Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why the interest in trees like Rock Elm

Frequent commentor Lucas Macias observed, "I don't believe you have mentioned what your interest in Rock Elm is"

I don't want to go into a huge dissertation but I will take a few swipes at it.

H.T. Odum's thoughts on the power of Transformity basically states, "Let light remain light.  Let food remain food.  Let mechanical motion remain mechanical motion.  And let heat remain heat."

It is a hierarchy of entropy.  Light is the "highest" form of energy.  While different forms of energy can be converted it is wasteful to transform from a low entropy (high form) of energy to a higher entropy (lower form) of energy.  And it is extravagantly wasteful to try to trade from a high entropy form up to a low entropy form.  How many rusty Yugos would you have to trade to get a pristine '63 Corvette?  How many no-name baseball cards to get a Mickey Mantle rookie card?  So it is with trying to trade heat up to light or human quality food.

Immediately below light is food, human food.  So if one had to choose between a tree that produced human food and a tree that only produced wood to burn, then one would be a poor manager if he chose the more limited, higher entropy option.  I suppose good dimension lumber might be akin to mechanical energy, which falls between food and heat.  It should be noted that all trees produce burnable wood by way of incidental harvest.

So the Rock Elm has a lot going for it.  It produces (tiny amounts of) human quality wood during the hunger gap, it produces wood strong enough to be tool handles, wagon wheels, cogs and shafts, it produces burnable wood and it can do it under difficult growing conditions.

Edited to add: I also think that growing Rock Elm (and Burr Oak and Hill's Oak) would be a good fund raising project for our local FFA chapter.  I think there are many land owners who would be happy to pay $3 a tree if it was "containerized" in a Red Solo cup or a biodegradable container.

If you take a portfolio approach, it should not be a high percentage of the canopy.  But, like "junk" silver dimes, it could be handy to have a few of them lying about.

Now, if only I can figure out how to grow bioluminescent fungi on them!


  1. Thanks for the education. I didn't know about the difference.

  2. Yep. I'd gladly pay the going rate for a few of those red Solo cups containing Rock Elm seedlings.

  3. Rock Elms are easy to grow if a seed source is nearby!

    Case in point:
    In 2013 I had collected a ziploc-bag of seeds of this species one weekend (late May or early June) and then got busy and forgot about them until the next weekend; only to find that they had nearly all germinated with radicles emerging. I put these sprouting seeds into potting soil and ended up with dozens of seedlings.

    The only issue is predation by birds and mammals, which is serious and I had to fence the seeds in like one would do when growing nuts, but even more so as small birds will take them away too. This species is a serious wildlife-supporter wherever it occurs. To ensure a good supply of seeds in non-bumper crop years it is recommended to screen in some of those conveniently-drooping lower branches with developing seeds (think Mulberries or Serviceberries here with bird predation)

  4. Now, if only I can figure out how to grow bioluminescent fungi on them!

    What and why?

  5. So nothing to do with eco-restoration guerrilla gardening?

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