Sub-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.

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

 

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

 

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!

 

Subscribe

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

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’

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

 

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.

 

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

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: 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

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

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: Yellowhorn

Common Name: Yellowhorn, Goldenhorn, Chinese Flowering Chestnut, Wen Guan Guo
Scientific Name: Xanthoceras sorbifolium
Family: Sapindaceae (the Soapberry, Maple, and Lychee family)

Yellowhorn07

The edible seeds are about the size of a pea 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) and are high in oils.

Description:
I was asked by a reader to write an article about Yellowhorn since they were having some trouble growing this plant. I had heard of this plant before, but other than a name, I couldn’t have told you much more. I love to research plants that I don’t know much about, and Yellowhorn is just that. As it turns out, there doesn’t seem to be anyone (that I can easily find) that knows a lot about Yellowhorn either. I know that there are probably some brilliant Chinese, Korean, and Russian botanists who could tell me all I ever wanted to know about this interesting plant, but they don’t seem to be the type that publish their work online. So I dug as deep as I could into my library, the botanical literature, and online gardening, forestry, permaculture, and even stock market message boards to try and develop as complete an article as I could on Xanthoceras sorbifolium, also known as Yellowhorn, or Wen Guan Guo in China.

This deciduous shrub or small tree is slow-growing, but once established it will produce edible, dark green leaves that turn bright yellow in Autumn. It has beautiful, fragrant flowers that are also edible, and seeds that are used for food and cooking oil. The oil is also being evaluated for biodiesel. This ornamental plant is also fairly drought tolerant and may also be a food source for beneficial insects. It is almost unknown outside of Asia, but this plant seems to be growing in popularity. While Yellowhorn will make an interesting and useful addition to a Forest Garden, I think there is a lot of potential for this as a major crop.

Yellowhorn11

Xanthoceras sorbifolium Bunge
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 113 [ser. 3, vol. 43]: t. 6923 (1887) [M. Smith]

History:
Native to northern and northeastern China. It has also been growing in Korea for so long, we may not know if it is a native or was imported there. Yellowhorn was cultivated in Russia since the 1920’s and was introduced to France in 1866 via a French missionary who visited China. It has only recently become more available outside of Asia, and it is being sold mainly as an ornamental. It seems that there was some work with this plant in China on the Loess Plateau (this rehabilitation story is told in the amazing documentary Hope in a Changing Climate by John Liu).

Here is one of the earliest accounts I can find of this plant:

I first saw a plant of Xanthoceras at Baden-Baden on the grounds of Herr Max Leichtlin about the year 1884. I admired it, and Herr Leichtlin spoke of it as a new plant of great promise, which he felt sure would be an acquisition to horticulture. I secured two plants, and have been cultivating them now for eight or ten years. They are six feet high, and grow in rich warm loam. They have no protection whatever, and yet they have never lost a branch in winter, and they endure our dry summers perfectly. They are not strong-growing shrubs, but they bear flowers in great profusion, and are more beautiful when in bloom than at any other season. They ripen seeds every year, and I would be glad to furnish some of them to any one who cares to test the plant.
– Paul Dana, Dosoris Park, Long Island (1893)

Trivia:

  • The genus name, “Xanthoceras” means “yellow horn”. This is in reference to the orange-yellow, horn/claw-like appendages between the petals.
  • Yellowhorn fruit is green, round to pear-shaped, and up to 2.5 (6 cm) long.
  • The fruit splits into three sections to release the seeds.
  • There are 6-18 seeds per fruit, and each seed is about the size of a pea 0.6 inches (1.5 cm). The seeds are brown to purplish in color.
  • The flowers are white, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, and the yellow center will change to red/maroon when older (once source states that the color change occurs after pollination).
  • One source stated that the fruit is 40% oil, and the seed alone is 72% oil (60% of which is Omega 6).
The young leaves are edible and the fruit can be round or pear-shaped.

The young leaves are edible and the fruit can be round or pear-shaped.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Nut (Seed) – reports on flavor vary from a Sweet Chestnut to a Brazil nut or a Macadamia nut. Can be roasted, boiled, or dried and ground into a flour. One soure states that the nuts taste fine raw.
  • Edible Leaves – young leaves can be cooked, traditionally boiled. Leaves quickly become fibrous.
  • Edible Flowers – cooked, traditionally boiled
  • Flour – dried nut can be ground into a flour and then cooked
  • Oil – edible oil can be pressed from the seeds (one source stated it was being evaluated for biodiesel).

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant – this statement was only made by one source
  • Ornamental Plant – long lasting, deep green leaves; large masses of pretty, fragrant flowers
  • Drought Plant – this species can tolerate prolonged dry conditions once established

Yield: A single source stated that fruit (nut?) yield can reach 8 tons (7260 kg) per acre, and oil yield can be 850 gallons (3200 liters) per acre.
Harvesting: Early to Mid-Autumn (September-October). Harvest when the fruits dry out, but before the fruit splits.
Storage: Seeds need to be dried for storage.

The beautiful flowers can cover the plant.

The beautiful flowers can cover the plant.

The flowers are fragrant.

And the flowers' center starts off yellow and will fade to red.

The center of the flower starts off yellow and will fade to red.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information is available, although it does seem to like long, hot Summers.
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Large Shrub or Small Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Sub-Canopy Layer, Shrub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Yes… however, there is very little information on them.

Pollination: Some sources state that Yellowhorn is self-fertile and some say that it requires cross-pollination. Likely, it is partially self-pollinating but will produce significantly more fruit if allowed to cross-pollinate. It is reported that there are both male flowers and bisexual (hermaphroditic) flowers found on the same plant, but not the same inflorescence.
Flowering: Mid-Late Spring to Early Summer (April-June)

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Fruiting: No reliable information can be found, but a few sources stated that Yellowhorn will bloom at an early age. A single source stated that flowering will begin during the second year, most sources say year three.
  • Years to Maximum Height: 10-20 years
  • Years to Maximum Fruiting: A single source stated that maximum yield will start at around 5 years of age.
  • Years of Useful Life: No reliable information can be found, but one source stated that Yellowhorn can live for over 200 years of age.
The fruit will dry on the tree and release its seed if allowed.

The fruit will dry on the tree and release its seed if allowed.

The fruit can be harvested while the fruit is still green.

The fruit can be harvested while the fruit is still green.

But it seems that most will wait until the fruit starts to turn brown to begin harvest.

Most growers will wait until the fruit starts to turn brown to begin harvest.

The seeds are edible and are used to make a cooking oil.

The seeds are edible and are also pressed to make a cooking oil.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 6-24 feet (2-7.3 meters) tall and wide
Roots: No reliable information is available, but one source states that Yellowhorn puts down a “very large root”… this could mean that Yellowhorn has a taproot. Another sources states Yellowhorn has “long, fleshy roots with fibrous developments mostly at the end.” I think we can assume that this plant has deep growing roots, either single or few in number.
Growth Rate: Slow

Yellowhorn will turn a brilliant yellow in Autumn.

Yellowhorn will turn a brilliant yellow in Autumn.

Yellowhorn (right) is edible and closely related to the Horse Chestnut (left) which is poisonous.

Yellowhorn (right) is edible and closely related to the Horse Chestnut (left) which is toxic to humans and many animals.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Prefers medium moisture soils, but tolerates dry soils once established
pH: 5.5-8.5

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Yellowhorn does best in climates that have hot and dry Summers, and should be protected from cold winds.
  • If this plant does have a taproot (information on root structure is scarce), then it should be planted in place as soon as possible. The numerous reports of growers having little growth with this plant and then it took off after it was planted in its permanent location, and plants doing poorly when kept in pots, supports the idea of it having a taproot(s).

Propagation:
Various sources give different information… some say that seeds are not dormant and germinate well without any special treatment and others state that they need at least 3 months of cold stratification. Likely, both are accurate, and this plant can grow without stratification, but germination rates are probably higher with some exposure to cold for a few months as would occur in its natural setting. Can also be propagated via root cuttings and division of suckers when dormant. Yellowhorn can take quite a while to become established.

Maintenance:
Minimal. Removal of suckers if desired.

Concerns:
None.

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

Photo References:

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/trees/msg1212170322566.html

http://www.arthurleej.com/p-o-m-Oct09.html

http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2000-60-3-new-or-little-known-plants-xanthoceras-sorbifolia-1893.pdf

http://ideas.repec.org/a/ags/asagre/133111.html

 

 

  • http://www.visoflora.com/images/original/xanthoceras-sorbifolium-visoflora-52217.jpg
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_OJ8Kdji1q94/Sh81soXhXhI/AAAAAAAACCc/kdclGAFbALI/s1600-h/Yellowhorn.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Xanthoceras_sorbifolium_02.JPG
  • http://www.plantarium.ru/dat/plants/8/816/144816_eef20092.jpg
  • http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5149/5661758317_04b33b816b_o.jpg
  • http://www.botanische-spaziergaenge.at/Bilder/Lumix_6/P1550017.JPG
  • http://www.perennialsolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/IMG_9647.jpg
  • http://www.plantarium.ru/dat/plants/3/385/100385_4be30813.jpg
  • http://www.botanische-spaziergaenge.at/Bilder/Lumix_7/P1610547.JPG
  • http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v624/starterdude/seeds-1.jpg
  • http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v624/starterdude/seeds-2.jpg
  • http://www.plantillustrations.org/illustration.php?id_illustration=4465
  • http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/aesculus_xanthoceras.jpg
  • http://www.arthurleej.com/images/Xanthoceras.jpg

 

 

Permaculture Plants: Mayhaw

Common Name: Mayhaw, May Hawthorn, Apple Hawthorn,
Scientific Name: Crataegus aestivalis and Crataegus opaca
Family: Rosaceae (the Rose, Apple, Peach, and Plum family)
Common Species:

  • Eastern Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis)
  • Western Mayhaw (Crataegus opaca)
Mayhaw harvest!

Mayhaw harvest!

Description:
The Mayhaw is a large shrub or small tree that is native to the lowlands and wetlands of the Deep South of the U.S. It is most well known for the coral-colored jelly made from the small red berries. It can also be used as a windbreak, an erosion control and pollution-tolerant plant, and it is drought and flood-tolerant. While it prefers full sun, it can grow in the shade as an understory plant. On top of that, it is a rather beautiful tree. Now, it does have a narrow natural range, but considering its tolerance, adaptability, and its ease of hybridization with other Hawthorn species, this is a tree that is just waiting for development into other growing areas. If you live close to its natural range, then this is an ideal plant for you. If you are within its USDA Zone, this may be a great plant with which to experiment.

Crataegus aestivalis

Crataegus aestivalis

History:
Native to the Deep South of the United States, Mayhaw has not been the most popular fruit. Native Americans did use this plant on occasion, but likely due to their thorns and propensity to grow on the water’s edge or wetlands in swamps (hard locations to harvest small fruit), the Mayhaw never gained the notoriety as other native fruiting trees and shrubs. However, once settlers began to populate these bayous and swamps, they developed many uses for the wild fruit. Almost 40 years ago James Sherwood Akin, a retired Louisiana merchant who was an avid gardener and amateur botanist,  transplanted a single Mayhaw seedling from the wild and developed an orchard of over 1,000 trees. He continued his work until he died in 2007, at the age of 89. His work attracted the attention of Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. Because of Sherwood and the knowledge he gained and shared, there are a number of commercial operations and a growing hobby market for the Mayhaw. He is known as the man who brought the Mayhaw out of the swamp and into the orchard.

Trivia:

  • Older flowers can smell a bit like rotten fish.
  • There are over 800 species of Hawthorn in North America. Only the early ripening species in the southern U.S. (placed in the Aestivales series) are called Mayhaws. It is unknown how many Mayhaw species there are, because Hawthorns can easily hybridize.
The classic way to use the fruit... Mayhaw Jelly!

The classic way to use the fruit… Mayhaw Jelly!

Harvesting Mayhaws.

Harvesting Mayhaws.

Here is an article about the Robertson Family (from Duck Dynasty) and their love of Mayhaw Jelly!

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Fruit – I have seen Mayhaw Jelly for sale when I was living in Panhandle of Florida. I passed on it because, at the time, I thought it was too expensive. Now that I understand the rarity of this Southern specialty, I wish I would have bought a jar or three! I’ll get the chance again soon enough. My advice, and my mindset now, is to try anything at least once. Then I will never regret never having missed the opportunity to taste something unique.
    • Raw – while edible, it is rather bland. Most people don’t eat it as a fresh fruit. However, there are some newer varieties that have been developed for fresh eating
    • Preserved – By far, this is the most common use. The coral-colored Jams or Jelly is a specialty in the South (U.S.). Mayhaw Butter (like apple butter) is also fairly popular.
    • Cooked – used in sauces and savory meals
    • Baked – used in pastries, tarts, pies, etc.
    • Fruit Leather
    • Primary or Secondary flavoring for Beers, Wines, Liquors, Cordials, etc. Mayhaw Wine and Brandy are becoming more popular in the South.

Secondary Uses:

  • Ornamental Plant – Mayhaw has attractive foliage, showy blossoms, and clusters of bright fruit
  • Beneficial Insect and Butterfly Plant – this plant has foliage that attracts butterflies and is said to be of benefit to native bee populations, but I can find no specifics on the species of butterfly or bees that use this tree.
  • Wildlife Food Plant for birds and mammals – Birds and small mammals eat the fruit. White-tailed Deer browse on this tree.
  • Shelter Plant for birds – the thorny nature makes this a great shelter
  • Coppice Plant – While it is listed as a plant that can be coppiced, although I can find no good information on this subject.
  • Wood – very strong and heavy. Used for tool handles and mallets.
  • Erosion Control Plant – root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion, especially for stream bank or water’s edge stabilization projects
  • Windbreak Species – While not fast growing, this plant can withstand high winds
  • Pollution-Tolerant Plant – often grown in areas with high pollution; can be used to help filter the air
  • Drought-Tolerant Plant – this species can tolerate prolonged dry conditions once established
  • Flood-Tolerant Plant – this species can tolerate very wet conditions

Yield: Extremely variable based on wild-type, variety, age, and size
Harvesting: Late April-May. Fruit should be allowed to ripen on the tree. It will fall on its own or when the tree is shaken. If the tree is entirely on land, then harvesting is typically done with sheets or canvas laid out; then the tree is shaken, and the fruit is easily harvested. If the tree overhangs the water, then the tree can be shaken, and the floating fruit is easily harvested with nets downstream.
Storage: Rarely used fresh. Processed soon after harvest.

Mayhaw is one of the first bloomers in the Spring.

Mayhaw is one of the first bloomers in the Spring.

Beautiful Mayhaw flowers.

Beautiful Mayhaw flowers.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-11
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information, but the natural distribution of Mayhaw places it in AHS Heat Zone 9-8
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available. One report places it “south of the 1,000 hour chill line”.

Plant Type: Small-Sized Tree or Large Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Sub-Canopy Layer, Shrub Layer, Wetland Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of improved varieties (these are actually wild-found trees that have been propagated).

Pollination: Requires cross-pollination; pollinated by midges and flies.
Flowering: Early Spring (March-April)

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Fruiting: 5-8 years
  • Years of Useful Life: Trees can live for over 50 years.
Mayhaw leaves

Mayhaw leaves

Mayhaw fruit is almost ripe and ready to harvest.

Mayhaw fruit is almost ripe and ready to harvest.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 25-30 feet (7.6-9.1 meters) tall and wide
Roots: No reliable information other than multiple sources state “surface roots are usually not a problem”. Since there is no specific mention of it having a taproot (taprooted plants are usually noted), then it likely has a broad or heart-shaped fibrous root pattern. Considering that these plants can be moderately drought-tolerant, then the roots are likely not all at the surface.
Growth Rate: Slow to Medium

Watch for the thorns on this plant - Herbarium specimen from University of North Carolina

Watch for the thorns on this plant – Herbarium specimen from University of North Carolina

Mayhaw is a beautiful and useful plant!

Mayhaw is a beautiful and useful plant!

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates moderate shade, but more shade usually means less fruit
Moisture: Dry to wet soils. Can tolerate very wet soils if they will drain, and it is moderately drought-tolerant once established.
pH: 5.1-7.0

Special Considerations for Growing:
This is a relatively worry-free plant as it is considered to have “superior disease resistance”. All Hawthorn species tolerate juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives) as it is often seen growing in close proximity.  Consider using this tree as a buffer between your walnuts and other plantings.

Propagation:
I found one source that stated most Mayhaws seed will grow true to type almost all the time… this means that a seed from one plant will grow a plant which will produce fruit just like its mother. This is not true with a number of fruit trees like apples, pears, cherries, etc. This is great news for us as it simplifies propagation. Mayhaw can be propagated from seed – needs 12 weeks cold stratification for germination (the natural overwintering), but germination can take up to 18 months. This is a seed that is best to plant in Autumn immediately from ripe fruit as this will recreate the ideal conditions for germination. Softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, and root cuttings are also possible.

Maintenance:
Minimal. Annual pruning in Winter to open the canopy can increase fruit production.

Concerns:

  • Thorns!
  • Poisonous – Considering its Family, there is a good chance that the leaves and seeds contain a precursor to cyanide (large amounts need to be eaten for this to be toxic), but I can find no good information on this.

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

Photo References:

  • http://www.mayhaw.org/images/03e95f83b297bd5069bc42f6abcc9e85_4zi7.jpg
  • http://www.mayhaw.org/images/9bdfc409280d19245e9e727c84e4b343.jpg
  • http://www.mayhaw.org/images/d86db54ebc0cfe36ec0ef0c237b15da7.jpg
  • http://www.mayhaw.org/LMA_Photo_Galleries.php
  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_hbAUn-lQ-qM/TMTVpvyZEoI/AAAAAAAAAEA/kgiu-tNWo9I/s1600/IMG_0460.JPG
  • http://texasjellymaking.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/dsc_0070.jpg
  • http://bayou-diversity.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Mayhaw-1edited.jpg
  • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_hja4NT5DtE4/S-xn35Ic5nI/AAAAAAAAABc/9f1Acz5wYdU/s1600/Maddie,+Mason,+Mayhaw+017.JPG
  • http://plantillustrations.org/illustration.php?id_illustration=48337
  • http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/mastergardener/outreach/plant_id/images/fruits/mayhaw_foliage.jpg
  • http://www.ibiblio.org/botnet/flora/images/Crataegus_aestivalis_512703.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)

SilkTree02

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.

SilkTree10

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
SilkTree09

Classic legume pods… a sign that this is a nitrogen-fixing plant!

SilkTree11

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.

SilkTree04

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

SilkTree08

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)

SilkTree06

The classic leaves of a legume.

SilkTree07

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

SilkTree05

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.

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

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

 

Permaculture Plants: Sorbus Species

Common Name: Rowans, Whitebeams, Sorbs, Service Trees, Mountain Ashes

Scientific Name: Sorbus species (there is a push to divide the Sorbus genus)
Family: Rosaceae (the Rose family)

Sorbus_ServiceTree02

The Service Tree (Sorbus domestica) bear numerous tasty fruit!

Common Species:

  • Whitebeam (Sorbus aria): good wood; up to 0.625 inch (16 mm) oval, red fruit; mealy but sweet
  • Korean Mountain Ash (Sorbus alnifolia): good wood; up to 0.5 inch (13 mm) pink to purple fruit, mealy with a mild to spicy flavor
  • American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana)
  • Rowan or European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia): good wood; bitter but edible fruit
  • Showy or Northern Mountain Ash (Sorbus decora)
  • Devon Sorb Apple (Sorbus devoniensis):0.6 inch (15 mm) fruits; almond flavor, mealy texture
  • Service Tree or Sorb Tree (Sorbus domestica): good wood; 1.0-1.6 inch (2.5-4 cm) fruits shaped like small apples or pears depending on the variety, astringent until fully ripe, but then juicy, aromatic, and with a good flavor (tropical or pear-like). Cooking will remove the astringency of slightly under-ripe fruit.
  • Tibetan Whitebeam (Sorbus thibetica): 0.75 inch (19 mm) fruits, almond flavor, mealy texture
  • Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis): good wood; 0.3-0.6 inch (10-15 mm) oval fruit with good flavor similar to a date (pictured at top)
  • Yu’s Mountain Ash (Sorbus yuana): 0.75 inch (19 mm) pink to purple fruit with a spicy flavor
Sorbus03

The Sorbus trees produce showy flowers that attract beneficial insects.

Sorbus_Whitebeam01

Most of the Sorbus species can be used as ornamentals as well as windbreak trees.
Whitebeam (Sorbus aria)

Description:
It has been only recently (in the grand scheme of time) that the fruits from these trees have been replaced by the more “common” fruits in grocery stores, like apples and oranges; however, the Sorbus fruits were once very popular in Europe and have many uses from fresh eating to preserves to flavorings for beers and wines.  The wood of European and some Asian species are very high quality, very hard woods. The trees can be coppiced, can be a windbreak, can attract wildlife, and are ornamental as well. It is time we reconsider these almost forgotten trees in our Forest Gardens.

Sorbus02 Sorbus01

History:
Native to temperate forests of the Northern Hemisphere, the Sorbus genus contains about 200 species. They have long been used for their fruits and their wood. In more recent times, many of the species have been used as ornamentals, and a number have been improved to yield more and better-tasting fruits.

Trivia:

  • The Wild Service Tree’s fruits were fermented by the Romans to make a drink named cerevisia, which is the origin of the Spanish word, cerveza, or beer!
  • The Wild Service Tree’s species name, torminalis, is Latin meaning “good for colic”, a reference to its historical medicinal use
  • Many of the Sorbus species can pollinate each other and produce hybrids. Many of these hybrids are considered apomictic, that is they are self-fertile without the need of pollination. These plants are able to repoduce genetically identical copies of itself, i.e. cloning, through seed!
Sorbus_ServiceTree03

The Service Tree can produce apple-shaped or pear-shaped fruit!

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Fruit:
    • Raw – some improved varieties have good flavored fruit when raw. However, many of the fruits can be bletted – this is where the fruit is placed in a coold, dry place and allowed to significantly over-ripen, but not rot. The soft fruit will often have a sweet, tropical fruit flavor. Some trees will keep the fruit, and the bletting will start on the tree. Most fruits on the tree will turn sweeter after a frost.
    • Cooked – used in sauces and savory meals
    • Baked – used in pastries, tarts, pies, etc.
    • Preserved – used in Jams, Jellies, Preserves, etc.
    • Fruit Leather
    • Dried – miltiple references for drying these fruits with flavors ranging from prunes to dates
    • Primary or Secondary flavoring for Beers, Wines, Liquors, Cordials, etc. The Wild Service Tree was a traditional addition to beers before the spread of hops. Cider was, and still is today, flavored with fruits from the Service Trees.
    • Flour – the fruits from the Rowan (S. aucuparia), Whitebeam (S. aria), the American Mountain Ash (S. americana), and maybe other species as well, can be dried and ground into a flour and mixed with other cereal flours.
  • Tea Plant – Rowan (S. aucuparia) flowers and leaves have been used a tea substitute

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar and pollen plant
  • Wildlife Food – many animals will eat the fruit through Autumn and Winter
  • Ornamental Plant- showy Spring flowers, bright Autumn reds and golds, bright fruit remaining after leaf-fall
  • Windbreak Species
  • Maritime Species – S. aucuparia, S. aria can tolerate salty conditions
  • Pollution-Tolerant Species – these trees can live in areas with high air pollution
  • Coppice Species – coppiced through Europe without a doubt, but I can find no time references instructing how long it takes to regrow before coppicing can occur again
  • Wood Species – Rowan is very hard and used for mallet heads, hoops for barrels, cogs, furniture, etc.; Service Tree used for furniture, wine presses; Whitebeam is hard, heavy, and good for beams (hence the name!); Wild Service Tree used for turning, carving, crafts, etc.
  • Firewood Species – vary aromatic
  • Charcoal

Yield: Once producing, these trees can produce about 30 pounds (13.5 kg) per tree.
Harvesting: Early to mid Autumn. Pick when the fruits are fully ripe if possible and the fruit begins to soften. Most fruits will ripen indoors in need be, but wait until the fruit softens before eating or processing.
Storage: Used fresh. Will store for a few weeks in a cool location.

Sorbus_Rowan01

The Rowan is an old tree that can still be used in modern designs.

Sorbus_Rowan02

The Rowan, like many of the Sorbus species, have easy to pick fruits.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone:

  • Whitebeam (Sorbus aria): Zone 5-9
  • Korean Mountain Ash (Sorbus alnifolia): Zone 4-8
  • American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana): Zone 2-6
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia): Zone 3-7
  • Showy Mountain Ash (Sorbus decora): Zone 2-6
  • Devon Sorb Apple (Sorbus devoniensis): Zone 6
  • Serice Tree or Sorb Tree (Sorbus domestica): Zone 4-10
  • Tibetan Whitebeam (Sorbus thibetica): Zone 6
  • Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis): Zone 6
  • Yu’s Mountain Ash (Sorbus yuana): Zone 3-8

AHS Heat Zone:

  • Whitebeam (Sorbus aria): Zone 8-6
  • Korean Mountain Ash (Sorbus alnifolia): Zone 8-3 or 10-1 depending on the source
  • American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana): Zone 6-1
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia): Zone 7-1
  • Showy Mountain Ash (Sorbus decora): Zone 6-1
  • Serice Tree or Sorb Tree (Sorbus domestica): Zone 8-6
  • Yu’s Mountain Ash (Sorbus yuana): Zone 8-3 or 10-1 depending on the source

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

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

Pollination: Most of the wild types require cross-pollination from another tree; some of the improved varieties (especially with the Service Tree) are Self-fertile, but will likely set more fruit with cross-pollination. Pollinated by insects.
Flowering: Late Spring to Summer (May-June), not frost sensitive

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Fruiting: 3-5 years, but 15 years for the Rowan (S. aucuparia)
  • Years to Maximum Fruiting: No good information available
  • Years of Useful Life: Many species are considered “short lived” with no specific dates, but the Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and the Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) are reported to live for well over 100 years of age. The Service Tree (Sorbus domestica) has been reported to live to 400 years. Coppicing greatly extends the life of a tree as well.
Sorbus_KoreanMountainAsh

The Sorbus species are all rather beautiful in Autumn.
Korean Mountain Ash (Sorbus alnifolia)

Sorbus_WildService02

Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis)

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size:

  • Whitebeam (Sorbus aria): 40 feet (12 meters) tall and 25 feet (8 meters) wide
  • Korean Mountain Ash (Sorbus alnifolia): 50 feet (15 meters) tall and 25 feet (8 meters) wide
  • American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana): 10-30 feet (3-9 meters) tall and wide
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia): 20-40 feet (6-12 meters) tall and 15-35 feet (4.5-11 meters) wide
  • Showy Mountain Ash (Sorbus decora): 20-35 feet (6-11 meters) tall and wide
  • Devon Sorb Apple (Sorbus devoniensis): 20 feet (6 meters) tall and 13 feet (4 meters) wide
  • Serice Tree or Sorb Tree (Sorbus domestica): 30-35 feet (9-11 meters) tall and 20-30 feet (6-9 meters) wide; can get to 60 feet (18 meters) tall
  • Tibetan Whitebeam (Sorbus thibetica): 33-50 feet (10-15 meters) tall and wide
  • Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis): 50-65 feet (15-20 meters) tall
  • Yu’s Mountain Ash (Sorbus yuana): 20-40 feet (6-12 meters) tall

Roots: It appears that most of the European species have deep taproots with shallow lateral roots. Little else can be found about the other species other than the Showy Mountain Ash (S. docora) from North America, and it has fibrous roots.
Growth Rate: Medium

Sorbus_Rowan03

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), like the other Sorbus species needs full sun to produce the most fruit.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade, but fruits less
Moisture: Prefers medium moisture soils (S. decora can tolerate more wet soils).
pH: 5.1-7.0 (prefers mild acidic to neutral soils, but can tolerate a pretty wide range of soils).

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • These are not fussy trees.
  • Susceptible to the bacterial disease, Fire Blight. Would need to prune to treat the infected trees (cut 6 inches (15 mm) below infection).

Propagation:
Seed, requires 3-4 months of cold stratification. Improved varieties are grafted.

Maintenance:
Minimal once established.

Concerns:
Like many species in the Rose family, the leaves and seeds contain a precursor to cyanide which could be life threatening if consumed in large amounts.

 


Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Sorbus_aucuparia_kpjas_19082005_4.jpg
  • http://drzewaikrzewyozdobne.home.pl/boryslawice/attachments/Image/drzewa_li__ciaste/Sorbus_aucuparia2.jpg
  • http://www.erbe.altervista.org/images/sorbus_aucuparia_B.jpg
  • http://davisla.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/sorbus-aria2.jpg
  • http://www.pflanzen-bilder-kaufen.de/wp-content/uploads/Speierling-Baum-Frucht-rot-gelb_Sorbus-domestica01.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/Sorbus_domestica.JPG
  • http://www.pariscotejardin.fr/wp-content/09092011-P1360512.jpg
  • http://delta-intkey.com/angio/images/ebo04811.jpg
  • http://delta-intkey.com/angio/images/ebo04851.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e3/Sorbus_torminalis_Weinsberg_20070929_5.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/05/Sorbus_alnifolia_’Submollis’_JPG1Ta.jpg
  • http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2801/4471786077_a5362e8bfb_o.jpg

 

Permaculture Plants: Pea Trees and Pea Shrubs

Common Name: Pea Trees and Pea Shrubs

Scientific Name: Caragana species
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume or Pea or Bean family)
Common Species (there are about 80 species):

  • Siberian Pea Tree/Shrub (Caragana arborescens) – large to very large shrub
  • Caragana boisii (Caragana boisii) – large to very large shrub
  • Caragana brevispina (Caragana brevispina) – medium-sized shrub
  • Caragana decorticans (Caragana decorticans) – large to very large shrub
  • Russian Pea Shrub (Caragana frutex) – medium-sized shrub
  • Pygmy Pea Shrub (Caragana pygmeae) – small shrub
Pea_Shrub01

Siberian Pea Tree/Shrub (Caragana arborescens)

Description:
Known as Pea Shrubs or Trees (if they get large enough), the Caragana species are in the Legume Family, and they really do produce edible pods and peas. The Pea Shrubs are on my list of Permaculture super-plants! They are edible, fix-nitrogen, attract beneficial insects, can be used as a pioneer plant, a windbreak, and a hedge, are used to stabilize erosion-prone soil, can feed livestock, and are pretty with fragrant flowers. What more could you ask for in one plant?

Pea_Shrub02

Caragana species

History:
Native and widespread through Asia and eastern Europe, this plant has been used by native peoples for its edible pods and seeds, fiber from the bark, and dye from its leaves. It has been spread around the world first for its pods and seeds by settlers and in more modern times for its ornamental properties. It is also very recently begun to be used as a windbreak, erosion control, and degraded land reclamation plant.

Trivia:

  • Pea Shrubs are considered invasive species in many locations in the United States… this just tells me there is a void which this plant is filling.
  • Pea Shrubs can withstand -40 F (-40 C) temperatures – perfect for very cold locations!
Pea_Shrub04

There are many uses for the Pea Shrubs – seen here is Siberian Pea Tree/Shrub (Caragana arborescens) being used as a windbreak/hedge.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Ornamental Plant – this has been one of its primary uses around the world due to its small fragrant flowers and attractive leaves
  • Edible Pods – Young pods are eaten raw or cooked in Summer.
  • Edible Seeds – Historically, Pea Shrubs were used for food much more than they are now. The pods form 3-4 “peas” each, and these peas can be eaten raw or cooked when young. The seeds may also be dried and then used like dried peas – soaked overnight and then cooked before eating. Some people still enjoy eating from this plant, but others find the taste bland and the small, low-seeding pods bothersome to open and not worth the trouble. The tree does produce a lot of pods though, so it may have potential as a future food source. I have yet to try pods or peas from this plant… I’ll let you know when I do
  • Edible Flowers – reportedly can be used as a salad garnish

Secondary Uses:

  • Nitrogen Fixer – 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; Clover, Cowpea, Lupine, Soybean inoculation groups.
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land
  • Windbreak Plant – fast growing, but not very tall
  • Hedge Plant – the thorns on this plant will likely make it a worthwhile food-producing, living fence for livestock
  • Wildlife Food – many animals will eat the seeds and hummingbirds enjoy the nectar
  • Wildlife Shelter – mainly birds
  • Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on Caranga species
  • Parasitic Wasps prefer to rest and hide on Caranga species
  • Erosion Control Species – the extensive root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion
  • Fodder Crop – chickens particularly enjoy this plant’s pods and seed, but there is also research supporting its use as fodder for sheep, goats, cattle, deer, reindeer, and camels!
  • Fiber Plant – a fiber from the bark can be used to make cordage
  • Dye Plant – a blue dye can be made from the leaves

Yield: No reliable information can be found, but these plant yield high quantities of pods each year.
Harvesting:  Summer – pods can be harvested when very small (just over an inch). Autumn – if the pods are older but still green, they the peas can be eaten raw or cooked. If the pods have turned brown, pick them before they split and harvest the dried peas.
Storage: Use pods and young peas within a few days. The dried peas will keep for years if kept in a dry location.

Pea_Shrub08

The pioneering Caragana species will help rebuild poor soils.
Russian Pea Shrub (Caragana frutex).

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone:

  • Siberian Pea Tree/Shrub (Caragana arborescens): Zone 2-7
  • Caragana boisii (Caragana boisii): Zone 2
  • Caragana brevispina (Caragana brevispina): Zone 6
  • Caragana decorticans (Caragana decorticans): Zone 6
  • Russian Pea Shrub (Caragana frutex): Zone 2-7
  • Pygmy Pea Shrub (Caragana pygmeae): Zone 2-7

AHS Heat Zone:

  • Siberian Pea Tree/Shrub (Caragana arborescens): Zone 8-1

Chill Requirement: No reliable information is available, but it is likely considering its origination location.

Plant Type: Medium to Very Large Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties of Caragana arborescens available, but these were all developed for flowers, not for other beneficial characteristics. Other than that, almost no development has been undertaken.

Pollination: Self-fertile. Bee pollinated.
Flowering: Spring

Years to Begin Fruiting: 3-5 years
Life Span: Up to 50+ years

Pea_Shrub07

There are a variety of sizes in the Caragana genus.
Here is the medium-sized Russian Pea Shrub (Caragana frutex).

Pea_Shrub06

And the small Pygmy Pea Shrub (Caragana pygmeae)

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size:

  • Siberian Pea Tree/Shrub (Caragana arborescens): 8-20 feet (2.4-6 meters) tall and 12-18 feet(3.5-5.5 meters) wide
  • Caragana boisii (Caragana boisii): 8-20 feet (2.4-6 meters) tall and 13 feet(4 meters) wide
  • Caragana brevispina (Caragana brevispina): 8 (2.4 meters) tall
  • Caragana decorticans (Caragana decorticans): 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall
  • Russian Pea Shrub (Caragana frutex): 6-10 feet (1.8-3 meters) tall and wide
  • Pygmy Pea Shrub (Caragana pygmeae): 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall and wide

Roots: Fairly deep, but very extensive root system (used for erosion control)
Growth Rate: Medium to Fast

Pea_Shrub05

Fragrant flowers are just the icing on the cake of this multi-use “wonder-shrub”!

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Does not tolerate shade
Moisture: Dry to medium-moisture soils. Can tolerate failry dry conditions once established.
pH: 5.1-8.5 (tolerates a wide range of soil conditions)

Special Considerations for Growing: None.

Propagation:
Typically from seed. Soak for 24 hrs first. If the seed has not swollen, then scarify and soak again for 12 hrs. Typically germinates in 2-3 weeks. Not dormant. Can be propagated from cuttings and layering as well.

Maintenance: Minimal once established.

Concerns:

  • Most species have thorns which can be annoying to problematic depending on where they are planted and how they are used.
  • In some areas, the Caragana species are considered invasive; however, this appears to be more of a case in disturbed areas… which is why this is considered a great pioneer species. If the land was not mismanaged in the first place, and repeatedly disturbed, then there would be no place for pioneer species like this, and there would be no “invasive” label to this plant.

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Caragana_arborescens.jpg
  • http://www.efloras.org/object_page.aspx?object_id=116185&flora_id=2
  • http://adisasullivan.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/reed-deer-august-15-caragana-pods.jpg
  • http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/tree-selector/system/photos/335/original/caragana_peashrub3.jpg?1315940440
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/Caragana_arborescens_flowers,_May_2008,_Prague,_Czech_Republic.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/Caragana_pygmaea_(5182427794).jpg
  • http://img4.rajce.idnes.cz/d0409/2/2580/2580487_e65957b89c4e30dad7af3f17cc5dcae3/images/Caragana_frutex.JPG
  • http://www.plantarium.ru/dat/plants/3/328/60328_709c9a97.jpg
  • http://www.biolib.cz/IMG/GAL/BIG/185497.jpg