Do you want to produce supplemental income from your acreage? Have you been thinking about improving your land with a windbreak, streamside buffer strip, living snow fence or other conservation planting? Perhaps you are hesitating because you don't want to take land out of crop production. Did you know you can produce income and protect your land by using trees and shrubs that produce commercially valuable specialty forest products?
Specialty forest products generally fall into one of four categories: 1) medicinals and botanicals, 2) woody-based food products, 3) woody decorative florals and 4) handicrafts and specialty woods.
Medicinals and botanicals are plant-derived substances that are used in an enormous variety of food supplements, herbal health items, cosmetics and other products. Medicinals and botanicals can be developed from nearly all parts of trees, shrubs or herbaceous plants.
Woody-based food products include nuts, fruits and some mushrooms. Nuts with commercial markets include black walnut, Chinese chestnut, pecan, hickory, butternut, hybrid hazelnut and ginkgo. Commonly harvested commercial fruits include chokecherry, highbush cranberry, sand cherry, currants, Corneliancherry dogwood, elderberry, saskatoon (serviceberry or juneberry), Nanking cherry, chokeberry, buffaloberry, pawpaw and persimmon. High-value gourmet mushrooms, such as shiitake or oyster, may be grown on logs or wood chips in a forest setting. These may all be harvested for personal or commercial use.
Woody decorative florals include any woody plant species that has a colorful or unusually shaped stem, bud, flower, fruit or leaf. Common examples include pussy and curly willows, red- and yellow-stemmed dogwoods, forsythia, apple, cherry, plum and witchhazel. These plants, and many others, are regularly used in the floral industry.
Handicrafts and specialty woods are frequently used by artisans. For example "basket" or "Streamco" willow can be used to stabilize a streamside, as well as for furniture. Smooth sumac, diamond willow, hickory and aspen saplings can be used to create beautiful walking sticks. Cottonwood bark, butternut, basswood, figured walnut and catalpa are favorites among wood carvers.
While many of these woody plants produce commercially valuable products, it can be difficult to find wholesale and retail sources of nursery stock for these species if you wish to grow your own. The following lists are a compilation of nursery sources for a variety of species and cultivars of plants that produce commercially valuable specialty products. The information provided in these lists is supplied with the understanding that no endorsement of specific products or companies named, nor discrimination of products or companies not named, is implied by Nebraska Cooperative Extension. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of distributors.
To view a printable version of the information above and a list of nursery stock and nursery stock sources, click one of the links below:
*Thanks to Kim Todd, Carol Ringenberg and Jim Peterson for their helpful reviews. This project was funded in part by the USDA North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (SARE).