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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Top 10 Fuel Trees for Zone 5 and Above

Various Fuel Trees for Climate Zone 5
by Scott A. Meister


With today’s bleak future for fuel, we must start planning wisely. In today’s society, most people now living in urban areas are dependent upon the municipal, industrial and commercial structure to provide for their energy needs. This dependence has removed much of our freedom, for we are at the mercy of those who own or control the fossil fuels that we depend on.

At this point, we have a choice. We can go to war to secure the last few drops of fossil fuel energy, and destroy the world, freedom and life on the planet in the process, or we can start living wisely and self-sufficiently, so we are no longer subject to the whims of government or those who “own” fossil fuel sources. Furthermore, if we sever ourselves from this dependence, we will no longer be feeding the greed of the upper, say, two percent of society that is in “possession” of those natural recourses. It is both wise and intelligent to start reducing the amount of energy we need to live on, while at the same time taking steps to provide that energy for ourselves while using that energy in the most efficient way possible.

The first steps toward this kind of self-sufficient independence and freedom begin at home. First, we must begin with the intelligent design of a low-input house that takes advantage of passive-solar heating and cooling, and combine it with a surrounding landscape that will provide for our nutrition and any energy-input needs.

Those who are unfortunate enough to live in the energy intensive cold-temperate climate are at a specific disadvantage. Before the arrival of Europeans in the midwestern area, people roamed through it seasonally as nomads, wisely realizing that settling in the area would require all of the trees to simply survive the winter.

Some have suggested this is why the midwest is so sparse with trees in the first place, thus, the land is not as rich as other areas. Just as some have laid blame on the Anasazi for the deserts around Mesa Verde. Making clearings for the sake of agriculture to support permanent settlements removed the shelter, shade and water regulation needed for the continued survival of vegetation in the area.

The hot summers further aggravate the situation in the areas furthest from the coasts. This forces us to design for both extremes. It would be much easier to design for a place that is always cold, or always hot, but in the heartland of the U.S. we have been forsaken to have to deal with both.

The main problem, is that we most likely will not be able to keep warm through the winter by simply making use of insulation, orienting the house toward the sun for passive solar heating, and attaching greenhouses (tactics of which non are currently being used. Due to the pioneer paranoia of indians attacking, all settlements have been designed with a wagon wheel back-to-back square or circular design, ignoring sun aspect. If you add the former “abundance” of cheap energy, and aesthetic design customs which are dictated by the drive toward and show of status you end up the modern midwestern suburb).

As of now, many of the houses were not designed to survive a world running short of energy. They are, in -fact, aimed entirely toward the opposite goal, consumption of massive amounts of embodied and fossil fuel energy.

Vaulted ceilings (being pushed by architecture firms today) require massive heating and air-conditioning. Massive decorative grass lawns require insane amounts of time, labor, oil and gas inputs for mowing, fertilization and pest control (not to mention waste disposal). These are the status symbols of suburban life. They are the coveted norm. This is all going to change, whether we like it to or not. As the price of energy rises, as it has no choice but to do, these lifestyles will slowly become obsolete.

Since the winter weather is so harsh, and the summers are so blistering, we must turn toward a more harmonious inclusion of nature in our immediate surroundings and our settlements if we wish to survive without the benefit of cheap fossil energy.

In the future, living trees and shrubs will be the main source for what little fuel inputs we will depend on for our new eco-friendly homes. Trees will be the main source of shade to keep us cool in the sweltering summers. Trees will be the main source of soil building as well as water and soil conservation partners.

We will slowly start to see the disappearance of the aesthetic fireplace, that heats a small area while actually cooling the rest of the house. Franklin-stoves (which do little better than a fireplace) will fall by the wayside. Instead, we will see a wise homeowner installing masonry stoves that build and trap heat from small fires for the slow radiation of it over time thus making better use of whatever fuel we put into it.

To be most thoroughly efficient however, we must use efficient fuel, wisely. We wouldn’t want to burn something that will not last long enough to build up the heat we need, thus requiring large amounts of wood to feed the masonry stove. This would further add CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, while not really contributing to our heating needs. We also don’t want to harvest trees in an unsustainable way by planting lots of pine trees that grow fast, and then simply cut them down and replanting. This would be too energy and time intensive. This growing to kill system just doesn’t make sense when it comes to time use and yield.

It is with this in mind, that I’ve decided to do some research into the best kinds of wood for providing heat. I went in search of the tree that would give off the highest amount of BTU’s per cord. It is this search that lead me to the information below that was provided by a study done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I also consulted a study published by the University of Missouri-Columbia along with various other online resources.

I chose the Top 10 BTU producing trees from these studies in hopes that we would all consider planting bio-diverse hedgerows, food-forests, shade trees, swale tree-lines with nitrogen-fixers that can also act as coppiceable sources of fuel. By including a variety of these trees, in combination with a passive solar home properly shaded in summer, using a masonry stove to maximize the efficiency of our fuel trees in winter, we can wean ourselves from dependence on the system, and on the fossil fuel cartels at work both at home and abroad. By providing our own food and energy security, we thereby will increase our own independence and freedom, thereby truly living the “American” dream.

Without further ado...the Top 10 trees are (drum-roll here)..........

RANK NAME Heat/Cord
(Million BTUs)

1. Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) 32.9
2. Oak, White (Quercas alba) 29.1
3. Locust, Black (Robinia pseudoacacia) 27.9
4. Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) 27.9
5. Hickory, Shagbark (Carya ovata) 27.5
6. Apple (Malus domestica) 27.0
7. Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) 26.7
8. Hickory, Bitternut (Carya cordiformis) 26.7
9. Oak, Bur (Quercus macrocarpa) 26.2
10. Mulberry (Trees from the Moraceae Morus family) 25.8


Three Cheers for Osage Orange!















I’d like to spend some time talking about some of the better fuel woods up on this list, specifically , Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera). Look at that number again...32.9 million BTU’S per cord. That’s the next best thing to coal! Another paper from the University of Missouri-Columbia stated that Osage Orange would produce 30.7 million Btu/cord. This would equal (and here’s the interesting part) 219.3 gallons of Fuel Oil.

Considering that 1 barrel of oil produces 9 gallons of fuel oil, and one barrel of oil is priced currently at $67 US. Then one cord of Osage Orange is worth $1,634.80. Since it generally takes 4 to 10 hours of work to harvest, haul and prepare a firewood cord, in terms of labor, this would translate into between $163.48 /hr and $408.70/hr (depending on your planning and efficiency). NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT! And...if the trees are coppiced in rotations, this would be sustainable! In other financial terms, one cord of Osage Orange is about 4,728 lbs. (dry weight). This would mean you could get about $3.00/lb. Considering the ever rising price of oil...ick! This tree is going to just become more valuable, especially since it’s not very popular right now, and people seem to just want to stick it in the ground dead as fence-post...more on this later.

Since I was a child, I would use the large and gnarly fruit as a makeshift bowling ball...split many a tree into firewood (to build character and muscles, so I’ve been told) and watched many a log light up our franklin stove in the bone-numbing Nebraska winters (F.Y.I. coldest temp that I remember experiencing was about -45 degrees fahrenheit but the yearly average low is -20 to -25 degrees F, or -28.9 to -31.6 degrees C)

Osage Orange (also commonly known as Hedge apple or just Hedge) got it’s name from the the tribe that live in an area around Arkansas, the Red River Valleys of southern Oklahoma and northern Texas. The Osage Indians valued the tree’s wood for it’s strength and elasticity and therefore used it to make bows, clubs and other tools (it’s still being used for this purpose today (well, bows at least, I don’t know how many people are making war clubs today). My father was recently bragging on it’s behalf in terms of its woodworking value. It has a beautiful fine grain and a yellowish-orange tint. It’s gorgeous and as it dries, it becomes extremely hard. Greener Osage Orange is easier to work with. Attempting to put a nail into dried, cured hedged takes a bit of effort. I bent many a nail in dried and cured pieces of Osage Orange while playing around in my uncles workshop. When I was a child of about eight years old (I think), I watched as my father and uncle built a barbed wire fence with Osage Orange as posts. Untreated, thirty years later...those posts are still in the ground, rot-free and untouched by termites.

It’s actually because of the invention of barbed-wire (and a bit of shortsightedness on the side of humans today) that Osage Orange is becoming more scarce, and being used as dead fence-posts and un-coppiced firewood, instead of a living hedge and a sustainable source of fuel. To be frank, we humans have a bad habit of valuing things more when they are dead than alive...a habit we must drop. The capitalist corporate mind looks at forests and sees clearings for subdivisions and measure it in board feet, or they see cabinets and fence posts. Unfortunately, they no longer see the rain makers, shade givers, shelter, temperature and water regulators, air filters and air-combs, soil builders and nitrogen fixers. They see the forests use only after it is dead and gone.














Before 1874 when barbed wire was invented, Osage Orange was better known as the hedge-tree. Pioneers valued it highly as a living hedge, and planted them close together, taking advantage of it’s tolerance to severe pruning, and ability to be coppiced in order to make strong, long lasting, hedges that were “Horse high, bull strong and hog tight.” In other words, tall enough that a horse couldn’t jump it, strong enough that a bull couldn’t push through it and interwoven so tightly that even a hog couldn’t get through. The thorns it produces takes care of discouraging most animals, including the most dangerous one on earth, the human. Due to the gnarly appearance of such hedges, many have evidently come to see it as an “ugly weed tree.” How disappointingly shameful.

If Osage Orange trees are planted out in the open (a situation formerly common on the great-plains) they grow like a shrub. If they are close enough to each other, they will become intertwined to create one of the best living hedges known to man. We might further argue that it’s even better than barbed wire, and much more sustainable to boot considering it’s lighter embodied energy audit.

If Osage Orange trees are grown amongst other woodland competition, or coppiced with proper management, they can grow very tall and straight with the tallest recorded height being 54 feet with a span of 90 feet. On a historical note that tree was grown from fruit sent back by Lewis and Clark from seed which was planted by Patrick Henry’s daughter at Red Hill in Virginia. In fact, Osage Orange was the first tree that Lewis and Clarke sent back from St. Louis.




















The fruit of the tree is a large, green, wrinkled ball with a fragrance like an orange peel (hence the name) that will often stay on the tree after it has lost most of its’ leaves in the autumn. Squirrels go NUTS for the multiple seeds buried inside, and will spend quality time at the base of a tree to disassemble a fruit into bits just to get to all of them. Horses and other livestock enjoy the fruit, although it’s not recommended for humans, as it’s “harsh, hard, dry and astringent.” [Permaculture Info Web] However, it does contain an antioxidant which can be used as a food preservative, especially for oils. “The heartwood and the root can yield a nontoxic antibiotic that is useful as a food preservative.” [PIW] The fruit can also be used as an insect repellant because it contains the chemicals (2,3,4,5-tetrahydroxystilbene) . By cutting one into wedges and setting them on a plate, the fruit sap will repel cockroaches, crickets, spiders, fleas, box elder bugs and ants. If you want to skip the hassle of trying to dig into one of these with a knife, just drive over it with your car...you’ll still get the desired result, although it won’t look as pretty.

On a side note, anyone wishing to be “Johnny Hedge apple Seed” might want to plant both male and female trees so that trees will bear fruit, thus giving us more seeds, and trees to replace the thousands who have fallen due to mankind's’ shortsightedness.

All this information is nice but now let’s get on with the matter at hand.

Fuel...32 million BTU’s per cord. That’s virtually twice the average of most trees, and I will repeat: it’s the closest you’re going to get to coal with wood. Why, in this energy scarce day, would we want to rid ourselves of such a valuable fuel source and waste it on fence posts, shelves and decorative bowls? I guess, because we dangerous humans are idiots.

If we are going to insist on living in an energy intensive cool/cold-temperate climate, and wish to survive the winter without the advantage of cheap oil, natural gas and electricity. We might want to consider the following.

Rip out our aesthetically pleasing, yet highly inefficient fireplaces and franklin stoves. Especially those that are using natural gas. As natural gas has peaked and it’s going to continue to increase in price, along with oil. Fireplaces, and even the slightly more efficient franklin’ stoves do not do much to heat the house, but they do an efficient job of sucking in cold air from the outside, and throwing up a bunch of carbon-dioxide emissions into the air. Just like the suburban lawn, these serve no practical purpose. They are a massive waste of resources for the sake of an aesthetic show of wealth.
















If we truly want to keep warm in an efficient manner, I would suggest installing a well-built, and well-placed masonry stove. With one of these, you could stock a really hot fire of Osage Orange, let it burn out, and the heat will radiate from the masonry throughout the rest of the day. Using a bio-diverse, coppiced, high BTU fuel forest will save you a lot of woodcutting and hauling labor because you will need less wood to provide your heating needs. Furthermore, you will have a higher yield of wood over time for your efforts.







































Keep in mind, that Osage Orange burns hot, but slow, and therefore starts slow (as most hard wood-high BTU producing woods do). You will need some serious kindling to get that baby goin’. This means planting more trees. The more the merrier! For kindling, I suggest trying Aspen, Basswood, Cottonwood, Yellow Poplar or Eastern Red Cedar. These quick burners.

So, we continue planting a bio-diverse fuel forest. A good number of Osage Orange and a few other species from this list above, along with some of the kindling species mentioned should keep you set. You could even harvest and make bundles of Osage-Orange twigs instead of logs that will get the fire burnin’ hot and bright. Speaking of which, the aesthetic value of burning hedged is almost priceless. It gives off a slight fragrance, and a colorful light show of flames accompanied by a crackle and a small concert of pops of sparks (the sparks are small, and usually burn out before hitting the ground thus don’t usually cause damage, but better safe than sorry, and not use it in an open-faced fireplace or stove, just one more reason to opt for a masonry stove).

So, just to recap, Osage Orange planted and coppiced for fuel is our energy efficient ticket to surviving the winter in a cold-temperate climate. Oh... and I almost forgot one of the most important things. It’s hardy to zone 5, succeeds in poor soils (especially dry ones) therefore being drought resistant, and fairly tolerant of maritime exposure. One slight word of warning too: the milky sap from the tree can cause dermatitis in some people, so be careful when harvesting, you’ll want to wear gloves anyway due to the thorns. Hmmm, there’s another use, security barrier!

How Much Is Enough?

How many trees will you need? This, of course, depends on if you’ve wisely followed the advice above, and have a masonry stove (better yet, having it installed in a passive solar straw-bale or earthbag house built toward sun aspect) with the proper amount of windows on proper sides and with sufficient awning or roof overhang to allow winter sun onto a radiant heat mass while also keeping the summer sun off your outside walls. If you’re simply going to go for a cord, here is the Firewood cutter’s rule of thumb.

Tree Size Number of Trees Per Cord

5 DBH 46-55
6 DBH 21-33



Now unless you’re a lumberjack, or semipro wood cutter, you’re probably wondering what the blazes is a DBH. That stands for diameter at breast height, taken by measuring a tree’s diameter at about 4 1/2 feet from the ground. Now, this list only goes up to 6 DBH for one reason. Most trees are coppiceable if they are less than 6 inches in diameter and less than 10 feet tall. Therefore, if we want the tree to survive and continue providing us with firewood in a sustainable manner, we don’t want to let it grow bigger than that. So, we will need, on average, about 34 of the above trees to produce one cord of firewood (if that is the amount you really need). I would suggest more, as we are going to coppice them on rotation. The average by today’s standard home (considering the average home is lacking sufficient insulation, has ceilings too high, and if it has a fireplace or stove, it’s inefficient) needs 4 1/2 to seven full cords of wood per year to heat. I will be bold here and state that this is probably due to the fact that modern structures aren’t built toward energy efficiency, and most people don’t burn wood that kicks out a high BTU. The common, lazy fire builder usually goes for lighter, faster burning woods.

I will further venture to make a brave guess, that a straw-bale or earthbag home properly designed and placed to take advantage of passive solar heat, with a masonry stove burning Osage Orange will only need one or two cords per year maximum. However, I have yet to see anyone that has done this. I might also add, that the above numbers were probably taken from trees that weren’t coppiced, therefore the amount of wood harvested from those trees will have been much, much less, especially over time.

Optional High BTU trees/Words of Warning and Tips:

Many permaculturists will be excited to see that Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is on the Top 10 BTU list. Although the Permaculture Info Web says it is hardy to zone 3 and fixes nitrogen (the only tree on the list that supposedly does so) we should not get too excited. The report later says that “The leaves are rich in tannin and other substances which inhibit the growth of other plants....(it’s) a very greedy tree, tending to impoverish the soil (Although a legume, I believe it does not fix atmospheric nitrogen).” [PIW]

So there seems to be an open debate as to whether or not this tree is Nitrogen Fixing. Even if it is, it seems to impoverish the soil, and exhibits some antisocial behavior not suitable to a bio-diverse well stacked planting.

White Oak (Quercus alba) has 9 uses including edible seed that can be used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. It’s is hardy to zone 4, and is Lime tolerant as well as side-shade tolerant. A mulch of leaves repels slugs and grubs although fresh leaves shouldn’t be used, as they can inhibit the growth of other plants.

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) (see above warning) is a fast growing deciduous tree that withstands drought and tolerates poor soil while being hardy to zone 3. It brags of about 25 uses including edible seed and seed pod, can be used as a drink and has fragrant vanilla-like scented flowers. Beware that the branches are brittle and subject to wind-damage.

Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) is a slow growing deciduous tree that is hardy to zone 4 and doesn’t demand much light. A decoction of the bark can be used medicinally to bathe sore muscles, and an infusion of the bark can be held in the mouth to relieve toothache pain. Good fuel, but very difficult to split, so if you want your kid to have big strong muscles, and work on their temper, or if they need to blow off some steam... get them to do the splitting (under close supervision).

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is “a slow growing deciduous tree... [but] is the fastest growing hickory in N. America” (PIW) hardy to zone 4. It’s seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and are used in pies, cakes and bread. Medicinally, the fresh small shoots can be steamed to make an inhalant for the treatment of headaches. It also produces an excellent charcoal.

Apple (Malus comestica) needs almost no introduction, and there’s so much information out there already, I won’t go in to any further detail here. However it is hardy to zone 3, withstands frost, and seems to be able to grow well near a wall or in the secondary layer, or in woodland gardens. It’s ability to grow close to walls may offer you the benefit of giving you a fuel and food source in zone I near the house.

Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a deciduous tree hardy to zone 3 that withstands drought and poor soil (including saline soil) making it ideal for soil reclamation projects. The seeds have many edible and medicinal uses.

Bitternut (Carya cordiformis) is the tree for you if you have a boggy swamp area. It’s a slow growing deciduous tree that is hardy to zone 4 and succeeds in low wet to dry woods, stream banks and on the borders of swamps. Produces seeds that are edible, but even squirrels don’t seem to like it much (according to PIW).

Last, but not least, we have the beloved and highly edible Mulberry (Morus species): a deciduous tree that might do well in the second layer in the canopy or in a woodland garden. Often grown for the fruit, it’s often looked over as a fuel source - afterall 25.8 million BTU’s per cord ain't bad. It certainly isn’t anything close to Osage Orange, but it’s still in the top 10. It’s a good addition to any bio-diverse planting as it also gives you the added benefit of edible fruit.

Although I’ve spent a great deal of time concentrating on Osage Orange, I can’t emphasize enough the need for bio-diverse plantings. Most of these high BTU trees are slow growing, this is one more reason to coppice, and mix up your fuel forest with a variety of trees to help you get through the winter.

I would also like to suggest that we take a good serious look at the way we use our trees. Do we value them alive or dead? Do we wish to get the most out of them? If so, then we must use them wisely, as both a windbreak, hedgerow, shade giver, soil stabilizer as well as a source for fuel and food. We must also carefully look at how we use our lumber. Are we really going to use Osage Orange to make a bunch of decorative pens, jewelry boxes or pen holders? To me, this is somewhat similar to the executive who spends thousands of dollars on a platinum umbrella stand. We could be better use Osage Orange to take advantage of it’s rot resistance in the form of outdoor structures, door frames, planter-boxes and trellises, or perhaps bowls and cups? If we wish to get the most out of whatever resources we have, we have to use them wisely and use their advantages to our advantage.

I'll let you decide which one is a wiser use...




























Finally, trees are not just lumber and firewood. They are a part of this living ecosystem that we depend on for our survival. They aren’t of much use to us dead. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that cutting down (and thus killing) a full grown tree is the best way to serve mankind. The support for this argument is that you get “more” wood from the tree and large, wide pieces of lumber, or more “board-feet.” This thinking is fundamentally flawed. First of all, you get a greater yield over time, if you sustainably harvest from a coppiced or pollarded tree. Secondly, why do we need large pieces of lumber? Isn’t it true that anything that needs to be made big, can be made by joining many smaller pieces of wood together? Let’s save cutting down full-grown trees for those who’s time has come from old age, have succumbed to illness, or are creating a hazard. The indiscriminant hacking down trees for our own selfish purposes is doing more harm than good.


Tips For the Novice Woodsman:

For your own safety, please, please, please learn from someone who knows what they’re doing when felling a tree. Use a good quality saw with good sharp blades (it will save you a lot of effort, wear and tear on the body, and swear words). Carefully consider wind direction, natural lean and balance of the tree, location of large limbs, and the surrounding area where the tree is likely to fall. Make sure the area around the tree is clear of brush, and make an escape safety zone. Be sure to back far away from the stump so the trunk doesn’t kick off and hit you when it falls. Trees don’t always fall the way you want them to (see story below). If a tree becomes lodged in another tree while falling, the safest way to get the tree down is to pull it away from the other tree with a tractor or winch. Never attempt to cut the tree in which the felled tree is lodged, and never try to climb the tree either. Always move away at a 45-degree angle from the direction of the falling tree to the side and rear of the tree as it falls.

Don’t ever try the following:

Once, I was felling a tree on my in-law’s property, about a 30-40 ft evergreen. I didn’t take into consideration the wind direction because I was down in a sheltered area, while the tree top was up above in the mountainous winds around Mt. Fuji. Furthermore, I didn’t make my undercut or back-cut properly and carefully as I was in a hurry (big mistake number one: never hurry) When the tree started to fall, it went the opposite way toward a steel fence surrounding a turf tennis-court. A nightmare of expensive damage flashed through my mind, and I jumped between the tree and the fence (big mistake number two), put my feet back on the fence and put all my weight (all 130 lbs of me) pushing against the tree in hopes I could offset the wind, and get it to fall in the proper direction. I got the tree to stop falling, but couldn’t offset the wind. I was quickly becoming tired, and was thinking about how to get myself out of this situation. Luckily, my wife, and mother-in-law came around to see how things were going, and they were silly enough to endanger themselves to run over and help me, and we got the tree to fall the proper direction. This was insanely stupid. damage of property is always more welcome than causing physical damage to yourself and loved ones. Never hurry, and plan ahead carefully. Hopefully, we’ll all coppice trees less than 10 ft. tall and less than 6 inches in diameter, so we won’t ever be in such a situation...but remember. SAFETY FIRST!



The above information was based on a report entitled “Heating With Wood: Producing, Harvesting and Processing Firewood” Published by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources written by Scott DeWald, District Extension Forester; Scott Josiah, Director, Nebraska Forest Service; Becky Erdkamp, Publications Assistant); a research paper entitled Wood Fuel For Heating by John P. Slusher, School of Natural Resources published by University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia and various information available on the Permaculture Info Web (http://permaculture.info/index.php) and the experience and observations of Scott A. Meister.

68 comments:

DJEB said...

Stellar work Scott!

Scott A. Meister said...

Thanks a lot DJEB...means a lot.

I'm wondering if people living in other zones have done experiments similar to the one done in Nebraska for zone five. It would be interesting to know if there are other trees, perhaps in other zones, other countries that we don't know about which might produce a higher BTU than Osage Orange.

Jez said...

Pretty cool man! I just wish I had the space...one day I will, if I can just lay my hat down somewhere!
One of these days I'm gonna take some photos of my aunts' fantasmagoric garden and blog 'em.
Cheerio brothers!

Paul said...

My wife's grandmother was from Oklahoma. She talked about the Hedge apple and what a great wood it was for wagon wheels and spokes. Strong wood. She bemoaned all of the people pulling it out and planting elm trees. She waged a war against her neighbor's elm trees infected with the blight...

Now the big question who had seed, or small trees of ironwood(native here, rare!) or osage orange for transplanting?

Scott A. Meister said...

Hi Paul,

Wish I could help you with seeds. I'm currently trying to get my parents to send me some seeds from Nebraska to Tokyo (hopefully I can get them through customs). If I was in Nebraska right now, I'd be harvesting seeds myself, and starting an Osage Orange seed/seedling farm. Wherever I finally end up settling down, I'm going to do that regardless.

Other than that...you might be able to get some through a seed exchange, such as...

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/exnative/msg1016093318862.html?6

Jez, I look forward to seeing pics of your aunt's garden!

Anonymous said...

Scott - a fascinating article. Much respect.

However, I'm not sure I wholly agree with your premises here. Yes, pine monoculture aimed at getting as much timber out as fast as possible is a bad thing, but surely there is a middle ground between this and your suggestion of planting what are for the most part seem to be very dense and slow-growing trees for firewood?

Admittedly I grew up in south-west England and have never tangled with an Osage orange or indeed with the midwestern climate. But round here to create coppiced woodland for firewood I would tend to plant a lot of fairly fast-growing, easily-cut-up trees like sweet chestnut, hazel or ash. These may not produce so many BTUs per cord as the woods you list, but it seems to me that their much faster growth rates will allow them to be harvested much more regularly and ultimately create greater quantities of sustainable wood-burning energy. Maybe hardiness would be a problem?

Also, I too grew up splitting wood for my parents, and I know that dealing with very hard wood is a right pain. The first time I got to cut up an ash tree after getting used to evil woods like pear, it was a revelation! I think maybe the ease of cutting up these trees deserves a bit more attention; as well as using more human energy to deal with, very tough trees will break equipment more often and take longer.

Again, thanks for a great piece.

Thomas

Scott A. Meister said...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for dropping in and taking the time to comment.

You are indeed correct that there is a middle ground. Perhaps I didn't make it clear enough in the piece (I thought I had, I apologize for perhaps not stressing it enough), but I in no-way condone growing a forest of just slow-growing hard woods.

Biodiversity and variety is key. For a successful and energy efficient fuel forest you need both slow-growing hard-wood species and fast growing soft-woods.

One thing that I would like to also stress again, is that the practice of coppicing or pollarding slow-growing trees will also increase their speed of growth.

As for hard-woods destroying equipment...if you don't keep your chainsaws, and blades sharp...this will indeed happen.

Again, the idea is to have a good mix and variety of fast burning, easy to cut, fast growing soft-woods (these are necessary for starting fires and making kindling anyway) while also having a large number of slow-growing hard woods being coppiced or pollarded in rotation.

By doing this, not only will you have a more healthy eco-system and soil (more on this in a later article). You will achieve a sustainable fuel forest.

To reiterate, you can't have just one or the other, you must have both. Since hard-woods grow slower, we will have to grow more of them, and coppice or pollard them on rotation.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

great article.


The scientific name for tree #10 (in the list)is incorrect.

DJEB said...

Thanks for catching that, anonymous. I'll make an adjustment and let Scott change that later if he wants to.

Scott A. Meister said...

The change has been made. Thanks again for catching that.

Ian Graham said...

Has anyone seen data on rate of growth for the Osage in particular, but also the other trees on the top ten? Biomass added per year? It seems to me quite useful part of the equation, since we're looking at 30 to 40 trees per (bush)cord (4x4x8ft)and need 1 to 2 of them. How long until a homesteader could be harvesting that much wood sustainably? How much wood can be removed each year, or once per decade or whatever?
Ian in Ontario CAN

DJEB said...

Hi Ian,

Good to hear from you again.

Those are really good questions. Ultimately, the growth rate depends on many factors including climate, micro-climate, soil depth and condition, competition or cooperation among surrounding species (and whether neighbouring same-species trees are "kin" or "stranger"), to name a few. If we come across any data on growth rates of the top ten species, we'll publish them.

In the mean time, be sure to inoculate your trees with mycorrhizal fungi. This will have a dramatic effect on growth rates and tree health.

Thanks again for the great question.

Anonymous said...

Scott,

My backyard neighbor has the tallest none fruit bearing osage orange ever! It's 75 ft high. We had a severe ice storm in Springfield, Mo last January and it took down some hefty limbs just narrowly missing the house next to it.

Brian

DJEB said...

Thanks for the comment, Brian. When Scott gave me this to proof read before it was published, I told him about some huge osage orange trees about 50 or 60 feet high in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. They can get mighty big under the right conditions.

Anonymous said...

3 dollars a pound?
better check your decimal place

buzz saw

Scott A. Meister said...

Woops! Indeed you are right, Buzz Saw. Thanks for pointing out that major mathematical error! It should actually be around $.30-$.34 U.S....big woops. Still...as the price of oil increases (at the time of this comment...now about $100/barrel)...sustainable fuel forestry is going to increase the value of any wood used for heating fuel.

Scott A. Meister said...

Oh...that makes me think I should take the math a bit further.

The fact that 1 US barrel of oil $100 (again...at the time of this writing) and one barrel is about 42 gallons and 1 gallon of oil weighs about 7.5 pounds...well, 42 x 7.5 = 315 pounds...if my calculations are correct, that makes oil a whopping $.32/lb. If Osage Orange is $.34...it's already more valuable than oil per pound. One form of heating is sustainable...the other one isn't. The sustainable form of heating (i.e.-sustainable wood fuel forestry) is where I'd be putting my money these days.

Thanks again Buzz for making me check my numbers.

Chris said...

I live in Pennsylvania, and have a high-tension wire right of way through my property. I currently have permission to let native cedar trees grow there, but would like to develop a sustainable forestry plan for the land that I could present to the electric company. Since I would do the maintenance, it would save them the line clearance costs they incur every 4-5 years--and create a sustainable harvest of firewood for myself. I like the idea of osage orange on the woodline borders with hazel and some other coppicable trees or shrubs. Just wondered if you'd ever seen a planting plan for this kind of open field planting. By the way, is mulberry coppicable?

DJEB said...

Hello Chris, and thank you for the question.

Maclura pomifera, or osage orange does coppice very well and is a great choice, in my opinion. Unfortunately, I do not have any data on growth rates yet and cannot say if you would be better off on a short-rotation coppice or coppicing every 7 years or so. But through coppicing, you could guarantee that the height would not get out of hand.

Hazel will coppice and will coppice on a short rotation, if you choose.

If you are going to select short-rotation, fertility becomes an issue. It might be solved be cycling through on-site wastes or the addition of nitrogen-fixing Robinia Pseudoacacia (black locust), or an Alnus (alder) species. In any event, it will not hurt to include some of these in your coup.

About mulberry, I know of mulberry species that are coppiceable, and know of none that do not (though there might be some). I think you would have no problem as long as the tree is not too old and is cut in the right manner in the right season.

For a planting pattern, you will want to end up with trees on centres 4 to 9 ft apart - and you might want to start denser and prune back to that. Start with a few trees and use the coppiced shoots to propagate (I think but am not 100% that you can propagate all those trees from coppice shoots. I'll have to check to be sure.)

I am currently working on a worldwide coppiceable tree database and the results will be made available on these pages when I finish. I am at 200+ trees with about 300 more to go, so it will take a little time to get it done.

I hope that information helps a little bit. If you have any further questions, please let us know.

Oh, and let us know about the growth and success of the osage orange. I'd like to know if it would go on short-rotation or not.

Chris said...

Thanks for the response. Do you know of any good books on the subject of coppicing and permaculture. Your comment that I'd need to feed hazel stands being cut on a short cycle makes me feel like there is much I need to know to do this right.-C

Scott A. Meister said...

djeb, that was an excellent response to the great question Chris asked. Personally, I'm really looking forward to seeing that coppiceable tree data-base.

Having said that...I still don't think there's been enough careful experimentation with coppicing to know exactly which trees can or "cannot" be coppiceable. I think it's more of a question of how "well" a tree coppices, and when and how you coppice it. I'll restate what I discovered in my research for the article, specifically that...

"...most trees are coppiceable if they are less than 6 inches in diameter (DBH) and less than 10 feet tall."

If somebody says that a tree is NOT coppiceable...I would have to ask if the person who makes that claim coppiced it correctly...following the above guideline. It's very likely that they didn't and they just killed a tree that had already grown passed the point of coppiceability.

As for exact information on growth rates from coppicing...I have yet to see any firm data, and I believe this is due to what was mentioned before...that there are just too many variables involved with growth rate, namely climate, micro-climate, soil health, surrounding vegetation, mychorrizal fungi, soil pH etc...etc...

Simply put...more people need to start trying to coppice various trees. If you have the land, and the space, then Chris, you could help us all by planting a variety of species, see what works best and report back to us! The worst case scenario, would be that a tree grows to 6DBH, you coppice it, harvest the wood...the tree doesn't succeed in coppicing, so you cut down the tree and plant another species in it's place and see if that works. If you only have space for one or two trees to experiment with, and they absolutely positively HAVE to coppice...this would be a little too risky. But if you have the room to experiment with, by all means...PLEASE DO! Why not try coppicing whatever you'd like?

Osage Orange, and Mulberry's are pretty safe bets, that's for sure. But I encourage experimentation.

Before I forget...coppicing is one option...we shouldn't forget pollarding as the other.

One last note of warning...if you happen to plan on staying on that property forever, and are committed to managing the trees yourself, you shouldn't have a problem with your sustainable fuel forest being planted under and around that high-tension wire.

The only problem I see coming about would be if you were to abandon the trees you planted by leaving the property without insuring that the next owner will manage them correctly. You might then see the coppiced trees start reaching for the sky. Just how high is that wire anyway?

Growing some species of tree close together will encourage them to grow straight and tall, whereas growing them out in the open (like Maclura pomifera/Osage Orange) will encourage them to bush-out wide more like a shrub. Something to keep in mind while working out your plan.

Hope this helps.

DJEB said...

On coppicing, the health of the tree, which may be a function of its environment, and the age are factors for most trees. There are trees, however, that people have not had reported success in trying to coppice and others that coppice so poorly that coppicing is nothing more than a labour intensive way to ruin a tree. Fortunately, there is fairly good information (that I am compiling now for later publication) on what will coppice successfully.

There is some really good data on the yields for a number of coppiceable trees, just not any I've seen on M. pomifera. There is still a tremendous amount to learn about a tremendous number of species, which is why I sincerely hope that you will send us reports on your experiences. The thing about yield data is it has a wildly varying yield range due to specific site conditions.

On Scott's note of the site being abandoned, abandoning a coppice coup for more than 40 years leads to what is referred to as an "overstood" coup which begins to suffer wind damage as tree overgrow their roots and disease sets in. Overstood coups can be rescued, but it needs a skilled woodsman and there are no guarantees.

DJEB said...

Chris,

There is a book out there on coppice management called creatively enough
Ecology and Management of Coppice Woodlands
. But at $235, I have not had the courage to buy it. There is also Ben Law's very good The Woodland Way for about $25, though it mentions nothing of fertility.

I don't know of the one, single coppice book. But think of the cycles in nature. If you are on a short-rotation, you will be taking a lot of biomass from one spot very often. It's like a bank account. You either cycle the resources through or replace them, or you will start using the resources up. In Sweden they are doing very short rotation coppicing (every year) and using sewage to supply the nitrogen/treat the nitrogen in the sewage. They use Salix spp. (willows) to mop up 200 kg of nitrogen per year from the sewage and use the trees as fuelwood (a carbon neutral solution). Mind you they are planting very densely and coppicing on a schedule you would not duplicate. You would likely coppice no more than every 4 years on a short rotation and 7 to 15 years on a regular rotation.

Chris said...

Thanks for your response:

Two more questions....

1. In the spirit of permaculture, are there co-crops to plant alongside of say a coppiced stand of hazel that would help fertilize the stand.

2. Or alternately, what is the best coppicable tree in terms of btus that produces at a high rate in the poorest soils.

I've been reading Alcohol Can Be a Gas by David Blume. Due to the fact that crop distillation produces a highly measured unit of energy (ethanol), David has tremendously detailed information about both exact sugar production per crop, as well as the efficiency with which single crop and crop pairings can harvest the most solar energy per acre. It sounds like you are knee deep in the research to start getting this info, but I'm really interested in whatever you've already gleaned in terms of efficiency and self-sustaining (limited addition of anything outside the system) species you would plant if, say, your home's heat depended on it. :-)

DJEB said...

Hi Chris,

Regarding #1: As a ground cover, sew white clover thickly as it fixes nitrogen and helps block out weeds. You might also pop in comfrey between the rows. It spreads nicely, accumulates nutrients, and can be used as a great chop-and-drop green manure.

Number 2 will take some time to give an answer approaching correct. There isn't regular data on energy per kg on every species, I'm afraid. Osage orange has a great amount of energy in it, but I have to check its performance on poor soil. There was only only place in my hometown where they grew, and these were 40 or 50 foot giants on good soil. I'll poke Scott and get him to share his experiece as there was more of the stuff in his area than mine.

As for heating my home, Scott's top ten list is very nice. It's doesn't quite apply to the colder environment I am in now, but it is still a good list that would suit your area. Personally, I am in the thick of the woods at the moment and can get all the dead wood I want easily - and I usually go for maple.

I'll be moving next year and will be establishing a site and fuel trees will be a part of the design. I'll be reporting on those events as they occur. If I happen to get a USDA zone 5 or higher microclimate, I will plant osage orange, but I haven't made up my mind what other species I'd plant. I'd want hazel, but not for fuel. Something I'll be thinking about. I'll try to get an answer for question 2.

Chris said...

Great answer, thanks. Actually comfrey is also a great crop for alcohol production, another area I'd like to do some learning. The great thing about the alcohol production is that the by-product is everything that would be in the chop and drop scenario--but you get a fuel harvest in the process. This whole thing intrigues me as a businsess proposition actually. I'm going to start experimenting on my own right of way and see how far I get though. Thanks for the info!

DJEB said...

Hi again,

If you are interested in commercial application, you might also consider pyrolisis and the oils that can be derived in the cracking process. The technology is moving ahead an in cheaper, transportable forms. It might be worth looking into. I think the importance of charcoal and its byproducts is going to increase in the not too distance future...

chris said...

Thx. Pyrolysis is an interesting proposition. Probably beyond my ken. But I'm intrigued by processes that really extract all the goodness from the resource. I really like the way the circle of restoring the land is completed with alcohol distillation tho. I was reading how Germany in between World Wars geared up their alcohol production to replace petroleum, and the net effect was an inch an a half increase in topsoil depths....which is like music to my ears. The idea that you could harvest high quality btus through coppice, commfrey, and build the soil in a sustainable way really turns me on. So I have my work cut out for me this Spring.

DJEB said...

#2 is going to take a fair piece of time, I think...

Sorry I couldn't point this out yesterday. A freak windstorm hit knocking out the power.

The pyrolysis work of Ron Golden sounds promising and affordable. His website is http://www.agri-therm.com/

Brian said...

I've heated with nothing but Osage orange for more than 20 years. I wouldn’t burn anything else, as it is without question the best wood to heat with in our area (eastern Kansas). It's worth pointing out, however, that Osage orange has a few negatives to consider. For one, it has a tendency to spark and even explode while burning. As a result, it’s an absolute no-no to use in fireplaces. It can also be hazardous in wood stoves when refueling because of the sparks. Because Osage orange burns so hot, you can actually ruin some stoves by overheating them. It’s particularly dangerous when small, well-cured pieces are burned. Modern stoves that utilize secondary air tubes (to meet EPA standards) are probably not a good choice because they can’t be shut them down enough to prevent overheating. I know a lot of folks with endless sources of Osage orange who refuse to use the wood because of the sparking hazard and the fear of overheating their stoves. I recommend a heavy duty stove that utilizes a catalytic combustor or an old airtight. I’ve had good results with Woodstock’s Fireview soapstone stove.

In some parts of Kansas, Osage orange is super abundant and can often be harvested out of pastures for free. This is because Osage orange is considered an invasive species. In eastern Kansas, we probably have close to a million acres of native tallgrass prairies infested with Osage orange. The reduction of greater prairie-chickens has been linked with the invasion of hedge trees in native prairie. Ranchers despise the tree not only because of its invasive tendencies, but because cattle will sometimes choke to death on the fruit (“hedge apples”). The US Fish & Wildlife Service, Park Service, USDA, and private landowners spend many thousands each year to rid prairies of Osage orange. Fortunately, the species can usually be kept at bay by using conservative stocking rates and frequent use of prescribed fire, but mechanical removal is the only option once a prairie has been infested with mature trees. Unfortunately, many of these trees are piled and burned, rather than recycled through a wood stove.

I hope my comments aren’t too much of a downer. I fully agree that Osage orange holds huge promise as a fuel source and I personally admire the tree, but it does have a few down sides to consider.

DJEB said...

Thanks Brian. Scott has told me about how he used to like to watch the light show from osage orange when they used to burn it as his place in Nebraska. Though your warnings should be heeded regarding safe burning. I suspect osage orange would be better in a masonry stove or a rocket mass stove than many modern steel stoves.

Regarding the invasiveness, there is value as a high-energy heat source as you and Scott point out. There is also an untapped potential for charcoal (something utilised much more in Europe than North America, unfortunately).

Anonymous said...

Can I use hedge wood to smoke meats with? Are there any chemicals I need to worry about?

DJEB said...

Unfortunately, the safest answer I can give is I don't know. Sorry.

Nathan Randall said...

For the record, the Osage does work very well for times one must have wood for non-firewood purposes. This weekend I pulled out 57 year old Osage fenceposts planted by my grandfather. They would not crack, even when pulling a 4" diameter post 30" out of the ground. They stay extremely hard for decades. This winter, I'm planning to re-use some of the posts in furniture, and burn the rest.

Greg said...

Thanks for the information. This is an excellent web page. Including growth rates of the trees would be very helpful too.

Osage Orange is excellent firewood. I know where there are some in north Alabama that are probably 70 feet or taller and possibly over 100 years old.

I think I might try to grow some plus some white oak. I'd also like to grow another variety that is good for fuel and extremely fast growing.

Once again, thanks I appreciate this web page.

Bob said...

Unless I missed it, could you tell me how long to dry Osage Orange for before burning. Is it two years like some oak, or is it less (like I have heard, but can't confirm). Just looking for a general rule, i know climate has a lot to do with seasoning.

DJEB said...

That is a good question, Bob.

Personally, would (and am going to) grow osage orange as a coppice crop. As such, the harvested wood would be no bigger than 3 inches in diameter; and I personally would prefer wood no more than an inch in diameter, as smaller pieces burn more efficiently, transferring more heat to the thermal mass of the stove. With pieces this small, you could get down to the desired 20% or lower moisture content after half a year, I suspect. Were you to build a drying kiln, you could bring that down to less then one week.

Harvesting at the right time helps a lot. If you cut after the temperature drops below 5C in the fall/winter or before it goes above 5C in the spring, the tree will have less sap in the wood and require less drying.

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Todos said...

Hello DJEB! I'm reading your blog whilst in Bolivia, South America. Sustainable Firewood in this country is huge, and mostly unused. We simply don't have as cold temperatures as you guys do. As you may know the amazon provides countless species of hardwood, and Bolivia's amazon region has some of the largest sustainable forest reserves in the world.

My question to you is, how viable would it be to export chopped sustainable firewood to the midwest? Do you know of any other possible area that might need this type of lumber? Thanks for your time and for sharing such great info!

DJEB said...

¡Hola!

I am going to assume that by midwest, you mean the arid Altiplano regions of Bolivia and not the central States of the U.S.A.

I should mention first that sustainable wood production (timbre or fuelwood) does not involve cutting virgin forests. Once a virgin forest is cut, even after it regrows (if it regrows) its biodiversity will have dropped significantly - sometimes by 90%. Sustainable wood production would involve a regime of diverse species for coppice and standard production.

Also, past civilisations, including the Sumerians and Mediterranean nations have run into problems with "peak wood." They cut all their local supplies and were forced to travel further out to cut more (ruining their lands in the process). After a certain point, the energy cost of transport approaches then exceeds the energy value of the wood itself. Even assuming the production of the trees themselves is sustainable, the transportation costs become unsustainable.

I think the answer for the Altiplano is the establishment of earthworks to maximise water catchment for the purpose of establishing trees. Fog catchers might also be employed as they have been in the Atacama. However, I have a concern about their use. They are not manufactured in the bioregion and need repair and replacement over time. My concern would be that a system and people's lives could come to be dependent on fog catchers, and those fog catchers become unavailable for some reason. I'd rather stick with less technologically complex systems.

The Altiplano gets from 200mm to 800mm of rainfall a year. No problem there, really. The problem is finding trees that would take the cool climate. There are tricks to creating micro-climates that would help the trees out, though. Some candidate species would include
Buddleja coriacea J. Rémy, which is native. It has been used for charcoal production and for tannin. I have some information suggesting it is allelopathic, though, so it might not combine well with other plants. Another is Pinus radiata D. Don, which could be used for timbre or fuelwood. The seeds are large, but I don't know if they are edible or not. Eucalyptus globulus Labill. might also work. It is used for firewood in India, is good for pulp production , timbre and has medicinal properties and useful oils. Eucalyptus globulus is a candidate. Robinia pseudoacacia L. would be useful in that it is a nitrogen-fixing tree. It coppices and the wood has many uses including fuelwood.

The question is a good one. The region is a challenge to design, but not impossible. I have made a note in my "articles to write" folder and will come back to this issue when I have more information and more time. Thank you very much for your great question!

DJEB said...

The site tracker tells me you are in Cochabamba. I think the strategy of using earthworks would work out great in that area. To import wood would require moving the wood trough mountainous terrain about 50 km as the crow flies. I don't think that is too likely to be sustainable.

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Marty Hiller said...

The Musser Forests catalog (www.musserforests.com) has good information about growth rates, and also soil and moisture tolerances, for the trees they carry. They list osage orange as having a very fast growth rate, and also black locust (though it'll dull your sawblade faster than you can say boo.)

White oak is listed as moderate (red oak and pin oak are the fastest growing oaks.) Hickory is slow. I don't have growth rate info for ironwood (another saw duller) or apple.

Red mulberry is listed as fast growing, but frankly if I grow mulberries it'll be for the fruit, not the wood (though I'll happily burn the prunings.) Apple is a great firewood -- my daughter's grandma uses it almost exclusively -- but it seems to me that it makes more sense to associate yourself with an orchard if that's what you want to burn (hmm...which gives me an idea...)

Nichole Hall said...

Great info! My mom and I are wood burners and we cut our own wood. We have access to a large wooded area that is abundant with hedge trees. We burn hedge in our stoves and we are so spolied by it that we complain when we have to burn oak or something other than hedge. We do not cut down live trees. There is such an abundance of hedge in this woods, that we can just find dead hedge trees that have already fallen on their own and cut them up. Thanks again for the information, it was great!

Anonymous said...

My 75 year old father-in-law has "only" had wood heat in southwest Missouri his entire life. He also has a large amount of Hedge tree's, oaks, and other hardwoods. When I asked him about burning the hedge for heat he told me he only one stick of it in the fire at one time with the rest being oak. When I asked why? He said that it burned too hot and will burn out the Fire Brick in his stoves. FYI

Anonymous said...

When would be the best time of year to cut an Osage tree and do the least of daamage to your chainsaw? Living in Ohio.

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DJEB said...

Anonymous of August 28th, sorry about the dely. We've had strange notification issues with Blogger.

The best time is during the dormant season. Late fall or early spring are the best times.

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Erik (Real Food Dude 2) said...

Fantastic post - I picked up 50 osage orange seedlings from the conservation department right after reading!

MikeH said...

Good tree seed sources are F.W. Schumacher at www.treeshrubseeds.com and TreeHelp at http://www.treehelp.com/shopping/seeds.asp.


I'm quite pleased with the osage orange - https://picasaweb.google.com/108665847651807187576/OsageOrange and black locust -
https://picasaweb.google.com/108665847651807187576/BlackLocust
seeds that I got from treehelp.com. Good germination rates.



Mike

AL GRAVETT said...

I PLANTED ROUUGHLY 60,000 OSAGE THIS YEAR AND HOPE TO TRIPLE THAT NEXT YEAR. OSAGE COULD LITERALLY "SAVE THE PLANET" IF EVERYONE READ YOUR BLOG. PARTY ON GARTH.

AL GRAVETT 660-21http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif6-5523

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Anonymous said...

Horsepoo,if you know of any horses living in fields with hedge apples (in the fall when they eat the fruit), dump a line of horse manure and you will have zillions of hedge apple seedlings come up in the spring. Wonderfull information, Thanks,

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Matthew Banchero said...

If you are talking about copicing osage orange you have to also factor in thinning and pruning of sprouts. Osage orange has a tendency towards forming thickets which are very difficult to navigate or to harvest material from. I'm an arborist in California. One of my clients had me take a large spar off of a 90 year old osage orange to make room in his orchard. The tree sprouted incredibly fast. Within 2 years the sprouts from the stump had grown to 12 feet tall with a 3" base!!! We have thinned out the smallest sprouts to leave 3 new leaders and pruned them of side branches in an attempt to grow suitable material for making a bow. Unfortunately, we didn't know the value of the 20" diameter spar and we cut it into firewood. If you are going to manage a grove of Osage orange trees I highly recommend having a brush chipper available for prunings and slash or the mountains of tangled, thorny and unusable material will overwhelm the project. Chipping onsite will also accelerate the accumulation of soil.

I know you are writing about trees that will survive in the harsh midwest but for fuel wood in California nothing even comes close to Eucalyptus Globulus. On good sites if you plant with 6x6 spacing you can harvest 70 cord an acre every 10 years, with 3-5 rotations expected before needing to replant. This is 1200+/- trees 100' tall with 6-8" dbh. This kind of growth will take a huge amount of water and groves of Eucalyptus are known to dry up creeks.
www.TheTreeHuggingTreeCutter.com

Anonymous said...

I had to clear about 100 hedge trees from a 40 acre field that had been fallow for 30 years and the biggest trees were more than a match for a D5H. I ended up having to leave some of the big ones this spring and a D6 or 7. Can't give the wood away in Kansas as there is so much around. Have a dozen 2-car garage piles to burn. Each pile is an all-day burning chore even with a 70 HP tractor and loader. Anyone need some hedge?

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Maty said...

At what ideal age can a Osage Orange be coppiced?

Maty said...

At what ideal age can a Osage Orange be coppiced??

DJEB said...

At around seven years old is a good time to start coppicing.

Maty said...

Thanks Djeb.. So coppice (roughly) 7 years after the first planting and every 7 after? Also what is an ideal spacing for woodlot planting?

Thanks again

DJEB said...

You might be able to pull off a coppice after the first seven years of growth, followed by a cut every four years or so. It all really depends on how quick the growth is. Coppice a young tree too soon, and there is a risk of killing it. If the roots are established enough, it will respond by producing shoots.

Coppicing on too short a cycle will kill the tree sooner than it otherwise would die. Climate will be your biggest factor. In the tropics, I've seen three month rotation on Morus alba. We can't even dream of that sort of thing in temperate climates.

Emerson White said...

I like how you say that Natural Gas has peaked right before natural gas prices plummet while supplies balloon.

DJEB said...

The reason being that they had peaked. There just happens to be a new and highly destructive new method for getting otherwise unattainable gas out of the ground.

Anonymous said...

Hi; I think there is an error in your otherwise very interesting article.Black Locust is known for having very poisonous seeds/pods, I believe.I think honey locust may be different, though.On the upside , goats seem to like the leaves of the black locust a lot.
Ruth

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In the age of Facebook photos with a dozen words on them, an article like this is a true breath of fresh air.

A big shout out to the author,

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Anonymous said...

We are blessed with abundant Osage Orange here in central MO where I live. I will say that unlike many other hardwoods, it seems to not need much encouragement at all to ignite. It is quite easy to spark a frighteningly hot and intense fire with this wood, in fact when my mother in law had a woodstove installed she was cautioned by the installers against using too high a proportion of Osage Orange as it could burn so hot as to damage the stove!