Friday, October 2, 2020

Finding the highest value species for difficult situations


One of the principles of Permacultures is pretty simple. Replace lower-value species of plants with species that inhabit the same ecosystem that offer more value to humans.

"Value" is in the eye of the beholder. For me, value is multi-dimensional and includes amount and quality of food produced, ease of harvest, resistance to diseases, insects, bird and mammal predation. I also like long windows for harvest and the ability to store the food in its raw form with little energy burden.

If a species does not produce food for man or beast it can still be of high value if it produces high-quality timber or rot-resistant woods. If it doesn't produce food or timber then it can still provide fuel.

Some ecosystems are niches that are difficult to fill.


Some types of bottomlands are inhospitable for many food-producing crops.

For example, one standard for the application of "riparian law" in Michigan is "land that has never had a successful crop of corn taken off of it."

Other types of bottomland are extremely favorable for corn and soybeans. For example, organic soils that are developed with artificial drainage and high-flats.

Zooming into the preferred species for the very wettest regions of a flood plain, the mast producers are Overcup Oak, Water Hickory and Persimmon. Among the timber producers, Baldcypress is the clear winner.

Source of information: Bottomland Hardwood Management from Mississippi State University


  1. On my land I pretty much leave that up to Mother Nature with the exception of Balsam. If I happen to be walking past that with an axe or chain saw in my hand I cut it down. ---ken

  2. Balsam Fir is a cash crop in our neck of the woods. Commonly used for Christmas trees.

    1. They do have value as Christmas trees here also, but only if they are grown in open areas, and usually pruned, so that they are shaped nicely. Growing wild in the woods they seldom are. They tend to have much more space between limbs and not very concentric. Just take up space where other more useful trees could live. And the biggest problem with having trees growing in more open areas where they form well is people see them from the road and go cut them down for Christmas Trees. ---ken

    2. I love the way Balsam Fir needles smell. And they are soft.

      If a fella wants to walks somewhere with his sweetheart and give her a kiss or two, a man would do well to pick White Pines or Balsam Firs.

    3. I've worked a lot with Christmas trees. We sell the Fraser Fir, which looks a lot like the Balsam. We call it the Cadillac of Christmas trees at a Volkswagen price. Other species of trees for Christmas are a little less expensive, but not as good as far as needle retention and drying out.

  3. My sheep love to eat balsam fir needles. Eastern white pine, too. And black locust. I've been felling lots of small trees to declutter a patch of brush-choked second-growth land preparatory to seeding for silvopasture. Feeding the sheep these trees has been critical to our surviving a 5-month drought this year.

    1. We had an enormous Weeping Willow disassemble itself just inside the sheep pasture one drought year. I heard it happen. I was looking out the door in the morning. "POP" and then the three trunks came to ground.

      There are a lot of twigs on a weeping willow and that is what the sheep ate that week.

  4. Here in the hills of western Virginia, with our clay soils, I see a lot of black locust as our nuisance tree. Saplings coming up like weeds everywhere, heavily thorned to make keeping air in riding mower tires challenging.


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