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looking for recommendations for unique site

Posted by cousinfloyd NC 7 (My Page) on
Mon, Dec 16, 13 at 21:15

I have about an acre (or close to it) in one part of my property that I'd like to gradually start improving. It's a low area that stays pretty wet for some parts of the year. Presently there are tulip poplars, red maples, black walnuts, sycamores, ashes, and several trees of a species that I'd like to positively identify that I think might be something like a sugarberry or hackberry but doesn't have the warty bark. (I should probably post some photos of it.) There were a couple really nice, tall tulip poplars, but one started leaning and then fell over last year and the tallest (over 2' in diameter) was killed by lightning earlier this year. Most of the trees in this area are crooked and leaning, though, just especially poor timber form. There also seems to be a disproportionate number of dead trees, and there's a heavy percentage of ash trees -- are emerald ash borers going to clear them all out soon? I like the ash trees, especially because I hardly have any anywhere else, but I don't like their leaning and bending form. Although some of the trees are quite big, something about this area has prevented a good canopy from forming, so there's quite a bit of Chinese privet and poison ivy in the understory (and mayapples in areas, which I like.) What trees would you recommend for this area? I'm interested either in edibles or timber species with wood with special uses. I've also thought about bamboo. Or gradually transitioning the area back to grass for more pasture. Could it be a good area to graft black walnut cultivars for nut production? Could I grow white tupelo (ogeechee lime) anywhere in zone 7 North Carolina on the western side of the Piedmont (roughly between Charlotte and the Virginia line) and in this site in particular? Could a bald cypress or pond cypress grow well there? Those two aren't species I really know anything about (or the difference between them), but doesn't one of them have rot resistant wood? Are there any eucalyptus that would grow there? Do willows have other uses besides baskets? How do you think pawpaws would do there? What other thoughts do you have?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

You need to tell us exactly what you want from this area. You are kinda rambling LOL. What I would do if it were mine is purely esthetic and would have no practical use except to please me.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

No quick and easy answers to this question. Here are a few suggestions to aid the OP in becoming a detective in order to understand the situation.

1. Simple solution; retain a forester to provide the answers. You need someone who can 'read' the situation on site. This is an ability learned over many years.

2. Do a search for...ecology of soil filled with ash trees....and read every darned page searching for articles related to the situation which explain numerous things including oxygen and tree growth in damp situations.

3. A book, LANDSCAPE PLANTS OF THE SOUTHEAST by Halfacre and Shawcroft has an excellent section on tall, deciduous and evergreen trees, plus their moisture requirements.
I would add another tree to their list which is happy at the edge of damp areas, the American chestnut.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

It sounds like a nice natural area with plenty of native trees and a few invasive plants (privet). Has the amount of retained moisture been increasing? That might explain why the tulip poplars aren't doing well.

If the moisture is increasing, that will define what trees do well there. I would certainly try to get rid of the chinese privet. And I would encourage you not to plant new invasive plants like bamboo (unless you meant the native switchcane which is bamboo-like and is wet tolerant).

So it is key to understand the nature of the area as it is becoming compared to what it was. Changes in nearby property could be send more water your way even if it is not obvious above ground.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

Ken, yeah, I was definitely rambling. Exactly what I want from the area? I'm just wanting to make a list of options at this point, species that might be expected to grow well and live about as long as they would anywhere in this part of NC. Am I overlooking any neat options? I appreciate aesthetics, but I definitely want species that have more than just aesthetics to offer (either edible uses or wood that would be outstanding for some particular use or even any far-out-of-the-box uses like bark that can be used to tan hides...)

Nandina, if American chestnut might be an option that would do well there, does that mean Chinese (or blight-resistant crosses) might be as well? This area is adjacent to other woods, and I've been trying to plant nut trees where squirrel pressure wouldn't be as great, but chestnuts are an intriguing thought.

Esh, we have had some fairly long, very wet spells over the last two or three years, but ever since I moved here in 2007 that area seems to have had large trees spaced too far apart to really fill the canopy, which makes me think a lot of fairly matures trees have died over the years. I've assumed soil/water issues were chiefly to blame, but now that I think of it, a pretty bad tornado did cross my property in 2005. Maybe the tornado is why the area looks like it does, but I don't think that would explain why the trees that are still living are almost all much poorer timber form (with the exception of the tulip poplars) than the trees elsewhere on my property.

I definitely intend to plant bamboo, if not in this area I've talked about, then somewhere else on the property. It's just too useful and creates such a pleasing space, and while it's invasive in a way, I don't think there's any danger of it spreading to neighbors' properties or me not being able to keep it where I want it on my own property, so to me that kind of "invasive" just means vigorous and easy to grow.

As far as getting rid of the privet, I'm not too troubled by it. I much prefer it to the poison ivy. It's already naturalized in multiple areas of my property and on nearly every other farm and property in the nearby counties (since before I moved here.) On the other hand, it just seems to be filling a void that something more desirable could fill. Realistically I only see two ways I'm ever going to get rid of it: shade it out by establishing a denser canopy of mature trees or clear the area and keep it grazed and mowed down.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

I'm sorry to hear you say that you will plant bamboo. It's a shame to introduce a known invasive plant into an area. It may not spread in your lifetime, but there are vast tracts of it near me in north Georgia and it is impossible to get rid of without ripping up the entire soil structure with machinery. Someone like you probably said the same thing 50-75 years ago.

Please at least investigate the "clumping" kinds.

As for the privet, it is not "filling a void", it is creating one and then taking advantage of it. It out competes the native vegetation by being faster growing and more capable of creating shade to keep the native seeds from thriving. A denser canopy won't shade it out, it will just keep it scraggly.

Our native flora is gradually getting squeezed out by man's activities and man's plant selections. I would encourage you to think about native choices for your new plantings.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

Maybe bamboo is more invasive in GA than it is here in NC? I've never seen what I would call a vast tract, probably not even a full acre in any one place in NC, and I pay attention to it whenever I see it. Even my 3 year old shouts out "bamboo" when she sees any.

I'm skeptical of the idea that one would have to rip up the entire soil structure to get rid of it. Couldn't one just keep it cut down and graze it heavily? How could it survive that treatment for very long? If it really is as hard to get rid of as you suggest, that's something I'd definitely like to know more about, but I haven't seen any evidence of that yet. I have, by the way, been harvesting poles from a neighbor's patch of bamboo for the last year or two. That patch -- it's some kind of Phyllostachys -- has been there and looked about the same (so presumably fully mature) since I moved here in 2007, and it seems very manageable, and the poles are very handy and easy to harvest. I'm looking forward to employing bamboo in lots of other uses, too.

The people that I've talked to that are familiar with bamboo have suggested to me that the clumping types of bamboo aren't very well suited to NC, and I'm not sure the "timber" quality is as good either, but I know very little details. It just seems the running types are the ones I see whenever I see bamboo in this area.

I would be very wary of introducing exotic invasives (or potential invasives), but I don't consider a plant like privet "exotic" any more if it's widely naturalized in the area. Once it's naturalized, I'm all for using it to whatever extent it's useful. That said, the only use I've found for privet so far is for winter browse. It retains its leaves long enough into the winter that in a typical winter it completely displaces my need for winter hay for my very small herd of goats. If you want to get rid of privet, I'd recommend starting in the winter by putting goats on it. But I would like to find something else to grow in the area where I talked about the privet growing.

As far as the ecological value of planting natives, however, my feelings are that any purchased things I can replace with homegrown substitutes, whether native or non-native, will almost certainly be a big ecological improvement. Maybe if I were just using plants for ornamental purposes I could see things differently, but thinking of trees as useful, I can't see shunning non-native species in my woods any more than I can see shunning 95+% of my garden vegetables, dairy animals, domesticated meat and poultry species, grains, fruit trees, etc. just because they're not native to this part of North Carolina. But if you, Esh, or anyone else has any specific native recommendations for this particular site I'd love to hear about them.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

I would say if you want to learn more about the ecological value of natives compared to non-natives then look specifically into the plant-insect relationships. Native insects evolved with native plants over thousands of years (think monarch butterfly and milkweed). While some non-native plants can support some native insects (think parsley and fennel as non-native members of the Apiaceae family as a substitute for native members like Sium suave, waterparsnip), many others have unique relationships that can't be sub'ed. Reduction of native plants equals a reduction in native insects and all those that depend on insects as a source of food (e.g., baby birds and even adult birds like warblers). There is plenty of evidence that bird populations have declined as more land as been transformed into buildings and residential areas.

In my area, every single privet is a place that naturally would have grown a blueberry, a hearts a bustin', a Carolina allspice or any number of other native shrubs. Plants that would have hosted insects who won't touch a privet (there's a reason it is pest-resistant!).

As for recommendations for the site, I would encourage you to consider what is already doing well there under those periodic wet conditions. I am not sure that walnut fits that description, but the Nyssa, red maple and cypress are ... I'm just not sure if they are native to your area (well, the maple is, of course). The native plant society could be a good resource.

If you're interested in shrubs, there are many moisture tolerant native shrubs as well, including some of the native hollies and viburnums. Elderberry, excellent for wine and jams, also likes moist conditions.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

There are some viburnums of some type around the edge of this area. I don't think there's enough light for elderberries, but I do have lots of elderberries elsewhere on my property. I don't think I really want shrubbier species, though. I think I'd be more interested in full tree species or going in the other direction and clearing it for additional pasture.

I think Chinese privet does produce substantial nectar for insects. It mostly has a bad reputation with beekeepers in this area for the quality of the honey. I don't think most beekeepers, especially in this region with diverse nectar producing plants really know where their honey comes from from year to year, however, so I don't put too much stock in those assessments, but it definitely attracts insects.

As far as diminished bird populations how much of that could be caused by biologically limited monocultures and/or chemical agriculture? If I can replace a chemically treated post from a big box store with a homegrown, non-native osage orange post, isn't that a gain? (Yes, I could use a native red cedar post in some applications, but it wouldn't be reliable and long-lasting enough for a lot of applications. Black locust doesn't seem to be native in this immediate area, but it's native all around and would be more comparable to osage orange in terms of rot resistance, but isn't it plagued by non-native leaf miners such that it likely would fail to grow well?) Or if I can grow Chinese chestnuts instead of buying almonds from California isn't that a definite ecological gain? It's not like native chestnuts are a viable option any more anyway, and from what I understand native chestnuts are too small to be very practical for nut production even apart from the blight. These would be the kind of ecological arguments I'd make for non-natives, but, of course, there are other arguments beyond ecology like wanting a more diverse diet than native species can provide. Of course, it only makes matter worse that a lot of native species aren't really viable any more because of exotic pests and diseases, but no one limits himself to a native diet (and non-edible plant products) anyway, so why not grow these non-natives for myself instead of paying other people to grow non-natives in less ecologically sensitive ways?


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

I'm not talking about insects that get nectar and pollen from plants as you describe with bees and privet.

I'm talking about insects that EAT foliage. Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars eat milkweed foliage exclusively. You speak of "native diet" well that is what leaves are to the caterpillars of butterflies and moths. No native butterflies and moths lay eggs on privet so it is like plastic to them - useless.

The point is - it isn't all about us (humans). Yes, we grow plants for food, that's a given and some of our land is given over to that. But there are opportunities for us to use the rest of our land to help support the critters around us - the insects, the birds, reptiles, small mammals. I have a whole backyard I am not using to grow things for myself; why not make it useful for the other creatures that live here? Planting a privet there, for example, or bamboo, does nothing for them. English ivy does nothing for them. Crape myrtle does nothing for them. Forsythia, camellia, nandina ... all nothing. Just examples.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native in North Carolina


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

e,
sounds like an ideal setting for black walnuts, pecans, shellbark hickories - or even shagbark grafted onto pecan or shellbark understock. They all excel in 'first-bottom' settings, and prefer a good alluvial soil.
Chestnuts don't take especially well to 'wet feet',

I'm with esh on the bamboo. I have several stands of native bamboo on the farm here, along the creek - and though it is native, it's pretty aggressive, and is constantly encroaching into my riparian nut tree plantings and pasture.
My grandparents home in east-central AL, was across the highway from the university fisheries research unit, and when I was a kid, there was a 50-acre block of timber-type bamboo - an impenetrable forest which was home to millions of blackbirds and starlings. Still have the Histoplasmosis scars on my lungs to attest to their presence. When the university decided to remove it to make room for more ponds, it took a tremendous amount of dozer work - and they still didn't manage to completely eradicate it - some had escaped across the access road onto adjacent property, owned by my uncle.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

why not turn the area into a food forest?.....its a permaculture idea based around edible/medicinal/useful plants. So in your case you could keep the black walnuts and under those plant a grove of pawpaws. Could also plant things like American hazelnut, American persimmon, American plum, chestnuts, red mulberry, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries. Check out Oikos tree crops and One Green World for plants. Permies.com has a forum just for food forests so you can ask any specific questions there.

This post was edited by greenthumbzdude on Wed, Dec 18, 13 at 10:28


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 18, 13 at 12:06

Another vote to please reconsider the bamboo and privet. Bamboo isn't quite as problematic in the woods I do volunteer work in (removing invasives) but there are some large swaths of it that have escaped neighboring properties that have been difficult to remove.
Chinese privet, on the other hand, is a problem I've dealt with. Much more common for property borders and requires a weed wrench to remove it. Since we only have one weed wrench that isn't always available, we can only hit it once in a while and it's spreading. I believe it's spread by birds eating the berries.
Poison ivy? While native here, it took me about 2 years and a dozen rashes to get rid of it from my property by hand. We let it go in the woods since it serves a purpose and can at least compete with the English ivy. Has a nice fall color, too, even though I'm itching as I type - spent 8 hours last week in the snow removing English ivy from the tree bases and underestimated how much contact I'd have with poison ivy. Still worth the trade-off.
Of course, you can do what you want, but I would urge you to pick up a regional native plant book with pictures and learn more. Bamboo, privet, whatever... I guarantee you there's a native alternative that will provide the look you're going for which will also provide a benefit to wildlife, not to mention save someone a lot of work years down the road.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

Lucky, thanks for the ideas. That's very helpful. You do raise some more questions for me, though. The area I've described is fairly long and narrow and there's a hillside of tall trees to the west, so much of the area would have quite a bit of afternoon shade. I think of pecans as needing full sun, especially for good production. How big a deal will the afternoon shade be for pecans? Another concern with pecans or hickories would be squirrels. Am I right in thinking it's a lot better as far as minimizing squirrel pressure to plant pecans and hickories in the middle of open spaces instead of next to woods? Squirrels don't seem to be as hard on black walnuts, and I know walnuts can do well enough on the edge of woods, so those seem like advantages for walnut, but black walnuts are of more limited usefulness, both in quantity and culinarily.

Esh, I think I understand your arguments for natives, but thinking beyond strictly ornamental plantings I don't think the question is really natives vs. non-natives, but rather non-natives that I pay other people to grow for me or non-natives that I grow myself. Natives are just far too limiting to live from, certainly in any way I (and I'm sure you, too) would choose to live, especially given all the non-native pests and diseases that adversely affect natives.

c2g, you seem to have misunderstood what I said about privet. It's already naturalized in this particular area and all over my farm and the surrounding area.

Regarding bamboo, I've looked at some more online information resources in response to the warnings from some of you all here, and as long as the stand of bamboo is managed (which is my whole purpose for planting it), I don't see any real threat of invasiveness. What do you all think of the information in the following links?

Here is a link that might be useful: Control and Maintain Running Bamboo


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

Here's the other link about getting rid of bamboo.

Here is a link that might be useful: Removing a Running Bamboo


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

In answer to the question about growing hybrid-type chestnuts. Any type of chestnut could be considered. And, chestnuts will grow well on the edge of damp areas. Plant a fruit or nut tree and the rabbits/squirrels/deer will find them. Just a small part of Mother Nature's grand design.

Lots of chatter going on here regarding this question. Problem is, there does not appear to be an an effort to dig in and understand the underlying situation. And the thought of adding running bamboo to the mix does not make sense, especially when a neighbor appears willing to provide a fishing pole every now and then which allows the one acre under discussion to be used in a more productive manner. Either forest or pasture is productive.

As an aside...The only time I have encountered a well designed timber bamboo planting was at Ted Turner's fishing camp located in the Charleston, SC area. One drives into his plantation on a fairly long sand road and just as it approaches the camp house the road becomes a round-about and the half acre or so island inside the road is a mature bamboo forest. His caretaker told me that a strong barrier around the planting was installed years ago and any escapees were controlled easily.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

  • Posted by jcalhoun 8b Mobile County AL (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 25, 13 at 9:34

I have been fighting the Asian for a while now and spent a lot of time and money doing it.

I wish I had a time machine to go back about 50 years and kick the **** out of the ************* that planted that stuff here! Popcorn trees, mimosas, privets and honeysuckle can kiss my ***!


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Bamboo is useful for so much more on a small farm than "a fishing pole every now and then." If one is content with store-bought solutions, then there are plenty of store-bought substitutes, but for someone like me that values homegrown ways of meeting needs bamboo seems to offer so much utility. The stakes come in super handy in all sorts of places. The poles make a highly functional, super quick and easy compost/leaf mold/etc. bin. Small diameter poles are perfect for lashing together into homemade "cattle panels" for use in the garden. Larger poles can form corrals to actually contain cattle. Medium size poles can be used as short-term posts, driven into the ground with a T-post driver. The poles make easy chicken roosts. The grove produces year-round shade perfect for shitake logs, not to mention anything one might want to do out of the eye of satellites. Bamboo makes for good winter shelter and wind breaks for cattle. The shoots of the larger types provide a fresh vegetable at a time of year when homegrown vegetables are at their scarcest. I know a guy that uses bamboo for the posts for all his moveable fencing -- it could pretty easily replace all the fiberglass posts I use all the time with electric wire fencing. The native bamboo, arundinaria gigantea, was apparently wiped out in large part because it made such easy forage for cattle. I'm sure I've only just begun to realize how useful bamboo can be to me. And it's so easily harvested and used, all without front end loaders and sawmills, etc.


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RE: looking for recommendations for unique site

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 25, 13 at 14:15

There are two broad categories of bamboo growth modes, running and clumping. Most, if not all of the above complaints aren't about bamboo, they are about running bamboo. Many clumping bamboos grow in tight bunches, like irises. The main problem with trying to use these in NC may be the climate, as a lot of the frost tolerant ones don't like it hot. But among the numbers of bamboo species that are on the US market there may be one you can buy that is quite suitable.


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