may ripen from late Spring to early Autumn. Pick as the fruits ripen – they will not all ripen at the same time.  Sheets can be laid down and the tree given a good shake.  The ripe fruits will drop easily. This is a very easy way (and my favorite way) to harvest Mulberries!
Storage: Fresh fruit only keeps for a few days, and are best kept unwashed (until you are about to eat them) in a cool environment; uncovered in a refrigerator is a good location. The fruits can be dried.  The fruits also freeze well. It is best to freeze them individually first on a tray in a freezer before storing them together in a container or bag.

 

Mulberry tree in Autumn.

Mulberry tree in Autumn.

Young Mulberry trunk.

Young Mulberry trunk.

Mature Mulberry trunk.

Mature Mulberry trunk.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 5-9
AHS Heat Zone: 9-4
Chill Requirement: 300-500 hours/units depending on the species and variety.

Plant Type: Medium-Sized Trees
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Tree, Sub-Canopy Tree
Cultivars/Varieties: A few species and a many cultivars available

Pollination: Mulberry trees are either monoecious or dioecious. Monoecious Mulberries (trees having separate male and female flowers on the same plant) are typically self-pollinating/self-fertile. Dioecious Mulberries are trees having male (staminate) flowers and female (pistillate) flowers on separate trees… often called male or female trees. Some dioecious Mulberry trees have been known to change from one sex to another. Some cultivars will produce greater yields if allowed to cross-pollinate, although many cultivars (monoecious types) do not need cross-pollination at all. Some Mulberries can even produce fruit without any pollination. Pollination occurs by wind.

Flowering: Spring (typically not effected by frost).

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Fruiting: 5-15 years (can be as little as 2 years for some varieties, but will need a few more years to get to maximum production)
  • Years to Maximum Fruiting: 1-3 years after fruiting begins
  • Years of Useful LifeM. rubra (less than 75 years), M. alba (150 years), M. nigra (300+ years!)

 

Male and female Mulberry flowers.

Male flower stalks (long and thin) and female flower stalks (short and round) will often form on the same tree – making it self-fertile. However, cross-pollination from another mulberry will typically provide greater yields.

Mulberry tree with only male flowers.

Mulberry tree with only male flowers (staminate).

Mulberry tree with only female flowers.

Mulberry tree with only female flowers (pistillate).

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 30-80 feet (9-24 meters) tall and wide. Black Mulberries are the smallest and tends toward a bush form. White Mulberries are the largest.
Roots: taproot or heart-shaped root pattern (a number of main roots all spreading out and down)
Growth Rate: Fast

 

Mulberry leaves come in various shapes and sizes.

Mulberry leaves come in various shapes and sizes. These variations can all occur on the same tree!

Young leaves on our wild Red Mulberry trees.

Young leaves on our wild Red Mulberry trees.

Harvesting Mulberries in a previous minefield in Azerbaijan.

Harvesting Mulberries in a previous minefield in Azerbaijan.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade (about 25-50%)
Moisture: Medium, however some species/varieties can handle drier soils
pH: most species prefer fairly neutral soil (6.1 – 7.0); M. rubra can handle more alkaline soils (to 8.5)

Special Considerations for Growing:
Branches can be brittle, so some protection may be needed from the wind.  M. alba tolerates juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives).  Consider using this tree as a buffer between your walnuts and other plantings.

 

Immature Red Mulberry fruit on our trees.

Immature Red Mulberry fruit on our trees.

Propagation:
Mulberries can grow from seed and can be sown immediately after fruiting. Seeds germinate better with some cold stratification. Seeds can be stratified from 4-16 weeks. Trees planted from seed take the longest to begin bearing fruit. Cuttings from hardwood, softwood, and even the roots have all been reported to work well, but depending on who you talk to about it, this is really easy or really difficult.

Maintenance: 

  • Seedlings are susceptible to slugs and snails.
  • Once established, very little maintenance is needed.
  • If pruning, do so in early summer.
  • Trim away dead branches for aesthetic reasons or prune branches to minimize branch overcrowding.
  • Few pests.

Concerns:

  • Fruits can be messy – avoid planting trees near driveways and sidewalks/walkways
  • Can spread easily by seed – usually by birds
  • Some people are allergic to the pollen – seasonal allergies
  • Some people are sensitive to the milky sap – contact dermatitis
  • Poisonous – In some species, the unripe fruit and leaves (mainly the white sap within the unripe berries and in the leaves) can cause stomach upset at best and hallucinations at worst.

 

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Photo References:

  • http://www.missouripermaculture.com/2011/09/morus-rubra-red-mulberry.html
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/70/The_Mulberry_Tree_by_Vincent_van_Gogh.jpg
  • http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/JPEG’S/Plant%20Web%20Images/MulberryFlowers.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Black_Mulberry_Female_Flowers.jpg
  • http://www.backyardnature.net/n/09/090330mm.jpg
  • https://c3.staticflickr.com/3/2535/3917066690_9b5bcb36b8_b.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/Morus_alba_Blanco1.206.png
  • http://www.hnffoods.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Mulberries-960×561.jpg
  • http://guidedoc.com/wp-content/uploads/white-mulberry-tea-benefits-fresh-mulberries1.jpg
  • http://img.21food.com/20110609/product/1306614065276.jpg
  • http://www.boonut.info/photoalbums/boonut_farm_2007/photos/r7.jpg
  • http://people.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/moru3104.jpg
  • http://people.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/moru3156.jpg
  • http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5103/5881263871_26967a0833.jpg
  • http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/33118696.jpg
  • http://mulberryscleaners.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/berrywine.jpg

 

December 2014 Farm Update (and photos from an iPhone!)

We have a few months before we move to our new farm, but we were able to take a trip there this past weekend. We are still trying to settle on names for all the structures and landforms on the property, so there will be some changes in what we call things as time moves on. The big house/main house is really ready to move in although we do want to paint some walls and do a little bit of repair work before we actually settle in there.

Just off from the big house is a large, three door garage that has never housed a vehicle. The main floor is very clean, and this will be a great storage location and possibly a spot for a classroom (we will see). There is a full bathroom on the ground floor of this building, and there is a very large, unfinished room upstairs with a kitchen. This upstairs room is not in great shape – very rough and pretty dirty. We will be fixing up this place for my parents to temporarily live. Well, as much as I would love to be working on it, the reality is that my dad will be the one doing most of the work. He is an (almost) retired carpenter, and very highly skilled. Our plan is to fix up this apartment and then put our focus on really renovating the 2 bedroom farm house/small house/cottage that was built many years ago – I want to say 1920, but I am not sure that is correct. No matter, it is in very poor condition. It will require quite a bit of work. It will be fun to see how this project develops, but I have some initial ideas involving straw bales!

I have written about it before, so it should come as no surprise that I am a huge proponent of multi-generational households. I am so excited to have my parents move with us permanently to the farm. In truth, they have been with us off and on (mostly on) for the past year. It has been a wonderful experience not just for me, but for my wife and children as well. This is due in large part to the personality of my parents and my amazing wife. But I know I am not the only one. My friend Cliff Davis, over at Spiral Ridge Permaculture, just posted a comment on Facebook about grandma coming to live at their homestead, “Intergenerational households are a major part of the agrarian lifestyle.” I couldn’t agree more!

I finally had the opportunity to go take a walk on the property. I didn’t have a landowner or real estate agent walking with me. It was just me. Me and the rain that is. Of course, our first unencumbered trip to the farm also coincided with a cold snap and three days of steady rain. But I didn’t care. I put on my rain boots and jacket and went for a stroll. I headed out to the highest ridge that meets our tree line.

Facing east

View from the tree line on the highest minor ridge. Roughly facing east. The blue roofed structure is the garage/apartment. Just right is the white, triangular gable of the big house.

Facing southeast

Same spot, turned 90 degrees, facing south. The building on the left is the hunting lodge/shack/cabin. It was used by the hunters who used to hunt coyotes on the property. Just to the right, and partially hidden by trees is the the little 2 bedroom farm house/cottage.  In the center is the large pond.

Facing southwest

Same spot, turned another 40 degrees or so, facing southwest.

If you are an astute Permaculturist/Keyliner, then you would have noticed the run off. Honestly, it was hard to miss when you were walking around out there. It sounded like there were tiny streams everywhere. In reality, that’s just about the truth. The main pastures have been pretty poorly managed, and the former owner let cattle graze wherever they chose over 45+ acres. This resulted in a lot of cattle trails that filled with water and caused erosion. Also, every valley soon filled with all the run off and became small, temporary streams.

Waterlogged02

Walking on the low spot in the small valley between ridges was like walking on a super saturated sponge – it was squishing with each step! Fortunately, the water was crystal clear.

Watterlogging

Another view of the temporary streams in the valleys. The water was moving fast – sounded like a bubbling brook. I can’t imagine how much water was lost from the farm in these few days… well, actually, I could probably calculate it, but I don’t feel like it right now!

Ponds

This shot is taken just uphill from the upper/small pond. The large pond is in the distance, in the center, just above (downhill from) the small pond. There are two major problems with this pond. On the left corner, you can see all the yellow silt streaming into the pond. On the right corner, the pond wall has been eroded from cattle. The pond is overflowing into the valley, and is bypassing (the water level is lower than) the overflow pipe. This will need to be addressed quickly!

Lower Pond

The large/lower pond. Cattails line most edges. I saw fish swimming. It is in pretty good condition.

Upper_Pond_02

The upper pond has two main feeds. One is full of silt. The other is full of clear water and black walnuts!

Upper_Pond_01

Overflow out of the pond. The overflow (drain) pipe is just off to the left, mid photo. The cattle have created this erosive spillway that was flowing pretty fast.

Middle Pond

The third pond/middle pond/east pond is in fair condition. The cattle have almost eroded one corner of the wall, but not quite. The overflow/drain pipe is working well. There is some silt being deposited, but not a lot. With a little maintenance, this pond should do very well.

After perusing the fields and ponds, I took a few walks in the woods. Walking through the woods alone in the cold drizzle was quite relaxing. I am always amazed at the life you can see when you take the time to be still and quiet in the forest. I was very encouraged at the proliferation of fungal life in these woods. There were many species besides the numerous “little brown mushrooms” that I couldn’t identify. But I did see some familiar faces (er… fungi). And while I didn’t see any edibles (yet!), there were dozens of logs covered in Turkey Tail, a highly valued medicinal.

Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey Tail

A beautiful colony of Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

Unknown fungus

Unknown fungus. These were covering many downed branches.

Unknown shelf mushroom

A few shots of a shelf mushroom. I saw a large number of this species. I’m pretty sure it is the Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum).

Unknown Jelly Fungus

A pretty jelly fungus, likely Amber Jelly Roll/Willow Brain (Exidia recisa)

In addition to the fungal life, there was plenty of evidence that the nut-producing trees were doing well. There were many Oak Trees (both in the Red Oak Group and White Oak Group), Black Walnut, and Shagbark Hickory trees. There were some Maple. There were a number of other trees that I just couldn’t identify without leaves.

Oak

Oak – not sure of the species. Possibly Northern Red Oak?

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory (possibly a Shellbark Hickory… I need to investigate a bit more first)

Through most of the walks was our Dalmation.

Accompanying most of the walks was our Dalmation… he was like a puppy running rough the woods and fields!

 

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Photo References: All photos are mine (taken from an iPhone!). If you would like to use any of them, please let me know!

 

Permaculture Plants: Raisin Tree

Common Name: Raisin Tree, Japanese Raisin Tree, Oriental Raisin Tree
Scientific Name: Hovenia dulcis
Family: Rhamnaceae (the Buckthorn family)

The Japanese Rasin Tree has edible fruit stalks, not fruit!

The Raisin Tree has edible fruit stalks, not fruit!

Description:
The Raisin Tree is a unique plant. The edible portion of the tree is not actually the fruit. The fruit itself is small, hard, pea-sized, and not edible. But the stem or stalk of the fruit, once the fruit is mature, will swell up and become gnarled. It is this fruit stalk, technically called a rachis, that is edible. I rarely write about fruits I have not eaten, but this one is so cool that I couldn’t pass it up.

The Raisin Tree is a medium to large tree that is cold tolerant, likes long, hot Summers, can grow in the sun or shade, has edible parts, has a high-quality wood that is used in construction, furniture, tools, and crafts, and has no common pests or diseases. There has been almost no development with this plant, and I think there is a lot of room for improvement… from larger fruit stalks to more cold tolerance to experiments with animal feeding. There is a lot of room to grow with this tree!

The Raisin Tree (Holvenia dulcis)

The Raisin Tree (Holvenia dulcis), Flora Japonica, Sectio Prima (Tafelband), 1870.

History:
Native to the moist, shady mountains of China. Likely brought to Korea and Japan thousands of years ago. Once source states that it was brought to the West in 1820, but it remains a very rare tree here. Another report states that this plant was never cultivated much in Asia for food, but the fruit stalks were collected by children from the wild and used by the family. It has been commercially raised for its high-quality wood.

Trivia:

  • The Japanese name for the edible fruit stalk is kenpo-nashi. My Japanese is not very good, but as best as I can tell, kenpo has a meaning related to the hand or fist. Nashi means pear.
  • The Chinese name for the edible fruit stalk is chi-chao li or chih-chu li which means chicken-claw pear.
  • There is some research being done on the compounds found in the Japanese Raisin Tree. It is hypothesized that these extracts may help prevent liver damage after alcohol intoxication. Some are looking to use it as an “anti-hangover” medicine.

 

The Raisin Tree is a pretty, but subtle tree.

The Raisin Tree is a pretty, but subtle tree.

Although it becomes much more pretty when flowering.

Although it becomes much more pretty when flowering.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Fruit Stalk – Can be eaten raw or cooked. Reported to have a flavor similar to Asian Pears or candied Walnuts. The fruit stalks can be dried and then have a flavor and texture more like a raisin. (here is a fun article about cooking with the Raisin Tree)
  • Extract – An extract from the fruit stalks and other parts (young leaves and small branches?) is made in China. It is called “tree honey” and is used as a honey substitute. It is used for making sweets and even a type of wine!

Secondary Uses:

  • Wood is used for construction, flooring, furniture, tools, utensils, artwork, etc.
  • Although I can find no reports of this, the Raisin Tree can likely be coppiced. There is a report that a specimen tree in the Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had a height of 30 feet (9 meters). In the Winter of 1933-34, the record cold froze the tree to the ground. However, “vigorous shoots” grew from the main trunk. Within 8 years, it was back to its 30+ foot height again, and within 45 years (this was a 1978 report), the tree was 78 feet (23 meters)!
  • Wildlife food for both birds and small mammals.
  • Although I can find no reports of this, I would think that the profuse, fragrant flowers would benefit insects, including bees.
  • Drought Tolerant Plant – I have found a few reports that this tree is drought tolerant once established.
  • The Raisin Tree is being evaluated as a reforestation tree. It grows fast enough, attracts wildlife, and is not considered invasive.
  • Medicinal – There is some research to support that the antioxidants in this plant (hodulcine, ampelopsin, quercetin) has liver protecting and anti-inflammatory effects.

Yield: Variable, but one report states that mature trees can yield 5-10 pounds of edible fruit stalks.
Harvesting: The most common complaint I have seen about the Raisin Tree pertains to the harvesting. As this tree can get quite large, trying to harvest the edible fruit stalks from at the very tips of the branches can be difficult. Author Lee Reich suggests cutting off branches and harvesting the fruit stalks from the ground.
Storage: Up to 2 months in a dry, well aerated position. The flavors seem to improve with age… up to a point!

The flowers are small, but numerous and fragrant.

The flowers are small, but numerous and fragrant.

The fruit that develop are only about the size of a pea.

The fruit which develop are only about the size of a pea.

As the fruit matures, the fruit stalk starts to swell and twist.

As the fruit matures, the fruit stalk starts to swell and twist.

Eventually the fruit (at the tips) are mature and dried. They often rattle with the few seeds contained within. But the stalks are swollen and sweet.

Eventually the fruit (at the tips) are mature and dried. They often rattle with the few seeds contained within. But the stalks are swollen and sweet.

These fruit stalks can be eaten fresh - used like you would dried fruit.

These fruit stalks can be eaten fresh – used like you would dried fruit.

...or they can be dried and used like raisins.

…or they can be dried and used like raisins.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 5-10. This may vary depending on the origination of the mother plant that the seeds were collected from (i.e. if the mother plant grows in a colder climate, then the seeds may yield trees that are able to tolerate similarly cold climates). It may be worth tracking down seeds/seedlings originating in a climate similar to where you will be planting your trees. Also, there is a good chance that colder specimens can be developed/found with the planting of enough seeds.
AHS Heat Zone: 8-4
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Medium to Large Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer, Sub-Canopy Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Only the single species exists. There are no “improved” varieties.

Pollination: Self-fertile
Flowering: Early Summer. Flowers are small but very numerous

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Fruiting: 7-10 years, although 3 years has been reported in “ideal” growing conditions (fertile, moist soils and long, warm/hot Summers).
  • Years of Useful Life: 50-150 years, although I found only one source for this information. I honestly do not think there is good information for this.
Leaves of the Raisin Tree.

Leaves of the Raisin Tree.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 30-70 feet (9-21 meters) tall and 20 -40 feet (3-7 meters) wide; however, Raisin Trees typically stay toward the smaller end of their potential.
Roots: No information can be found describing the root system, although I came across many reports that state the roots are not a problem at the surface. This indicates to me that the roots are deeper in nature. This is also supported by the reports that this tree may be drought-tolerant once established.
Growth Rate: Medium

Bark of the Raisin Tree

Bark of the Raisin Tree

The Raisin Tree has high-quality wood.

The Raisin Tree has high-quality wood.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Full sun to partial shade
Shade: Tolerates light to medium shade, but fruits earlier and in larger quantity in full sun.
Moisture: Prefers moist, but not wet, soils.
pH: One source states 6.1-8.5 and another states “highly acid to slightly alkaline” soils. The reality is that this plant likely tolerates a wide range of soil conditions.

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Avoid wet soils.
  • Raisin Trees need Summers that hot enough and start early enough (and are therefore long enough) to allow the fruit to ripen. The fruit must ripen enough before the fruit stalk will swell and become sweet.

Propagation:
Typically from seed since no improved varieties exist. Seeds need to be scarified or stratified. Scarification with acid (sulfuric acid for 2 hours) seems to yield the best germination rates. This mimics the degrading process of the hard seed coat which would occur in nature over a very long period of time. Germination can take place within a few weeks but can take up to a few months. Softwood and root cuttings are also proven means of propagation.

Maintenance:
None. It is said that this tree will “self prune”, dropping the lower branches as it grows.

Concerns:
None!

 

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Photo References:

  • http://plantes-du-japon.fr/IMG/jpg/A5B1A5F3A5DDA5CAA5B7A1A1C3E6C9F4.jpg
  • http://images.mobot.org/tropicosdetailimages/Tropicos/275/16902A92-7893-4DC2-BA5F-69BA3ACCAAFF.jpg
  • http://www.tropicos.org/Image/83303
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/Hovenia_dulcis_in_Ceret_Park_São_Paulo_001.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Hovenia_dulcis.jpg
  • http://coletivocurare.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/hovenia-dulcis22827.jpg
  • http://www.fruitipedia.com/Images%202/Japanese%20raisin%20fruit.jpg
  • http://dbiodbs1.univ.trieste.it/quint/carso/foto/TSB56916.jpg
  • http://dbiodbs1.univ.trieste.it/quint/carso/foto/TSB77800.jpg
  • http://dbiodbs1.univ.trieste.it/quint/carso/foto/TSB77805.jpg
  • http://www.fruitipedia.com/Images%202/Japanese%20raisin%20leaves.jpg
  • http://dbiodbs1.univ.trieste.it/quint/carso/foto/TSB80809.jpg
  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-3SVrGhf7IOU/T7diYPk3z-I/AAAAAAAAAKA/WQ6sCqHtEv4/s1600/DSCF5562.JPG
  • http://i01.i.aliimg.com/img/pb/867/678/475/475678867_694.jpg
  • http://dbiodbs1.univ.trieste.it/quint/carso/foto/TSB79640.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Hovenia_dulcis_SZ73.png

 

Permaculture Plants: Bamboo

Common Name: Bamboo
Scientific Name: Bambuseae Tribe (there are 9 Subtribes, 91 Genera, and about over 1,500 species!)
Family: Poaceae (the Grass family)
Selected Species: See the table at the end of the article for Bamboo Species ideal for a Temperate Climate.

Phyllostachys dulcis

Sweetshoot Bamboo, China’s top edible Bamboo
Phyllostachys dulcis

Description:
I have put off writing an article on Bamboo for a number of years. Even though it is one of the most useful plants on Earth, there are just so many species that the thought of working through them was a bit overwhelming. Well, I finally decided to suck it up and get on with it. Interestingly, right before this article was published, Geoff Lawton released a video on growing Bamboo! Of course, this was a coincidence, but it is still fun to say, “great minds think alike!” (You can see Geoff Lawton’s video on Bamboo here)

Geoff highlighted four species (Bambusa multiplex/glaucescens ‘Alphonse Karr’, Bambusa textilis var. gracilis, Bambusa oldhamii, Bambusa multiplex ‘Fern Leaf’) in his video. All these species grow in Zones 8 or warmer. Temperate Climates do include Zone 8, but there are many other species that can withstand temperatures down to -15 F (-26 C)… that is at least Zone 5, and some species can grow in Hardiness Zone 4! The problem for me was trying to find information on these plants. The information is out there, but it is scattered all over the place. As always, when I research something, I share my findings.

Bamboo truly is the epitome of a Permaculture plant. It can be used for food, fiber, fuel, fodder, medicine, building, and more. It can stabilize and regenerate the landscape. It feeds and shelters wildlife. And it is quite beautiful as well. While best known as a tropical or subtropical plant, unless you have very, very cold Winters, there is a Bamboo plant for you. Bamboo should be growing in all Forest Gardens!

Bamboo

Phyllostachys dulcis

History:
Bamboo is native to native to every continent but Europe and Antarctica. It can be found in the hot tropics to cold, snowy mountains. They have had historic economic and cultural significance in Asia for thousands of years. In the last few decades, the rest of the world has really started to understand the relevance of this plant.

Trivia:

  • Bamboo does not go to flower very often. Depending on the species, this can be once every 20-130 years! Interestingly, all Bamboo of the same species will go to flower at the same time, regardless of where in the world they are. Scientists still do not know how or why this happens!
  • Once a Bamboo plant is done flowering, it will die.
  • Bamboo shoots can grow surprisingly fast. In fact, it hold the Guinness World Record as the fast growing plant on Earth. One plant had shoots that were recorded as growing 35 inches (91 cm) in 24 hours!
  • Bamboo shoots typically grow for 4-6 weeks (in Spring or Summer) before they stop getting taller.
  • Bamboo shoots will get taller and wider each year until the stand of Bamboo reach maturity.
  • New shoots are roughly the same diameter as the mature cane.
  • Bamboo plants may produce double the number of shoots each year – this is why they are notorious for spreading.
  • Bamboo grows up (from shoots) pretty fast, but they can also grow out (from their roots/rhizomes) as well.
  • Bamboo is typically classified as either running or clumping.
  • Running types of Bamboo have rhizomes (underground stems, leptomorph type) that can put up new shoots a few feet or yards (meters) away from the mother plant. They can spread up to 15 feet per year, but 3-5 feet in more typical.
  • Clumping Bamboo still has rhizomes, but they are a different type (pachymorph type), and they expand very slowly – too slowly to be considered running, they grow in clumps.
  • Many people harvest the shoots or cut them down to prevent running Bamboo from spreading.
  • Some people will install a rhizome barrier which blockes the expansion of the underground stems.
  • For the most part, all Bamboo species in colder Temperate Climates are running types. Almost all species that can tolerate hot and humid Summers and cool to cold Winters (like the southeastern United States) are running types as well. The clumping species of Bamboo that can handle the cold tend to be smaller, but these species are less tolerant of heat and humidity. This is why almost all the species listed in the table below are running types.
Phyllostachys vivax

Smooth-Sheathed/Chinese Timber Bamboo grows up to 5 inches (12.7 cm) in diameter
Phyllostachys vivax

USING THIS PLANT

Uses
I typically divide this section in to Primary and Secondary uses, but Bamboo has so many incredible uses, that it is almost impossible to say which is “primary” and which is “secondary”.

  • Edible Shoots – While all Bamboo shoots are considered edible, some are better than others, and only about 100 are used for food. Typically, the larger species are used more often, since the smaller shoots are not considered worthwhile to harvest. Many species produce significant levels of toxins (precursors to cyanide), but these toxins are quickly destroyed and rendered harmless at high temperatures. Cooking (boiling is most common) the shoots not only makes them safe to eat, but makes them more tender.
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar and pollen plant; however, Bamboo does not flower frequently enough to be major benefit
  • Shelter Plant for Beneficial Insects – especially solitary bees and wasps
  • Wildlife Shelter – especially birds and small mammals
  • Animal Fodder – Bamboo is a grass, and livestock like to eat grass
  • Ornamental Plant – this has been one of its primary uses around the world
  • Timber – used to create particle board, fiberboard, strand board, flooring, molding, beams, etc.
  • Wood Products – used for cutting boards, crafts, baskets, tools, veneers, laminates, musical instruments, weapons, etc.
  • Structures – bridges, walls, roofing, water pipes, water wheels, etc.
  • Poles/Stakes – common in garden and other agricultural uses, fishing poles, etc.
  • Paper – newspaper, bond paper, toilet tissue, cardboard, coffee filters, etc.
  • Fuel – firewood, charcoal, etc.
  • Textiles – clothing, blankets, towels, pillows, mattresses, diapers, bullet proof vests, etc.
  • Windbreak Species – typically fast growing and very tolerant of wind
  • Hedge Species – fantastic privacy screen, and in warmer climates, Bamboo is used as a much needed shade producing plant
  • Erosion Control Species – the extensive root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion.
  • Dam/Pond Wall Stabilization – Bamboo’s extensive, fibrous, and shallow root system is great for stabelizing and protecting a pond or dam wall.
  • Bioremediation Species – Bamboo can be used as a fast-growing plant to help clean and detoxify environments

 

Bamboo shoot breaking through the soil.

Bamboo shoot breaking through the soil.

Harvesting a Bamboo shoot with a sharp, narrow shovel.

Harvesting a Bamboo shoot with a sharp, narrow shovel.

Bamboo shoots for sale in a market.

Bamboo shoots for sale in a market.

Bamboo shoot being split and hard outer layers peeling off.

Bamboo shoot being split and hard outer layers peeling off.

Another split Bamboo shoot.

Another split Bamboo shoot.

Cleaned Bamboo shoots ready to cook!

Cleaned Bamboo shoots ready to cook!

Yield: Variable.
Harvesting: “Winter” shoots are harvested in late Winter. These are harvested before the shoots erupt through the soil; they are small and very tender. “Spring” shoots are harvested in the Spring, of course. These are harvested before they reach 10-12 inches (25-30 cm). Then there are the “Summer” shoots. These are harvested from Bamboo species that produce shoots in the Summer. Harvest shoots that are short and wide, solid and heavy for their size. Shoots are typically cut at soil level with a sharp-bladed shovel. The hard, tough husk is peeled off, sometimes a few layers at a time, until the pale, edible core is released. The fibrous base is cut back. Sometimes the tip also needs to be removed. The shoots are cut to relatively uniform size for even cooking. They can be boiled, steamed, grilled, etc. If boiling, use salted water, and boil for about 20 minutes. Many species of Bamboo shoots need a few fresh water changes, a second boiling, and/or a slow simmer to make them tender and not bitter. Other species can be trimmed and placed on the grill, ready to eat after cooked for a few minutes.
Storage: Harvested shoots that are unpeeled can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. They should be wrapped in wet paper towels, but not plastic; they need to breathe. They should also be kept out of the sun, this will increase their bitterness. Peeled shoots can only be stored for a few days. Cooked shoots can be stored for a few weeks if kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Bamboo's fibrous roots and rhizomes.

Bamboo’s fibrous roots and rhizomes.

Rhizome barriers are one way to keep Bamboo rhizome's within bounds.

Rhizome barriers are one way to keep Bamboo rhizome’s within bounds.

Rhizome pruning once or twice a year is another way to keep Bamboo within bounds.

Rhizome pruning once or twice a year is another way to keep Bamboo within bounds.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zones 4 and warmer (see table below).
AHS Heat Zone: Variable.
Chill Requirement: Not likely, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Bamboo.
Leaf Type: Evergreen.
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer, Subcanopy Layer, Shrub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are hundreds of species and varieties from which to choose.

Pollination: Pollinated by the wind. Flowers have both male and female parts.
Flowering: Bamboo does not go to flower very often (see Trivia section above).

Life Span: Individual canes can live for up to 10 years. Considering that the plants spread so easily from their rhizomes, an individual’s life span is likely irrelevant.

Black Bamboo is a beautiful plant. Phyllostachys nigra

Black Bamboo is a beautiful plant.
Phyllostachys nigra

Walking Stick Bamboo is another unique species  Qiongzhuea tumidissinoda

Walking Stick Bamboo is another unique species
Qiongzhuea tumidissinoda

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: see table below
Roots: Shallow and fibrous with rhizomes (spreading underground stem that can put up a new shoot/plant several feet from the parent)
Growth Rate: Fast to Very Fast

Phyllostachys_bambusoides

Giant Timber Bamboo or Madake grows to an impressive 70 feet tall and 6 inches thick!
Phyllostachys bambusoides

Canebreak Bamboo is a U.S. native Arundinaria gigantea

River Cane or Canebreak Bamboo is a U.S. native
Arundinaria gigantea

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Some species tolerate medium to full shade
Moisture: Moist to wet soils. Some species can tolerate very wet to flooded soils if allowed to dry out.
pH: 5.1-8.5 (varies on the species)

Special Considerations for Growing:
Only place Bamboo in an area where it can spread or where you will be able to maintain its spread (i.e. keep it from spreading). See Maintenance section below.

Propagation:
Can be propagated from seed, but many species of Bamboo do not go to seed very often. Seed may take up to 6 months to germinate. Division in late Winter/early Spring is most common – just be careful of the emerging small new shoots. Can be propagated from cuttings of 1-2 year plants in Spring.

Maintenance:

  • If growing a running type or a clumping type that spreads, it is important to keep the shoots in check if you do not want it to spread.
  • A rhizome barrier (approximately 30 inch/76 cm tall plastic or metal barrier encircling the Bamboo stand) is a common way to keep Bamboo from spreading. It still needs to be checked at least once a year to make sure no rhizomes are trying to “jump” over it. Some cheap plastic barriers are not strong enough to hold back the rhizomes, so I think the metal or even concrete barriers are best.
  • Harvesting new shoots will keep the Bamboo from spreading outside of your desired area.
  • Root pruning once or twice a year will also keep the rhizomes in check. This can be done with a rototiller or a sharp spade. Rhizomes are typically very shallow rooted (2-5 inches/5-13 cm deep), and can easily be found. Just dig a trench around the Bamboo grove, and pull out any wayward rhizomes. The root pruning is done at least 2 feet/60 cm from the parent plant. If root pruning is done too close to the parent plant, then the Bamboo cannot produce healthy shoots the following growing season.

Concerns:

  • Spreading – running, and even some clumping, bamboo can rapidly spread to surrounding areas (see note in Maintenance and in Trivia above)

 

Bamboo Species for a Temperate Climate

www.TCPermaculture.com

 

SCIENTIFIC NAME COMMON NAME ZONE

HEIGHT

DIAMETER

TYPE

SHOOTS NOTES
Arundinaria gigantea River Cane or Canebreak Bamboo

6-10

15-20 feet

S

R

Native to U.S.
Bashania fargesii Windbreak Bamboo

7-10

25 feet

S-M

R

FS, EC, WT
Borinda papyrifera Unnamed

8-9

15-25 feet

S-M

C

PHH
Fargesia nitida Blue Fountain

5-9

10-15 feet

S

C

PHH, ST
Fargesia murielae Umbrella Bamboo

5-9

10-15 feet

S

C

PHH, ST
Fargesia robusta Unnamed

7-9

10-15 feet

S

C

PHH, ST
Phyllostachys acuta Unnamed

6-10

25-30 feet

L

R

L Sp
Phyllostachys angusta Stone Bamboo

6-10

20-25 feet

S

R

L Sp, NB
Phyllostachys atrovaginata Incense Bamboo

5-10

35-40 feet

L

R

M Sp Waxy, fragrant shoot coating
Phyllostachys aurea Fishpole or Golden Bamboo

7-10

15-30 feet

S-M

R

E Au, NB, G
Phyllostachys aureosulcata Yellow-Grove Bamboo

5-10

30 feet

S-M

R

L Sp, NB
Phyllostachys bambusoides Giant Timber Bamboo, Madake

7-10

50-70 feet

VL

(4-6 inches!)

R

Su
Phyllostachys bissetii Bisset Bamboo

5-10

20-30 feet

S

R

Phyllostachys decora Beautiful Bamboo

6-10

30-35 feet

L

R

Phyllostachys dulcis Sweetshoot Bamboo

6-10

20-40 feet

L

R

E Sp, NB, VG Major Chinese Edible Bamboo
Phyllostachys edulis Moso Bamboo

7-10

40-50 feet

VL

(4-7 inches!)

R

L Sp, NB, VG Major Japanese Edible Bamboo
Phyllostachys flexuosa Chinese Weeping Bamboo

6-9

20-25 feet

S

R

L Sp One variety grows zig-zag
Phyllostachys glauca Yunzhu Bamboo

6-10

35 feet

M

R

L Sp
Phylostachys herteroclada Water Bamboo

6-10

30 feet

S-M

R

WS
Phyllostachys iridescens Iridescent Bamboo

6-10

40+ feet

L

R

Phyllostachys makinoi Makinoi’s Bamboo, Kei-Chiku

6-10

35-40 feet

M-L

R

Phyllostachys meyeri Meyer Bamboo

7-10

30 feet

S-M

R

Phyllostachys nidularia Big Node Bamboo

7-10

25-35 feet

S

R

E Sp, G WS
Phyllostachys nigra Black Bamboo

7-10

20-35 feet

M

R

Sp, Su, G
Phyllostachys nuda Nude Sheath Bamboo

5-10

20-35 feet

S-M

R

Sp
Phyllostachys parvifolia Unnamed

6-10

40+ feet

L

R

Sp, G
Phyllostachys platyglossa Unnamed

6-10

20-25 feet

S

R

VG
Phyllostachys praecox Unnamed

7-9

20 feet

M

R

Sp, G ST
Phyllostachys propinqua Unnamed

5-10

10-30 feet

S

R

Sp, G ST
Phyllostachys rubromarginata Red Margin Bamboo

6-10

40-60 feet

M

R

Su, NB, G WT
Phyllostachys stimulosa Unnamed

6-10

20-25 feet

S

R

G
Phyllostachys sulphurea f. viridis Green Sulphur Bamboo

7-10

20-40 feet

S

R

L Sp
Phyllostachys violascens Violet Bamboo

6-10

25-30 feet

S-M

R

L Sp
Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens Greenwax Golden Bamboo 

7-10

20-35 feet

S

R

E Su, NB, G
Phyllostachys vivax Smooth-Sheathed or Chinese Timber Bamboo

6-10

40-70 feet

M-VL

(up to 5 inches)

R

E Au, G
Pleioblastus hindsii Unnamed

7-11

6-15 feet

S

R

G ST, flutes
Pleioblastus simonii Simon Bamboo

7-10

10-20 feet

S

R

Su, E Au Edible Seeds
Pseudosasa japonica Arrow Bamboo or Yadake

7-10

15-18 feet

S

R

Su, E Au, NB, G WT, MT
Qiongzhuea tumidissinoda Walking Stick Bamboo

7-10

15-18 feet

S (large nodes)

R

G Popular for walking sticks
Semiarundinaria fastuosa Narihira or Temple Bamboo

6-10

25-35 feet

S

R

E Au ST
Thamnocalamus tessellatus Unnamed

7-10

12-16 feet

S

C

PHH, MT
Yushania anceps Anceps Bamboo

7-9

10-15 feet

S

C/R

Su, E Au, NB, G PHH, EC, ST
Yushania anceps ‘Pitt White’ Pitt White Bamboo

7-9

15-20 feet

S

C/R

Su, NB, G PHH, EC, ST
Yushania maculata Maculata Bamboo

7-9

10-12

S

C

Su, E Au, NB, G PHH, EC
Yushania maling Maling Bamboo

7-9

10-25 feet

S-M

C

PHH, EC
DIAMETER:  

S = Small (0.4-2 inches/1-5 cm)

M= Medium (2-2.75 inches/5-7 cm)

L = Large (2.75-4 inches/7-10 cm)

VL = Very Large (4+ inches/10+ cm) 

TYPE:  

C = Clumping

R = Running

C/R = some Bamboo can have either Clumping or Running forms

SHOOTS:  

Sp = Spring

E Sp = Early Spring

M Sp = Mid Spring

L Sp = Late Spring

Su = Summer

E Au = Early Autumn

G = Good tasting

VG = Very Good tasting

NOTES:  

FS = Fast Spreading

EC = known for Erosion Control

WT = known for being very Wind Tolerant

PHH = does Poorly in high Heat and high Humid conditions (like the southeast U.S.)

ST = known for being Shade Tolerant

WS = can grow in very Wet Soils and can stand occasional flooding

MT = Maritime Tolerant

 

'Pitt White' Bamboo is a popular clumping ornamental. Yushania anceps 'Pitt White'

‘Pitt White’ Bamboo is a popular clumping ornamental.
Yushania anceps ‘Pitt White’

 

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Photo References:

  • http://www.bambooweb.info/resize_image3.php?photowidth=600&image=http://i832.photobucket.com/albums/zz246/stevelau1911/Daves%20garden/DSC02565.jpg?t=1356023427
  • http://www.bamboogarden.com/Wolfgang%20Moso.JPG
  • http://www.bambooweb.info/resize_image3.php?photowidth=600&image=http://i832.photobucket.com/albums/zz246/stevelau1911/Daves%20garden/DSC02780.jpg?t=1356026458
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Phyllostachys_bambusoides_%27Violascens%27_-_Bambus.JPG
  • http://www.whyy.org/91FM/ybyg/images/vivax_culm.jpg
  • http://www.shweeashbamboo.com/Q.-tumidissinoda7s.jpg
  • http://www.bamboogarden.com/images/Y.brevi.11-05.jpg
  • http://www.shweeashbamboo.com/P.nigra6s.jpg
  • http://www.shweeashbamboo.com/F.robusta.rootmass4s.jpg
  • http://www.bamboogarden.com/Barrier-installation5.jpg
  • http://tokyobling.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/bamboo_shoot_wild.jpg
  • http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3413/3518596075_382c8be704_o.jpg
  • http://www.bonzabamboo.com.au/images/shoot_harvest/shoot1.jpg
  • http://illmakeitmyself.brianhuneke.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/img_12292.jpg
  • http://www.bamboogarden.com/shoot-harvest2.jpg
  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-B7oh9GhKshQ/UZKpZFJlekI/AAAAAAAAFAo/BqN2juwrTcM/s1600/IMG_9772.jpg
  • http://www.bamboogarden.com/pruning-trench2.jpg

 

Permaculture Plants: Osage Orange

Common Name: Osage Orange, Hedge Apple, Horse Apple, Monkey Ball, Bodark, Bodock, Bowwood, and many more!
Scientific Name: Maclura pomifera
Family: Moraceae (the Mulberry or Fig family)

Most people see Osage Orange as a tree with heavy fruit drop that makes a mess.

Most people see Osage Orange as a tree with heavy fruit drop that makes a mess.

Description:
I love to read about plants that most people think are useless. Osage Orange is on the list of trees that many people see no need to have around. They have thorns, inedible fruit, and wood too hard to nail. But these thorny trees make a great livestock hedge, and the wood is perfect for fence posts and has the highest BTUs of any fuel wood in North America. The fruit has little to offer, but some swear it is a natural insect repellant and will keep a “hedge apple” under each bed in the house and in the basement. Osage Orange trees are fantastic windbreaks, are drought and flood tolerant, and provide shelter for nesting birds. This is probably not a tree for a small forest garden, but it is an ideal tree for a larger location especially if you want livestock hedgerows and a great fuel wood. I’ll keep this useless tree, thank you very much!

Maclura pomifera

Maclura pomifera

History:
Native to the Red River drainage of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas in the United States, Osage Orange was widely spread through the United States and Canada in the 1930-40’s as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Great Plains Shelterbelt” project to combat the erosion and drought resulting in the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. It can now be found in all 48 states on the contiguous United States.

Osage Orange was a traditional, and very effective, living hedge for livestock.

Osage Orange was a traditional, and very effective, living hedge for livestock.

Trivia:

  • Osage Orange are not related to oranges, but the fruit does have a citrus-like fragrance.
  • The word “Osage” is in reference to the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe that originated in the Ohio River Valley but migrated west to the northern border of this tree’s natural range (Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma). It was told to Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) that the people of the Osage Nation “so much … esteem the wood of this tree for the purpose of making their bows, that they travel many hundreds of miles in quest of it.”
  • Another name for the Osage Orange is bois d’arc which is French for “wood of the bow”.
  • The other names for Osage Orange are Bodark and Bodock, which are likely corruptions of the French name.
  • Osage Orange wood rivals yew for the top bow wood in the world. At one point, a good Osage Orange bow was equal in value to a horse and a blanket.
  • Osage Orange wood is very hard and dense – great for tool handles, crafts, furniture, etc. It needs to be pre-drilled before screwed. Nailing is almost impossible.
  • Osage Orange resists rotting and insects – similar to cedar and black locust. An ideal wood for posts.
  • The new stems on young trees have notable thorns. Osage Orange was used as living hedges before the invention of barbed wire. When grown closely together and pruned, these hedges were considered “bull strong, hog tight, and horse high”.
  • Osage Orange is dioecious (have male and female plants), but the female plant (pistillate) will still produce fruit without pollination… it just lacks seeds! The trees take about 10 years to mature, and it is not really possible to determine gender of the tree before then (i.e. before flowering and fruiting).
  • It is odd that such a large fruit is not a regular food source for animals. The seeds are extracted by rodents, but not much else. It is believed that the fruit of Osage Orange was a food source, maybe a prime food source, for giant sloths and mammoths of the Pleistocene (which ended about 12,000 years ago).
  • The fruit is considered an aggregate fruit (like its relative the mulberry) composed of many one-seeded drupes.
  • It is said that the fruit has a natural pest-repelling ability, but the proof of this is hard to verify. It is most commonly reported to repel cockroaches. I have a strong dislike of cockroaches, even if I see their role in the environment, so my home will have Osage Orange fruits for sure!
Osage Orange wood may be the best wood in North America for fuel.

Osage Orange wood may be the best wood in North America for fuel.

Osage Orange bows rival yew as the best in the world.

Osage Orange bows rival yew as the best in the world.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Windbreak – historically, this was its claim to fame, and its reason for spread over the continent
  • Edible Seeds – reportedly tasts like raw sunflower seeds. Can be eated raw or roasted. They are difficult to obtain. The fruit is not edible.

Secondary Uses:

  • Hedge – can be grown closely together to make a living hedge impenetrable by livestock (see Trivia above). When grown as a hedge, plant them no more than 4-5 feet apart. They can always be thinned later if needed. When grown this close together, the trees will grow more like tall shrubs, typically not growing taller than 20 feet (6 meters).
  • Wildlife Shelter – cover and nesting sites for small mammals and birds.
  • Wildlife Food Source – squirrels love the seeds! Not many other animals eat this fruit.
  • Drought tolerant once established
  • Maritime tolerant – can tolerate conditions near oceans or large salt-water bodies
  • Flood tolerant – this tree can withstand occasional flooding (this makes sense as it originates in the floodplain of the Red River floodpains.
  • Wood – posts, crafts, furniture, tool handles, archery bows (Osage Orange is not typically harvested for lumber considering that it can be small, knotty, and crooked).
  • Fuel – Osage Orange is fast growing and its wood has the highest BTU content of any North American wood (wood that is commonly available, that is). It is very dense, so it burns long and hot – like anthacite coal. It weighs 4,700-4,800+ lbs (2,130-2,175 kg) per cord and produces 30-32+ million BTU (British Thermal Units) per cord. Amazing! Note that it does spark (like Black Locust) and needs to be in a closed stove or enclosed fireplace if used indoors. It also does not light easily, and works best on a fire that has an established bed of coals.
  • Coppice Plant – at least one good source states that Osage Orange “sprouts vigorously from the stump”.
  • Pollution tolerant – Osage Orange can tolerate poor quality air, soil, and water in urban areas.
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land
  • Ornamental Plant – there are a number of thornless male cultivars sold as an ornamental

Yield: Not applicable.
Harvesting: Not applicable.
Storage: Not applicable.

Typical form of Osage Orange.

Typical form of Osage Orange.

...but Osage Orange can grow into a lot of crooked shapes.

…but Osage Orange can grow into a lot of crooked shapes.

...and can sometimes be fairly tall.

…and can sometimes be fairly tall.

Osage Orange will turn yellow in Autumn, but not always this vibrant.

Osage Orange will turn yellow in Autumn, but not always this vibrant.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 4-10
AHS Heat Zone: Zone 10-1
Chill Requirement: Possible, but no reliable information is available, and as this is not a typical food plant, this is not as important.

Plant Type: Large Shrub to Small/Medium-Sized Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer, Sub-Canopy Layer, Shrub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a few cultivars that have been developed, mainly for ornamental use.

Pollination: Osage Orange is dioecious – meaning that there are male and female plants. Typically, one pale will pollinate up to eight females for fruit production (if that is desired). Pollinated by the wind.
Flowering: Late Spring to early Summer.

Life Span:
No good information available, but there are a number of trees in North America that are between 200-300 years old.

Osage Orange flowers: male on top and female on bottom (from two different trees!)

Osage Orange flowers: male on top and female on bottom (from two different trees!)

Very hard and sharp thorns grow on young wood.

Very hard and sharp thorns grow on young wood.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 40-60 feet (12-18 meters) feet tall and up to 40 feet (12 meters) wide, 1-2 feet (30-60 centimeter) trunk diameter
Roots: Taproot is most typical. One specimen had roots more than 27 feet (8.2 meters) deep! If grown in shallow soils, the roots can spread laterally. The lateral roots can grow at or above the soil surface. There are multiple sources that state Osage Orange can be transplanted easily, and to me this implies that the taproot establishes itself a bit later as most trees with taproots do not tolerate transplanting well.
Growth Rate: Medium-Fast

The fruit contains edible, but not very good, seeds.

The fruit contains edible, but not very good, seeds.

The fruit is actually a congregate fruit containing many druplets.

The fruit is actually an aggregate fruit composed of many one-seeded drupes.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates little shade
Moisture: Dry to wet soils.
pH: 4.5-??? (tolerates a very wide range of soil conditions)

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Osage Orange prefers moist soils, but it will grow in just about any condition.
  • It is likely that Osage Orange is tolerant of juglone (a natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives), so consider growing Osage Orange as a buffer between your Black Walnut and other plantings.

Propagation:
Fairly easy from seed… if you can get the seed! Most people soak the whole fruit in a bucket of water until it gets mushy. The seeds can be separated out of the fruit much easier then. The seeds can be sown immediately or stored for up to 3 years. Pre-soaking stored seeds for 48 hours in warm water and 6-8 weeks of cold stratification may help germination – this mimics the natural wet and cold Winter. Can also be propagated via cuttings of new growth in Summer and old growth or roots in Winter (when dormant). Osage Orange can be propagated via layering as well.

Maintenance:
Minimal. Regular pruning if desired, but Osage Orange is virtually pest and disease free.

Concerns:

  • The large fruit which are not consumed by most animals can make a large mess
  • While many people have claimed that Osage Orange fruits are poisonous and have killed their livestock, numerous studies have shown this to be false. However, there have been a number of cases where cattle or horses have choked to death on the large fruit.
  • This plant has thorns! This can be used to our advantage, but this needs to be kept in mind when planting this tree.
  • There have been a few reports of people having allergic-type skin reactions to the milky sap in the stems and fruit.
  • Dispursive – Osage Orange can grow well from seed and can spread easily.

 

 

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Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Osage_orange_1.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/72/Lasdon_Arboretum_-_Maclura_pomifera_-_IMG_1420.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Frutto_sconosciuto_forse_Maclura_pomifera_1.JPG
  • http://newfs.s3.amazonaws.com/taxon-images-1000s1000/Moraceae/maclura-pomifera-fr-sbaskauf-c.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Nantes_GrandBlottereau_Maclura_pomifera.jpg
  • http://botanicalillustrations.org/ILLUSTRATIONS_thumbnails/63583.jpg
  • http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/Uploads/asset_files/000/012/719/winterthur_horse_jumps.JPG
  • http://www.cirrusimage.com/Trees/Moraceae/Cudrania_tricuspidata_3.jpg
  • http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/biohires/m/hmapo–flmale-female22385.jpg
  • http://hedgerowselfbows.webs.com/osagebows.jpg
  • http://redhawk55.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/bxplo-tools-2-5-2013.jpg
  • http://www.winburn.com/Images/OsageOrangeLogs.jpg
  • http://www.baltimorebrew.com/content/uploads/2012/11/sandy-osage-druid-monument.jpg
  • http://simplestylenyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/DSC00822.jpg
  • http://pbio209.pbworks.com/f/1205107623/crown.jpg

 

Permaculture Plants: Black Locust

Common Name: Black Locust, False Acacia
Scientific Name: Robinia pseudoacacia
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume, Pea, or Bean family)

Black Locust trees during the seasons.

Black Locust trees during the seasons.

Description:
Black Locust is native to the southeastern United States, and is a great overstory tree as it allows a lot of light through to the understory. Black Locust is a prized as a timber tree, firewood tree, and honey plant (bees love them!). It is also well-known for fixing nitrogen into the soil. Black Locust is one of the most useful and ideal trees for a Temperate Climate farm or homestead.

Robinia pseudoacacia

Robinia pseudoacacia

History:
Native to eastern North America it has been widely planted around the world and, despite its many benefits, is considered an invasive species in many locations. It is one of the world’s leading timber trees (just not in the U.S.). It remains a prime source of nectar for honeybees as well, especially in Europe.

Trivia:

  • Black Locust heartwood is very rot resistant – fence posts can last for 70-100 years in the ground without rotting!
  • Prime honey plant in Eastern Europe
  • Black Locust is one of the most widely grown timber trees in the world. The wood is strong and heavy. Said to be like oak.
  • The reason for the rot resistance is the presence of tyloses and extractives in the wood. Tyloses are bulges of plant tissue that make the wood water tight. Extractives are compounds found outside the cell wall of certain plants that can impart water resistance, and have antifungal properties.
Black Locust is famous as a very long-lasting post wood.

Black Locust is famous as a very long-lasting post wood.

The flowers are edible and can be made into fritters!

The flowers are edible and can be made into fritters!

Black Locust Fritter Recipe

A number of Black Locust recipes from 3 Foragers

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Wood – fuelwood. Black Locust is fast growing, very hot burning, and very slow burning firewood – reported to be similar to anthracite coal. It can also burn when not seasoned well (i.e. still wet). Keep in mind that Black Locust wood can “spit” coals when burned, due to knots and beetle damage, so it is best to use young wood (with less beetle damage) in an open fireplace or use older wood in closed fireplaces and stoves.
  • Wood – stakes, poles, posts, ship building, boxes, crates, pegs, etc. (highly rot and water resistant!)
  • Wood – high quality, very hard timber (comparable to oak)
  • Edible Flowers – cooked. Used in fritters (flowers are battered and fried), pancakes, and floral jams. Can also be steeped to make tea or wine.
  • Nitrogen Fixing Plant – this plant creates its own nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with microorganisms (bacteria) in its roots. It typically produces an excess of nitrogen that can be used by neighboring plants. This is a leguminous plant; Black Locust inoculation group.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Dynamic Accumulator – Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land
  • Drought Tolerant – once established
  • Coppice or Pollard Plant – Black Locust coppices well, but suckers more freely when it is coppiced. Frequency of coppicing varies on desired diameter of wood and local climate conditions
  • Biomass Plant – very fast growing plant can produce large amounts of organic matter in a short time.
  • Erosion Control Species – the fibrous root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion, especially on banks
  • Wildlife Shelter Plant – mainly birds and small mammals
  • Hummingbird Plant – this plant has nectar that attracts Hummingbirds
  • Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on this plant’s leaves.
  • Parasitoid Wasps prefer to rest and hide in/on this plant.
  • Fodder/Forage Plant – leaves contain 23-24% protein and is comparable to alfalfa. Used in Korea, Bulgaria, Nepal, and India for cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, etc.. There exists some controversy on this topic. Many people feed Black Locust to their livestock with no issues. Other avoid it due to reports of toxicity. I really am not sure where the truth lies, but I lean toward it being an ancillary forage. Most likely, if the animals have access to mixed forage, Black Locust should cause no problems. However, it is universally considered toxic to horses.
Black Locust coppices well.

Black Locust coppices well…

and grows fast!

…and grows fast!

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 3-9
AHS Heat Zone: 9-3
Chill Requirement: not applicable

Plant Type: Large Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available.

Pollination: Self-fertile. Pollinated by bees.
Flowering: Spring to Summer (April-June)

Life Span:

  • Years of Useful Life: No good information available; however, one reference stated Black Locust can live to 200 years of age. Considering that the tree is typically harvested for wood well before it reaches its maximum lifespan, this information may not be that important.
Black Locust trees blooming are beautiful...

Black Locust trees blooming are beautiful…

...and they are bee magnets!

…and they are bee magnets!

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 50-80 feet (15-24 meters) tall and 35-50 feet (11-15 meters) wide with trunk diameter of 30 inches (80 centimeters); however, Black Locusts have been known to grow to 170 feet (52 meters) tall with diameter of 5 feet (1.6 meters)!
Roots: Fibrous with suckers (sends up new plants from underground runners)
Growth Rate: Fast

Deeply furrowed wood is classic.

Deeply furrowed wood is common.

Black Locust comes with its own protection!

Black Locust comes with its own protection!

The classic leaves and pods of all legumes.

The classic leaves and pods of all legumes.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Grows well in dry to moderate moisture soils.
pH: 5.1-8.5 (tolerates a wide range of soil conditions)

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Black Locust are one of the few plants that tolerate juglone, a chemical produced by black walnuts that can poison other plants, so consider using these trees as a buffer plant between your black walnuts and your other forest garden plants.
  • Black Locust leaves are small and allow a lot of light through to the understory plantings. Consider growing sub-canopy and shrubs here that need more nitrogen and are less shade tolerant.
  • The Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae) is a beetle which is native to the southeastern U.S. where the Black Locust originates. The larvae riddle the trunk and branches with tunnels making the wood unfit for timber, and this pest was responsible for reducing the Black Locust’s significance as a commercial timber tree in the United States. Black Locust will grow well for many years, but rarely get large enough for timber due to this pest’s activity. Maintaining healthy, vigorous trees and promoting Locust Borer predators seem to significantly minimize borer damage, but this is uncommon. Insecticides seem to be the first choice and recommendation for dealing with Locust Borers. I am planning on living in Tennessee, right in the middle of Black Locust and Locust Borer territory. I am curious if an integrative farm, especially one that purposely attracts beneficial insects and birds (including Wheel Bugs (Arilus cristatus), Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), and Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) which prey on these larvae), would have better success in producing timber-quality trees. We will see…

Propagation:
Easily from seed (not dormant, but may have increased germination rates if cold stratified for a few weeks). Scarification is recommended – 48 hours in warm water. Suckers can be divided while the plant is dormant. Also easily propagated from root cuttings.

Maintenance:
Will need to manage suckers, especially if the Black Locust is being coppiced.

Concerns:

  • Expansive – Black Locust can form a thicket from shoots arising from rootss
  • Dispersive – Black Locust seeds spread easily.
  • Thorny – Not as thorny as the Honey Locust (a distant relative)
  • Branches can be brittle and easily broken in strong winds.
  • Poisonous – Reports exist that bark, leaves, seeds can cause vomiting and diarrhea. There are some reports that the seeds and seedpods are edible, but there is too much conflicting information (and much better food sources) to experiment. Black Locust is poisonous to horses.
  • Allelopathic – Black Locust may release chemicals into the surrounding soil that inhibit the growth of other plants. Not a lot of information is available on this topic.
Black Locust... a beautiful tree...

Black Locust… a beautiful tree…

...with so many functions!

…with so many functions!

 

Here’s a video by Paul Wheaton (from Permies.com):

 

 

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Photo References:

  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-MSNtHkCB6_I/UZn8UchZCGI/AAAAAAAADMo/bvBh4ndWYNo/s1600/acacia5edit.jpg
  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-gHt2ukMRNpk/UaScKRNi3OI/AAAAAAAAAfs/C7oXa8uCMi4/s1600/black+locust+under+tree.jpg
  • http://plantillustrations.org/ILLUSTRATIONS_HD/87471.jpg
  • http://plantillustrations.org/ILLUSTRATIONS_HD/82587.jpg
  • http://plantillustrations.org/ILLUSTRATIONS_HD/71304.jpg
  • http://faculty.etsu.edu/mcdowelt/Pictures%20Use/Robinia%20pseudo-acacia.JPG
  • http://www.portraitoftheearth.com/trees/black%20locust/P1110288.JPG
  • http://cdn.plantlust.com/media/photos/26934_20111120T211910_0_jpg_1024x1024_q85.jpg
  • http://thestreettree.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/p1030786_r1sm.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Robinia_pseudoacacia_’Frisia’.jpg
  • http://treeplantflowerid.com/documents/Black_Locust_leaf_Seeds.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Robinia_Pseudoacacia_flower.JPG
  • http://ablacklocustconnection.com/fence_images/DSC09446yard.jpg
  • http://ablacklocustconnection.com/fence_images/9461compfence.jpg
  • http://ablacklocustconnection.com/arbor_images/arbor-new03.jpg
  • http://www.foodforestfoods.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/coppice.jpg
  • http://m5.i.pbase.com/g1/26/411626/2/97825125.dnOG5Tiq.jpg

Permaculture Plants: Pine Trees for Pine Nuts

Common Name: Pine Tree, Pinion, Piñon, Pinyon, Stone Pine, Nut Pine
Scientific Name: Pinus species
Family: Pinaceae (the Pine family)

Colorado Pinyon - young

Colorado Pinyon – young

Colorado Pinyon - mature

Colorado Pinyon – mature

Common Species: there are about 115 Pine species, but only about 20 of them are useful for nut production. I have 16 of them listed below, and the most important Nut Pines (largest nuts, highest producers, easily found for planting, etc.) are in bold:

  • Chinese White Pine (Pinus armandii) – Asia
  • Lacebark Pine (Pinus bungeana) – Asia
  • Swiss Pine (Pinus cembra)
  • Mexican Pinyon, Mexican Pine Nut, Mexican Stone Pine (Pinus cembroides)
  • Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri)
  • Colorado Pinion/Pinyon/Piñon, Rocky Mountain Piñon (Pinus edulis)
  • Chilgoza Pine (Pinus gerardiana) – Asia (western Himalayas)
  • Korean Nut Pine, Chinese Nut Pine (Pinus koraiensis)
  • Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana) – North America
  • Single-leaf Pinyon (Pinus monophylla) – North America
  • Italian Stone Pine, Umbrella Pine, Parasol Pine (Pinus pinea)
  • Siberian Dwarf Pine (Pinus pumila) – Asia
  • Parry Pinyon (Pinus quadrifolia) – North America
  • Gray Pine (Pinus sabineana) – North America
  • Siberian Pine (Pinus sibirica) – Asia
  • Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana) – North America
These tasty little seeds are not easy to obtain, but they are worth it!

These tasty little seeds are not easy to obtain, but they are worth it!

Description:
Pine nuts are one of my favorite foods. I love to use them when I cook Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes. They also happen to be very expensive, so growing our own makes a lot of sense (cents!). While all Pine trees produce edible seed, most of the nuts are so small, they are not worth the trouble. There are about 20 species of Pine that produce nuts large enough, and in enough quantity, to be considered a good food source. I am going to give specific information about the top four nut producing Pines. As it turns out, these trees have many other functions, including being drought resistant, a windbreak,  and wood source to name a few. A very nice Permaculture plant.

Pinus koriensis and Pinus edulis

Pinus koraiensis and Pinus edulis

History:
Native and widespread across the Northern Hemisphere from the subtropical through temperate regions. Pines have been introduced all over the world. They have been used for wood, medicine, and food by native peoples wherever Pines are found. In modern times, Pine trees are among the most important commercial trees in the world.

Trivia:

  • Pine Nuts contain 10-15% protein, 50-60% fat, and 15-20% carbohydrate.
  • The nut takes 18-36 months to mature.
Pine nuts (in shells) from female cones.

Pine nuts (in shells) from female cones.

Unshelled and shelled pine nuts.

Unshelled and shelled pine nuts.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Nuts – raw or cooked. Considered a delicacy throughout the world!
  • Nut Butter
  • Flour – Seeds can be dried and ground into a flour; best when mixed with cereal flours.
  • Edible Cones – young, very small cones can be cooked and ground into a powder to be used as a flavoring or flour adjunct. If the cone is large enough the center can be eaten after cooking.
  • Edible Inner Bark – cooked. Can be cut into strips like spagheti. Can also be dried and ground into a powder/flour and mixed with grain flour for baking
  • Wood – fuel, posts, fencing, carpentry, furniture, etc.

Secondary Uses:

  • Ornamental Plant
  • Windbreak Species – this plant can be used to block, or break the path, of wind.
  • Scaffolding for vines – Pines make great natural scaffolding to vining plants that can grow in the unique soil conditions created by the pine needles. The Pine tree does not bear every year, and the cones are often harvested by hand from the tree, so undergrowth should be tolerated well. Also, since many Pines take a number of years to start producing, a short lived vine can grow on the maturing Pine tree for a few years as needed.
  • Tea Plant – young needles can be steeped in hot water. This tea is high in vitamins A and C.
  • Wildlife shelter – mainly birds and small mammals
  • Wildlife food source – many animals will eat the seeds and fruit, especially birds and small mammals
  • Drought plant – Pines are tolerant of drought once established, due in part to their large taproot
  • Tan/green dye from the needles
  • Source of tar, pitch, rosin, turpentine, etc. I plan on writing an article detailing the production and uses of these products soon.
The female cones (strobili) bear nuts, but both male and female cones are needed for production.

The female cones (strobili) bear the tasty nuts/seed, but both male and female cones are both needed for their production.

Harvesting:
The cones will ripen at various times according to the species (P. pinea ripens in April, P. koraiensis ripens in September, P. edulis and P. cembroides ripen in October). However, ripening times will vary greatly on species and local climate/enviroment.

Pine nuts are ready for harvest about 10 days before the green cones begin to open. The cones are harvested with either long poles (often bamboo), long-handled pruners, or long-handled saws which knock the cones down or by a person who climbs the tree and harvests each cone by hand (the “piñero”). The harvested cones are placed in a bag (burlap is most common) and then exposed to heat (sunlight is most common). In about 20 days, the drying process causes the cone to fully open and the nuts can be extracted, usually by swinging the bag into a hard surface causing the cones to shatter and release the seed. It is possible, but difficult to harvest the seed from the ground after the cone opens on its own. Conversely, animals are very good at harvesting fallen nuts as a food source.

The nuts will need to be shelled after collected from the cone. This can be time consuming if done by hand with a hammer. There are commercial shellers available which are rather expensive. There are also a number of plans for do-it-yourself shellers available online. I have not attempted making or using these, so I cannot speak to their efficacy; however, I hope to do some experiments with them in the future. I will share that information as I get it.

Yield: 10-20 lbs (5-10 kg) is a large crop from an average tree.
Storage: Pine nuts can be stored for many years after dried.

Mexican Pine Tree

Mexican Pinyon – young

Mexican Pinyon - old

Mexican Pinyon – old

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone:

  • Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides): Zone 5-8
  • Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis): Zone 5-8
  • Korean Nut Pine (Pinus koraiensis): Zone 3-7
  • Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea): Zone 7-11

AHS Heat Zone:

  • Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides): Zone 9-1
  • Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis): Zone 8-5
  • Korean Nut Pine (Pinus koraiensis): Zone 7-1
  • Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea): Zone 12-9

Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Medium to Large Tree
Leaf Type: Evergreen
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a many species and cultivars available

Pollination: Most species are not self-fertile (they need to be fertilized from another tree), and most are monoecious. Pines typically have male and female flowers on the same tree. Pollinated by the wind.
Flowering: Typically in the Summer months

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Bearing: 15-40 years (Korean Pine); 25-75 years (Colorado Pine). However, this really applies to the wild varieties. There are varieties of nut pines that start producing in 5-10 years (precocious varieties) that are starting to become more widely available.
  • Years Between Major Crops: 2-7 years. Many trees have “bumper” years when the conditions are perfect for nut production, and there can be a number of low production years in between large harvests.
  • Years of Useful Life: In general, Pine trees are long-lived trees. An Italian Stone Pine tree lives to be about 100 years old. A Mexican Pine Nut tree is just reaching maturity at 250-350 years. Many pines can live to well over 1,000 years of age.
Stone Pine Tree - young

Italian Stone Pine Tree – young

Italian Stone Pine Tree - middle aged (starting to lose the lower branches).

Italian Stone Pine Tree – middle-aged, starting to lose the lower branches.

Italian Stone Pine Tree - mature, with its classic umbrella shape.

Italian Stone Pine Tree – mature, with its classic umbrella shape.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size:

  • Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides): 26-66 feet (8-20 meters) tall and 15-25 feet (4.5-7.5 meters) wide with a 20 inch (50 centimeter) trunk diameter
  • Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis): 33-66 feet (10-20 meters) tall with a 31 inch (80 centimeter) trunk diameter
  • Korean Nut Pine (Pinus koraiensis): 130-160 feet (40-50 meters) tall with a 4.9-6.6 feet (1.5-2 meter) trunk diameter
  • Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea): 39-82 feet (12-25 meters) tall and 26 feet (8 meters) wide

Roots: Most species have taproots. Some are more fibrous than others.
Growth Rate: Very slow to medium growth rate

Korean Pine - young

Korean Nut Pine – young

Korean Nut Pine - mature

Korean Nut Pine – middle-aged

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Does not tolerate shade
Moisture:

  • Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides) – Prefers dry to moist soils
  • Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis) – Prefers rather dry soils, but tolerates moist soils
  • Korean Nut Pine (Pinus koraiensis) – Prefers dry to moist soils
  • Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea) – Prefers moist soils, but tolerates very dry soils once established

pH:

  • Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides): 5.1-7.0
  • Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis): 6.1-7.0
  • Korean Nut Pine (Pinus koraiensis): 5.1-7.0
  • Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea): 5.1-7.5

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Pine roots really need to establish a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi to grow well. Innoculation is stronly recommended. This can be as simple as obtaining some soil from an established pine forest and mixing this into the compost in the hole the seedling is placed. There are places that sell specific innoculant for specific species of pines.
  • High elevation is considered a benefit for pine nut production as most Pine Nut trees are found between an elevation of 6,000-8,500 feet (1,800-2,600 meters) above sea level. It is thought that the higher elevation moderates ambient air moisture and maintains stable humidity. It appears that nut production can still be high at lower elevations if the tree has reatively constant through the Spring and Summer.

Propagation:
Typically from seed – 4-12 weeks of cold stratification improves germination rates. Due to their taproots, most pines are best planted into their permanent position as soon as possible (no more than 3 feet/90 centimeters). Some species can be propagate through cuttings.

Maintenance: Minimal.

Concerns:

  • Terpene is a chemical released from the needles during rain. This has an allelopathic effect; it inhibits the growth of some other plants.
  • “Pine Nut Syndrome” or “Pine Mouth” is a phenomenon where a person who eats pine nuts will develop a metallic taste in their mouth for a few days to a few weeks. This goes away on its own and has no lasting or harmful effects. No one is sure why this occurs, but it has been seem almost exclusively in Asian pine nuts. Some researchers believe it is due to only Asian pine nuts. Some believe it only occurs with nuts from a certain species, Pinus armandii. Others believe it has to do with the chemicals used in the shelling process in Asia. No one is really sure right now.

 

 

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Photo References:

  • http://www.seedguides.info/pine-nuts/pine-nuts.jpg
  • http://www.trackways.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/extracted-pine-nuts-2.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94/Pinyon_cones_with_pine_nuts.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b7/KoreanPineSeeds.jpg
  • http://www.nps.gov/colm/naturescience/images/Pinyon-Pine.JPG
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Pinus_cembroides_Chisos_1.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/Pinus_cembroides_Big_Bend_Nat_Park.jpg
  • http://www.wnmu.edu/academic/nspages/gilaflora../p_edulis.jpg
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Eg50IU7ArGQ/TNMAxNMzdAI/AAAAAAAAALs/auIUUYsBU-4/s1600/Pinyon+Pine,+Pinus+edulis+-+Summer.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/Pinus_koraiensis,_Mount_Auburn_Cemetery.JPG
  • http://i670.photobucket.com/albums/vv64/Glabra/Chub%20Harper%20Conifers/ACSPhotoDonations2010Pinuskoraie-1.jpg
  • http://www.google.com/imgres?q=Pinus+pinea&start=114&safe=off&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1073&bih=1131&tbs=isz:l&tbm=isch&tbnid=6nqgAYziF8XQXM:&imgrefurl=http://www.bigtreesnursery.com/photos/species/17&docid=Tqiqe5KIK2hcMM&imgurl=http://www.bigtreesnursery.com/images/trees/VV-696inpineavv-61.jpg&w=1200&h=1600&ei=Rv6DUtOhJKqA7QbkioDIBA&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:15,s:100,i:49&iact=rc&page=5&tbnh=199&tbnw=134&ndsp=30&tx=51&ty=83
  • http://www.google.com/imgres?q=Pinus+pinea&safe=off&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1073&bih=1131&tbs=isz:l&tbm=isch&tbnid=qyjHFfVeN-qviM:&imgrefurl=http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_pinea&docid=-WkQgH-hk7EE-M&imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2e/Pinus_pinea_Bayonne.jpg&w=960&h=1280&ei=Hf6DUvTVPK3y7Ab6ooD4CA&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:1,s:0,i:92&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=177&tbnw=136&start=0&ndsp=25&tx=76&ty=73
  • http://www.google.com/imgres?q=Pinus+pinea&safe=off&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1073&bih=1131&tbs=isz:l&tbm=isch&tbnid=xk2lJUlV9cfe-M:&imgrefurl=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinus_pinea_Wellington_Botanic_Gardens.jpg&docid=_oLR5nH6zgyRkM&imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Pinus_pinea_Wellington_Botanic_Gardens.jpg&w=3872&h=2592&ei=Hf6DUvTVPK3y7Ab6ooD4CA&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:14,s:0,i:131&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=174&tbnw=218&start=0&ndsp=25&tx=119&ty=84
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/Pinus_koraiensis_Pinus_parviflora_SZ116.png
  • http://www.google.com/imgres?q=Pinus+edulis+illustration&safe=off&client=safari&rls=en&biw=1073&bih=1131&tbs=isz:l&tbm=isch&tbnid=EltVPbVe8FIDaM:&imgrefurl=http://www.plantillustrations.org/illustration.php%3Fid_illustration%3D95528&docid=XqpKyZOtErWUeM&itg=1&imgurl=http://www.plantillustrations.org/ILLUSTRATIONS_HD/95528.jpg&w=765&h=1080&ei=L_-DUoy8H8OJ7AbW-IDADQ&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:9,s:0,i:107&iact=rc&page=1&tbnh=188&tbnw=126&start=0&ndsp=24&tx=43&ty=75
  • http://www.bio.miami.edu/dana/pix/pine_strobili.jpg

Permaculture Plants: Willow

Common Name: Willows, Sallows, Osiers
Scientific Name: Salix species
Family: Salicaceae (the Willow family)

Selected Species (there are over 400 species!):

  • White Willow (Salix alba)
  • Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)
  • Beaked Willow (Salix bebbiana)
  • Goat Willow (Salix caprea)
  • Coastal Plain or Carolina Willow (Salix caroliniana)
  • American or Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
  • Gray Willow (Salix glauca)
  • Western Black or Goodding’s Willow (Salix gooddingii)
  • Pacific Willow (Salix lucida)
  • Yellow Willow (Salix lutea)
  • Chinese Willow (includes Corkscrew Willow) (Salix matsudana)
  • Black Willow (Salix nigra)
  • Laurel or Bay Willow (Salix pentandra)
  • Purple Osier or Purple Willow (Salix purpurea)
  • Common Osier or Basket Willow (Salix viminalis)
Willows can be shrubs or trees.

Willows can be shrubs or trees.
Salix nigra

Description:
There are over 400 species in the Salix genus that are commonly known as Willow or Osier. These are beautiful shrubs and trees that can be used to make baskets, crafts, fences, houses, tools, paper, string, charcoal, and medicine. It can be used to bioremediate soil and wetlands, control erosion, block the wind, and Willows can be coppiced over and over again. Willows are some of the most beneficial plants that can be used in Forest Gardening and Permaculture designs.

Willow04

Goat Willow (Salix caprea) on left & Common Osier or Basket Willow (Salix viminalis) on right

History:
The Willows are native to temperate and cold climates around the northern hemisphere and have been used for thousands of years for medicine, crafts, and building materials. Willows have been introduced all over the world and continues to be important plants.

Trivia:

  • Willow has been used for treating fever and pain from at least 2,000 BC as referenced on Egyptian paparyi. Likely it was used far earlier than that. Hippocrates referenced it in 400 BC. It was not until 1897 that Bayer first started producing Aspirin based on an extraction technique developed by the French chemist Charles Gerhardt.
  • There are a number of dwarf or creeping Willows species found around the world. Many of these plants are very low growing and capable of living in very cold climates… including artctic!
  • Cricket bats are traditionally made from a special variety of White Willow (Salix alba) called ‘Caerulea’.
  • Willow Water – There has been a lot written on using Willow stems/twigs to help root cuttings from other plants. There is some truth to this, but it is not a magic bullet. The reason for this is that Willow contains both salicylic acid and auxins. Salycylic acid reportedly prevents pathogen growth – meaning it will stop fungus and other microorganisms from attacking the cutting. Auxins are a family of plant hormones that stimualte root growth. The research shows that the most success is seen when using 50-100 six-inch new Willow stems or new Willow shoots and soaking them in 1 gallon (3.75 liters) of water for 4-6 weeks. The water is strained and used to soak cuttings from other plants to induce/speed rooting. Cuttings of other plants are placed in a container with the Willow water (like flowers in a vase).
Basketry and crafts are a common use for Willow

Basketry and crafts are a common use for Willow

Harvesting Willow for production.

Harvesting Willow for production.

Here is a great photoessay on Willow from The Guardian.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Branches – Willow branches can be woven for baskets, wicker, wattle, etc.
  • Wood – Willow wood can be used for boxes, brooms, furniture, crafts, tools, etc.
  • Fiber – a fiber from the wood can be used to make paper, string, rope, etc.
  • Ornamental Plant – many species (and varieties) are used around the world as ornamental plants
Willows are commonly used as ornamentals... it is easy to see why.

Willows are commonly used as ornamentals… it is easy to see why.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Coppice Plant – Willows can be coppiced often (as frequently as every 2-5 years). The frequency of coppicing will depend on the size of branch desired and the speed of growth.
  • Charcoal Plant – Willow is used for cooking and art charcoal
  • Erosion Control Species – the extensive root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land
  • Windbreak Species – this plant can be used to block, or break the path, of wind. Martin Crawford recommends using Willow as a windbreak on the eastern side of the property, because it leafs out early in the Spring and loses leaves early in Autumn.
  • Hedgerow Species
  • Bioremediation/Phytoremediation Plant – Willow is used as part of biological filtration systems to clean and purify contaminated water, often as part of a constructed wetland. This can be part of a home gray water system as well.
  • Biomass Plant – very fast growing plant can produce large amounts of organic matter in a short time. This has been used on a commercial level for energy production in Sweden and the U.K.
  • Wildlife Shelter – mainly birds and small mammals
  • Medicinal Plant – Willow has a long history of of medicinal uses, and is the origin of one of the first “modern” medicines, Aspirin
  • Food Plant – the inner bark can be dried, ground into a powder, and mixed with other flours. It is reportedly bitter with a poor flavor and is considered a famine food… but it is food. Young shoots can also be eaten… also a famine food.

Yield: Variable.
Harvesting: Willow branches are typically harvested when the plant is dormant and the leaves have fallen.

Willow has a long history of being coppiced.

Willow has a long history of being coppiced.

This coppiced hedge of Willow is a windbreak as well.

This coppiced hedge of Willow is a windbreak as well.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone:

  • White Willow (Salix alba): Zone 2-9
  • Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica): Zone 5-9
  • Beaked Willow (Salix bebbiana): Zone 3
  • Goat Willow (Salix caprea): Zone 5-9
  • Coastal Plain or Carolina Willow (Salix caroliniana): Zone 7
  • American or Pussy Willow (Salix discolor): Zone 4-8
  • Gray Willow (Salix glauca): Zone – Cool to cold climates
  • Western Black or Goodding’s Willow (Salix gooddingii): Zone 7
  • Pacific Willow (Salix lucida): Zone 2
  • Chinese Willow (includes Corkscrew Willow) (Salix matsudana): Zone 4-9
  • Black Willow (Salix nigra): Zone 4
  • Laurel or Bay Willow (Salix pentandra): Zone 5
  • Purple Osier or Purple Willow (Salix purpurea): Zone 4-7
  • Common Osier or Basket Willow (Salix viminalis): Zone 4

AHS Heat Zone:

  • White Willow (Salix alba): Zone 9-1
  • Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica): Zone 9-1
  • Goat Willow (Salix caprea): Zone 9-5
  • American or Pussy Willow (Salix discolor): Zone 8-2
  • Black Willow (Salix nigra): Zone 9-4 (maybe colder)
  • Purple Osier or Purple Willow (Salix purpurea): Zone 7-1

Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but as this is not really a food plant, so this is not that important for us… and yes, I know that this can be a famine food.

Plant Type: Small Shrub to Large Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer, Sub-Canopy Layer, Shrub Layer, Aquatic/Wetland Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a large number of species and varieties available.

Pollination: Dioecious (there are male and female plants). Pollinated primarily by bees.
Flowering: April-May (as early as January in some climates!)

Life Span:

  • Years of Useful Life: 40-75 years on average. Coppicing will greatly increase the life span. If you have a large planting of Willow, an individual tree’s life span is not that important, because it easily sends up suckers.
Willow 09

Willow has male and female plants, each with their own flower.

Weeping W

Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) on left and Black Willow ((Salix nigra) on right

Willow bark

Willow bark

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size:

  • White Willow (Salix alba): 82-100 feet (25-30 meters) tall and 32 feet (10 meters) wide
  • Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica): 39 feet (12 meters) tall and wide
  • Beaked Willow (Salix bebbiana): 23 feet (7 meters) tall
  • Goat Willow (Salix caprea): 32 feet (10 meters) tall and 26 feet (8 meters) wide
  • Coastal Plain or Carolina Willow (Salix caroliniana): 32 feet (10 meters) tall
  • American or Pussy Willow (Salix discolor): 20 feet (6 meters) tall and 15 feet (4 meters) wide
  • Gray Willow (Salix glauca): 4-20 feet (1.2-6 meters) tall
  • Western Black or Goodding’s Willow (Salix gooddingii): 32 feet (10 meters) tall
  • Pacific Willow (Salix lucida): 26 feet (8 meters) tall
  • Yellow Willow (Salix lutea): 82 feet (25 meters) tall and 32 feet (10 meters) wide
  • Chinese Willow (includes Corkscrew Willow) (Salix matsudana): 60 feet (18 meters) tall
  • Black Willow (Salix nigra): 39 feet (12 meters) tall
  • Laurel or Bay Willow (Salix pentandra): 32 feet (10 meters) tall
  • Purple Osier or Purple Willow (Salix purpurea): 16 feet (5 meters) tall and wide
  • Common Osier or Basket Willow (Salix viminalis): 19 feet (6 meters) tall and 13 feet (4 meters) wide

Roots: Fibrous, extensive on the surface and running deep. Readily sends up suckers.  UPDATE: While I have found a few sources that state Willow roots run deep, this information is in conflict with the “in the field” experience of reputable Permaculturists (like Geoff Lawton) who routinely recommend Willow and Bamboo for planting on dam/pond walls due to these plants having fibrous, stabilizing root systems that do NOT run deep. As you can see in the comments below, I think I will side with Geoff Lawton’s opinion on this.
Growth Rate: Fast

Willow loves the water's edge Black Willow (Salix nigra)

Willow loves the water’s edge and can tolerate periodic flooding with no problem.
Black Willow (Salix nigra)

Willow is one of the first trees to leaf out and flower in the Spring, making one of the main early food sources for bees.

Willow is one of the first trees to leaf out and flower in the Spring, making one of the main early food sources for bees.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates moderate shade
Moisture: Moist to very wet soils. Can tolerate intermitent standing water (flooding) and wetland areas.
pH: 4-7 (tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, but does not really like alkaline soils)

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Willow is fast growing and relatively short-lived.
  • It is recommended to avoid planting Willow too close to a building as the roots may spread and disturb the foundation.
  • Most species have relatively weak wood that is can break in strong winds, although because it is fast growing and forms a lot of branches and leaves quickly, it is still a good windbreak plant.

Propagation:
Most easily grown from cuttings taken at anytime of the year – just stick it in the ground! Very easy. Willow can also be propagated from seed. Willow seed has a short viability life.

Maintenance:
Cutting back suckers to prevent spread is occasionally needed. Browsing animals (deer, goats, etc.) will eat these suckers if allowed.

Concerns:

  • Some people consider Willow invasive due to the suckers it puts up and the ease of producing a new tree from just a single twig that has been buried. This is also what makes it so good for site rehabilitation as a pioneer species.
  • The extensive root system can undermine foundations or underground lines/pipes, so only plant Willow in places that this is not going to be a problem.
A beautiful Willow in Autumn

A beautiful Willow in Autumn

 

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Photo References:

  • http://akoeneny.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/weeping_willow_by_vivastock.jpg
  • http://www.yvts.com/images/willow%201.jpg
  • http://essitolling.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/willow-tree.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Illustration_Salix_caprea0.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Cleaned-Illustration_Salix_viminalis.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/-_Willow’s_Bark_01_-.jpg
  • http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/biohires/s/hsani–brlarge13585.jpg
  • http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/biohires/s/hsaca5-lf33828.jpg
  • http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/biohires/s/hsaba2-lf29624.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/Salix_caprea_Male.jpg
  • http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3626/3381880447_271529e0fa_o.jpg
  • http://www.backyardnature.net/n/09/090316w1.jpg
  • http://www.backyardnature.net/n/09/090316w2.jpg
  • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_8OH0U312vu4/TDNj3EHNnrI/AAAAAAAAB5s/qlyG6cjNqF0/s1600/2010_06_20.jpg
  • http://greghumphries.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/dscf0004.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8a/Bourgoyen_knotted_willow_and_woodpile.jpg
  • http://www.friedmanphoto.com/data/photos/57_1glowing_autumn_willows_1800.jpg

 

 

 

 

Permaculture Plants: European Pear

Common Name: European Pear
Scientific Name: Pyrus communis
Family: Rosaceae (the Rose family)

European Pears are one of the most well known fruits in the world.

European Pears are one of the most well known fruits in the world.

Description:
The European Pear needs almost no description. It is one of the most well known, and loved, tree fruits in the world. While most people are familiar with the two or three (maybe four) varieties the local grocer stocks, there are over 3,000 other varieties in the world which few of us have ever tasted. And few have ever tasted Perry, the pear equivalent of apple cider. Pear trees also attract and feed beneficial insects and have wood that can be used for a variety of purposes. A Forest Garden would be missing something without a few pear trees.

 

Pears10

Pyrus communis
Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

History:
Pears are native to western Europe, across into Asia, and into northern Africa. They were first cultivated in Asia and then in Europe thousands of years ago. Today, they are one of the most important tree fruits in temperate climates.

Trivia:

  • Pears were harvested from the wild long before cultivation.
  • There are over 3,000 known varieties of Pear currently grown around the world!
  • In a 2004 report, 95% of United States Pear production came from just four varieties: 50% were Bartlett (Williams’ Bon Chrétien), 34% were d’Anjou (Beurré d’Anjou), 10% were Bosc (Beurré Bosc), and 1% were Comice (Doyenné du Comice).
  • While most European Pears are harvested underripe, the variety known as ‘Seckel’ (and all Asian Pears) are harvested when fully ripe.

 

Perry (a.k.a. Pear Cider) is a traditional drink that is making a comeback.

Perry (a.k.a. Pear Cider) is a traditional drink that is making a comeback.

Here is a fun article on a Perry producer in Herefordshire, UK.

A Note on Perry:

  • Perry is an alcoholic “Pear Cider” made from pears, like hard cider is made from apples
  • Perry Pears are normally grown on Pear rootstock, and so these trees are quite large. Perry Pears can be grown on Quince rootstock instead, and these trees will be smaller.
  • Perry Pears are not eaten raw, because they are astringent (make your mouth dry like a very “dry” red wine).
  • Many sources claim that Perry Pears are harvested from the ground when they drop from the tree, similar to Cider Apples; however, professional Perry (and Cider) makers will say that the best Perry (and Cider) is made from fruit that is treated well, i.e. not allowed to drop.

 

Rustic Spiced Pear Pie... mmmm!

Rustic Spiced Pear Pie… mmmm!

Recipe for the Pear pie

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Fresh eating – The most well-known varieties are the sweet or dessert pears, and these can be some of the finest fruits in the world!
  • Cooking – While dessert pears can be cooked, there are a large number of cooking pears that are not sweet for fresh eating, but have a great flavor only appreciated after cooking, sometimes for a few hours.
  • Preserved – Preserves, Jams, Jellies, etc. Pears also dehydrate/dry very well, and the dehydrated fruit can be used in many recipes for desserts or just eaten as is.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar and pollen plant
  • Wildlife food
  • Wildlife shelter
  • Primary or adjunt flavor component in beer, wine, cider, perry, mead, liquor, etc. The Perry Pears have been specifically developed for producing Perry!
  • Can be Coppiced. This typically stops fruit production for a few years.
  • Wood – Poles, posts, stakes, tools, crafts, instruments, furniture, etc.
  • Wood – Firewood, charcoal
  • Wood – Smoking/Barbeque: pear wood gives a soft “fruity” smoke to meats, similar to apple wood

Yield: Standard root stock – 2-4 bushels (70-140 liters) or 77-300 lbs (35-136 kg); dwarf root stock – 1 bushel (35 liters) or 56 lbs (25 kg)

Harvesting: Late Summer to Autumn (August-October), but can vary based on variety and location. Pick when fruits slightly change color. Pears are one of the few fruits that are harvested unripe. Pears on the tree will ripen from the inside out, so if they are left on the tree, the interior would be overripe (brown mush) when the outside is ripe. But when harvested underripe, the Pears will ripen equally from the inside and outside at the same time. There is a skill (and learning curve) to knowing when is the best time to harvest Pears.

Storage: Typically, the fruit is stored in a cool, dry place and handled carefully to prevent bruising. Some sources recommend storing early-ripening Pears under refrigeration for a few weeks before allowing the fruit to ripen at cool, room temperatures. Late-ripening Pears can be ripened immediately after harvest. Pears can be stored for longer periods of time at cooler temperatures and then brought out to ripen. Once brought to room temperatures, check the fruit frequently for ripening. Use when ripe.

A Pear arbor is a unique design using this tree.

A Pear arbor is a unique design using this tree.

Placement of Pear trees is important to their health and ease of harvest.

Placement of Pear trees is important to their health and ease of harvest.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9; some varieties into Zone 3
AHS Heat Zone: 9-3
Chill Requirement: 600-1,500 units/hours depending on the variety.

Plant Type: Small Herbaceous Plant
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Underground Layer, Herbaceous Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available for thi

Pollination: European Pears traditionally require cross-pollination, although a few varieties are self-fruitful. This requires two different varieties of European Pear. Some Asian Pears (Pyrus pyrifolia, P. ussuriensis, and P. x bretschneideris) will cross-pollinate European Pears. Because there is such a wide variety of pears and cross-pollination variations, it is best to get cross-pollination information from the nursery or catalog company you are purchasing your pears. Pollinated by insects.
Flowering: Late Spring to early Summer (May-June); susceptible to late frosts

Life Span:
Years to Begin Bearing:
3-10+ years depending on the variety and rootstock
Years of Useful Life: 50-75 years. Dwarfing rootstocks live shorter lives

Beautiful Pear flowers attract beneficial insects.

Beautiful Pear flowers attract beneficial insects.

The common Bradford Pear are mistakenly thought to be a European Pear which was bred to stop bearing fruit. In fact, it is a different species of Pear (Pyrus calleryana) native to China and Vietnam.

The Bradford Pear is often mistakenly thought to be a European Pear which was bred to stop bearing fruit. In fact, it is a different species of Pear (Pyrus calleryana) native to China and Vietnam, and its fruit is only about a centimeter in diameter… birds love them!

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: The size of the Pear tree is based on the rootstock used as almost all Pear trees are grafted. There are a number of rootstocks available, and these differ in various parts of the world. The sizes, in general, are as follows:

  • Minidwarf: 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters) tall and wide
  • Dwarf: 8-15 feet (2.4-4.5 meters) tall and 10-15 feet (3-4.5 meters) wide
  • Semidwarf: 15-20 feet (4.5-6 meters) tall and wide
  • Standard: 25-40 feet (7.6-12 meters) tall and 25 feet (7.6 meters) wide
  • Standard Perry Pear Tree: 25-70 feet (7.6-21 meters) tall and 15-55 feet (4.5-16.7 meters) wide

Roots: Fibrous
Growth Rate: Medium

Pear orchard in the Pacific Northwest, USA.

Pear orchard in Spring located in the Pacific Northwest, USA.

...and another in Autumn.

…and another in Autumn.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates very little shade… shade is best avoided
Moisture: Medium-moisture soils are preferred.
pH: most varieties prefer fairly neutral soil (6.0-7.5)

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Pears to not tolerate juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives). Make sure you have other varieties of  trees and shrubs as a buffer between your walnuts and pears.
  • Pears are susceptible to Fire Blight, Pear Scab, and Canker, so try to choose varieties that are resistant to these diseases.
  • Make sure to consider flowering times when planning which varieties you choose. You need to make sure that you have compatible varieties (i.e. ones that will pollinate each other) flowering at the same time.

Propagation:
Named varieties are usually grafted because pear cultivars do not grow “true to type”, meaning that seeds will grow into trees that produce fruit that is likely to be nothing like the parent stock. If growing from seed, they will need 8-16 weeks cold stratification for germination. Less improved species and non-cultivars are often grown from seed.

Maintenance:
Typically, European Pears are pruned once a year to once every 2-3 years in late Winter or early Spring. Learn to prune your fruit trees to maximize health and production.

Concerns:
None

Pears Poached in Red Wine

Pears Poached in Red Wine

Poached Pear recipe

 

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Photo References:

  • http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/10641016.jpg
  • http://www.thehoneygatherers.com/images3.1/stock/Anglais/3Honeybee-Flowers-Bee/Honeybee-Flowers-Bee24.jpg
  • http://www.croxteth.co.uk/Images/Pear%20trees%20arch_1024_tcm80-96940.JPG
  • http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2011/107/7/3/pear_tree_flower_by_bwvds-d3e6w72.jpg
  • http://akafkaesquelife.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/pear-orchard-mt-hood-orchards-of-hood-river-valley-darryl-lloyd-long-shadow-photography.jpg
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-37eT-2E0cNw/Uj6lTn2yIxI/AAAAAAAAGV4/ylZ7vSn2mTg/s1600/Pear+orchard+in+Okanagan+Valley,+British+Columbia,+Canada+20130922.jpg
  • http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/pearbureau/35811/images/35811-hi-usapearcluster.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/Illustration_Pyrus_communis0.jpg
  • http://www.jerseyplantsdirect.com/webgraphics/jersey%20plants/article%20blocks/how%20to/pruning%20apple%20and%20pear%20trees.jpg
  • http://www.wallyhood.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/PearTreeStockPhoto.jpg

 

Permaculture Plants: Persian Silk Tree

Common Names: Persian Silk Tree, Pink Silk Tree, Pink Siris, Mimosa, Lenkoran Acacia, Bastard Tamarind
Scientific Name: Albizia julibrissin
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume, Bean, or Pea family)

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A well-known ornamental, the Persian Silk Tree has a lot more to offer than just beauty!

Description:
This small, legume tree is fast growing and short-lived. Known primarily as a tropical-looking, ornamental tree, it has many additional uses. It fixes-nitrogen into the soil which allows it to grow in poor soils and act as a pioneer plant in addition to fertilizing surrounding plants. While the leaves and flowers are edible, they are reportedly not great; however, many animals (wild and domesticated) use the leaves and pods/seeds for food, and they are increasingly used as a fodder crop. It attracts beneficial insects, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and the wood can be used for many things, from furniture to firewood. The Persian Silk Tree (or Mimosa) is an ideal Permaculture tree to reclaim damaged soils and help establish a quality Forest Garden.

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Herbarium entry at the University of North Carolina.

History:
Native to southwester and eastern Asia (Iran, Korea, and Japan are known for cultivation), the Persian Silk Tree has spread around the world as an ornamental tree.

Trivia:

  • Genus name honors Filippo degi Albizzia who introduced the genus to Italy in 1749
  • Commonly called a “Mimosa”, the Persian Silk Tree is not closely related to the Mimosa genus
  • The Persian Silk Tree is used in traditional Chinese Medicine to “nourish the heart and calm the spirit”; recent research shows that the tree contains an anti-depressant effect
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Classic legume pods… a sign that this is a nitrogen-fixing plant!

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The Silk Tree attracts a lot of beneficial and beautiful insects. 

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Ornamental Plant – this has been one of its primary uses around the world due to its showy, fragrant flowers and attractive leaves
  • Nitrogen Fixing Plant – this plant creates its own nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with microorganisms (bacteria) in its roots. It typically produces an excess of nitrogen that can be used by neighboring plants.
  • Edible Leaves – Considered a potherb (a plant used as a vegetable or as a seasoning). Use when young, before they become fibrous. Aromatic. Dried leaves can be used for teas.
  • Edible Flowers – cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Butterfly Plant – this plant has nectar that attracts Butterflies
  • Hummingbird Plant – this plant has nectar that attracts Hummingbirds
  • Fodder Crop – leaves, pods, and seeds – used for cattle, sheep, and goats
  • Wildlife Food – many animals will eat the pods and seeds (deer, squirrels, birds, etc.)
  • Wildlife Shelter – mainly birds and small mammals
  • Drought Plant – this species can tolerate prolonged dry conditions once established
  • Windbreak Species – fast growing, but not very tall, also it does not tolerate very high winds
  • Wood – used for furniture, cabinets, and other building applications (a few reports say it is a strong wood, but other say it is a weak wood… with this conflicting information, I would avoid using it for structures)
  • Fuel Wood – firewood, charcoal
  • Coppice Plant – while not a traditional coppice plant, this plant will grow back from the stump (or stool) and from the roots.
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land

Yield: no reliable information is available.
Harvesting: Not a tree that is typically harvested in a traditional sense. Flowers can be harvested in the Summer. Leaves can be harvested early for human food when young, and throughout the growing season for forage. The seed pods are formed in mid-late Summer and will stay on the tree into Winter; harvest when desired.
Storage: Use within a few days fresh. While I can find no information on storing pods/seed, I imagine they can be stored like any other dried bean to be used later.

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An ornamental pioneer species can make a renovation project more beautiful!

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Pods are great animal feed!

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 7-9 for most varieties, but at least A. julibrissin f. rosea is hardy to -13F (-25C), which is Zone 6
AHS Heat Zone: 9-6
Chill Requirement: It is possible considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Small Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer, Sub-Canopy Layer (only in a very open Canopy)
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties, cultivars, and forms availabe

Pollination: Self-fertile
Flowering: Summer (June-July)

Life Span:
Considered short-lived, 30-45 years is typical, but may die back at 10 years, and may live much longer in optimal conditions (likely only in its native region)

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The classic leaves of a legume.

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A dark-leaved variety named “Summer Chocolate”

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 16-40 feet (5-12 meters) tall and wide
Roots: Fibrous, sucker-forming
Growth Rate: Fast

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When allowed to grow on its own, it will form a dome shape and have multiple suckers.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates minimal shade
Moisture: Prefers moist soils, but can grow in a dry conditions
pH: 4.0-8.0 (tolerates a wide range of soil conditions)

Special Considerations for Growing:
If you live in an area where wilt is common, consider growing a resistant variety (Charlotte and Tryon are two that know of)

Propagation:
Typically from seed. Scarification of the thick seed coat improves germination. Pre-soak for 24 hours in warm-hot water. Germinates in 2-3 months. Can be propagated by root cuttings (Winter), wood cuttings (Summer), and division of suckers (late Winter).

Maintenance:
Moderate. Need to monitor for seedlings and suckers.

Concerns:

  • Dispersive – self-seeding can produce many seedlings.
  • In some areas, there is a high amount of pests and disease (wilt and web worms are most common). This is a mixed issue… if the tree shoots up and then dies back due to pests/disease, then we have to ability to speed succession, but we need to be monitoring closely and planning well.

 

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Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Albizia_julibrissin_boubri.jpg
  • http://nursery.artknappsurrey.com/files/2010/10/Albizia-Mimosa-Tree-or-Silk-Tree-Julibrissin2.jpg
  • http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/biohires/a/halju–frcloseup15438.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/AlbizziaJulibrissin2.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2d/Mimosa-tree-Albizia-julibrissin.png
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_GfiCvoODRto/TG4A61ElywI/AAAAAAAAAE0/sATTvlD9Zt4/s1600/IMG_3703.jpg
  • http://www.thompson-morgan.com/medias/sys_tandm/8797026320414.jpg
  • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_oH7YVmRWh-s/SASv-kgyFwI/AAAAAAAABGw/QGqlfdqy7X4/s1600-h/Albizia+julibrissin+seed+pod.jpg
  • http://www.maltawildplants.com/MIMO/Pics/ALBJU/Albizia_julibrissin_[IMG_5130b].jpg
  • http://www.ibiblio.org/openkey/intkey/images/Albizia_julibrissin004.jpg
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lptyYtVFMUQ/Ud5UHXx9KxI/AAAAAAAAAOU/hIaSLrQ3zL4/s200/butterfly.jpg