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disturbing native plants/fungi

 
craig Longfellow
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hey everyone! you have an awesome community here. Im new to the board and have some questions. I just bought my first house this year and planted my first garden. I am very much interested in living a more sufficient life. kind of going the urban homestead route. small start on a garden, mushroom logs, even convinced the wife to get chickens! I have a .33 acre lot with woods behind me. I want to use the woods behind my house to supply more food to forage for, and maybe set up some stacks of different mushroom logs. I am concerned about my impact on the native plant life thought. For example, planting a tree is a nobel thing, but will my tree be do more harm than good competing with existing trees and disturbing what mother nature has already put there? The whole woods is maple, poplar and dead ash trees. in the winter time you can see through the woods to a school way off so i would like to plant some nice white pines to brake the view up a bit. Id also like to plant a few oaks for acorns one day. Id like to put a hedge row up with some hazel nuts and berry bushes as well. what are your thoughts on the matter? will non native mushrooms effect the natural order of things with local fungi? All the trees i plant will be native trees. thanks bunch for any thoughts on the matter.
 
Barry Fitzgerald
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Location: Welland, Ontario, Canada
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I see this as an area that would change because of the dead ash trees. I imagine caused by Emerald Ash Borers. I would expect the poplars would quickly fill in the open spaces.
What you are proposing sounds better because of the diversity, and more useful to you and any wildlife in the area. I would do it.
 
Leila Rich
steward
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Craig
No paddling about in permaculture's philosophical shallows; you've jumped right in at the deep-end!
I'll have a bit of a random riff, and I'm thinking others will have very different thoughts.
My take on things is entirely influenced by the specifics of New Zealand's environment.

The annoyingly vague permaculture answer "it depends" is really at play here!
It sounds like you're talking about introduced vs native, as opposed to invasive, but in NZ that's often the same thing.
Some permaculture people actively seek out invasive plants, and 'invasive' is considered a bit of a...dirty word.
NZ has an extremely sensitive ecosystem, with no native mammals except a couple of tiny bats,
and plants that are generally slow-growing and easily out-competed by introduced species.
Because of my local conditions, I'm very careful about what I plant.
People talk about managing rampant plants, but from my perspective once something's growing it's unrealistic to expect to keep it where you planted it.
Animals and birds will spread the seed, people move houses and leave things behind, and even if we stay there, managing away, we die...

All that heavy stuff aside, as far as I know, by far the majority of species will slot in to an empty niche (like your ash niche) without problems.
craig loyer wrote:will non native mushrooms effect the natural order of things with local fungi?

I'd never considered the mushroom thing, hopefully a fungi person will stop by.
I think a lot depends on your philosophies: permaculture tends to be quite pragmatic, and a species' utility is generally prized above most things.
I would say by introducing (presumably inoculated) mushroom logs, you wouldn't be affecting the native species, as that niche didn't exist before you added it.
In my experience, it's hard enough to get 'domesticated' fungi to thrive, and I can't imagine them romping off and taking over from native fungi
 
John Elliott
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craig loyer wrote: will non native mushrooms effect the natural order of things with local fungi?


There is no such thing as a "non-native mushroom". Fungi reproduce by spores which are carried by the wind. Little 5 or 10 micron diameter packages of DNA that can float on air currents and circle the world before they land and start to grow. Spores even show up in Antarctica, which means they have hit a dead end, because it's never going to be warm enough for them to germinate and no food for them even if they did. So if it appears that some mushrooms are endemic to a certain area, all that means is that they have found a nice spot to grow, not that they are "native" to that area. They will show up in any area that has that same combination of temperature, humidity, and food source.

I would suggest looking for a native crabapple to plant in the woods behind you. They support the local wildlife and are a big help in pollinating regular apple trees.
 
craig Longfellow
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Thanks for the replies! As far as native mushrooms go I guess i should rephrase. There are no edible mushrooms that i have found yet and can identify. I was referring to bringing in fungi that currently do not live there and trying to make a home for them with wood chips and spawn. I know this is more of a fungi forum discussion there but it was just one fold of the question so I thought id lump it in here. Same for any edible plants. There are no persimmons, no berries of any kind, no nut bearing trees. I would like to introduce these into the woods. Kind of my own forgeable forest but not a full blown food forest. I am just concerned I may inadvertently do damage to the woods instead of helping.
 
John Elliott
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craig Longfellow wrote:There are no edible mushrooms that i have found yet and can identify. I was referring to bringing in fungi that currently do not live there and trying to make a home for them with wood chips and spawn.


There are a couple of good candidates for this: (1) oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is good in cooler climates and is easy to propagate on wood chips and (2) Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) which will be a little more involved for you to introduce because the best media would be logs that have been sterilized and inoculated with a plug spawn (but we can tell you how to go about that if you are interested).

If these are oak woods behind you, keep your eye open for the wood-ear fungus Auricularia auricula-judae which are found on dead oak branches, either freshly fallen or still on the tree. They are common in Chinese cooking and if you have ever had hot and sour soup, it was probably in there. It is nice to use in stir-frying as well, because it does not lose its texture upon cooking. This is the season to be collecting wood-ears, because as the deciduous trees go into dormancy, the fungi get the hint that the smorgasboard is over for the year and it's time to put out some fruiting bodies.

Another possibility for a semi-wild type tree is a plum of some type. If there are any that you know of in the area, see if you can get a cutting to stick in the ground in the woods and see if takes hold next spring. I've collected some cuttings from a handsome specimen of a local Krauter Vesuvius plum and I have them potted and waiting for spring.
 
craig Longfellow
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Thanks John! I started a few shitake logs around september. I know its late in the year but i was excited and wanted to get them going. before the frost hit I saw some white rings aronug some of the plugs and a bit of discoloring on the ends of the oak logs so i have high hopes for them. Oysters were exactly what i was thinking. As well, I want to find some local turkey tails and morels and see if i can get anything going. I am fully aware that morels are not typically considered type for cultivation but its worth a shot if i can find some in my area. I don't have any plum trees that i know of but i want to try my hand at fruit trees as espaliers and a plum tree will be in in my yard or woods in some form if all goes well. I am in michigan and have pretty cold winters. can you find the wood ear mushroom with snow on the ground?
 
John Elliott
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craig Longfellow wrote: can you find the wood ear mushroom with snow on the ground?


Sure, but you have to shake the snow off the branch first. I've found lots of wood ears in Poland and Ukraine in the middle of winter. They like that dreary wet weather when the sun doesn't come out for a week.
 
Cindi Martineau
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Hi Craig, I don't know where you are located, but there are great ways to learn more about the biodiversity of your area. One thing we have done is to join a local Wild Ones group which focuses on which native plants belong in your area. In some cases, what you have there now, is not what was historically there. I've also looked at historical state maps from back in the 1800's when they did surveys of the land (mostly looking for ways to exploit it!).

We also have woods behind our house that have been disturbed quite a bit. There is a large oak and some hackberry trees that are legit, but there is a ton of honeysuckle that we want to get rid of since it doesn't belong. There is a Norway Maple and Box Elder. We'd like to take down both of those. We have a lot of black raspberry brambles and then a lot of invasive junk. I believe there must be earthworms present in the soil since there is no duff and the leaf cover is gone by early to mid summer drying out the soil badly. I may work to try to change the soil if I can. Maybe I can chase the earthworms into my yard and out of the forest to make a healthier forest.

For me, I plan to only put native plants, shrubs and trees behind our fence in the woods. This will include food for the birds and maybe some food for us too. In my yard I will have native plants, but also a huge variety of food plants. I'm planning on growing mushrooms, but I'll probably do it in the yard, unless it's something like chicken of the woods or others that I've seen in the area. In the beginning I wanted only native plants, but then I read something very convincing about how we can do more good by growing our own food than going with exclusively native plants. Now, I"m trying to strike a balance between the two. I believe many of the native plants will be good companion plants for my food. They will support local, native pollinators and they will be beautiful.

Another thing to consider before changing your woods is to try to find out if you have any sensitive areas nearby. Sometimes there are endangered or threatened plants in those areas. Purists will say that the genetic stock of those plants should not be mixed with genetics from other areas. Plants that may exist across a large span of land (across many states), may still have particular genetics for specific sites and will do better there than if you move them to a slightly different climate.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!
 
John Elliott
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Cindi Martineau wrote:
For me, I plan to only put native plants, shrubs and trees behind our fence in the woods. This will include food for the birds and maybe some food for us too. In my yard I will have native plants, but also a huge variety of food plants. I'm planning on growing mushrooms, but I'll probably do it in the yard, unless it's something like chicken of the woods or others that I've seen in the area. In the beginning I wanted only native plants, but then I read something very convincing about how we can do more good by growing our own food than going with exclusively native plants. Now, I"m trying to strike a balance between the two. I believe many of the native plants will be good companion plants for my food. They will support local, native pollinators and they will be beautiful.

Another thing to consider before changing your woods is to try to find out if you have any sensitive areas nearby. Sometimes there are endangered or threatened plants in those areas. Purists will say that the genetic stock of those plants should not be mixed with genetics from other areas. Plants that may exist across a large span of land (across many states), may still have particular genetics for specific sites and will do better there than if you move them to a slightly different climate.


I'd like to weigh in on the side of not being too timid to try new stuff and only going with exclusively native plants. This is promoted mostly by ecologists who study nature with a still camera and haven't learned about motion pictures. Nature and ecological systems are in constant flux, with some species exploding and others crashing. The instances where man is the direct cause of the explosion or the crash is a lot less than we are led to believe. I know it is harder to hit a moving target than one that is standing still, but the world is not going to stop while we remove all the "invasive" plants.

Another incentive to try new stuff is that we are in the beginnings of a dramatic change in the Earth's climate. The species that can move are doing so, and the ones that can't move very well (like one of my favorite trees, the bald cypress) are going to need outside help to colonize new areas. We should all be looking at species that are native to the next couple of warmer climate zones and invite them into our plantings. Where I live is going to be called "New Miami" in another few centuries, once sea level rise swallows up Florida and the low country of Georgia and the Carolinas. It's already warm enough here that the ornamental loquats that have been planted are actually bearing fruit, and soon we can be adding citrus to the list.
 
Cindi Martineau
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You make a good point John. I'm going to be planting Paw Paws since we are at the top of their range. There aren't many of them in my zone, but in the years to come, they will be moving this way.

I really think it depends upon the type of invasive plants there are. Honeysuckle has to go. It makes almost an impenetrable thicket in some areas. The birds love it, but there are natives that can be put in that are probably more nutritious (studies at Michigan State University are looking at this). We also have garlic mustard which puts out a chemical from the root that does not allow other plants to grow (spotted knapweed in sunny areas too). I learned that some people purposely plant garlic mustard. I've eaten pesto made with garlic mustard and it's delicious, but seeing the way it has overtaken our disturbed forests here, I'd never plant it. I'm on the lookout too because I won't plant things like that in my yard that could spread to the disturbed forest. We have a pristine climax maple beech forest less than a half mile from us. I don't want to be the one responsible for changing that. It contains hundreds of species that have been here in our area for hundreds of years. The main thing is that people need to take the time to learn about these systems and make wise decisions. We see "exotic" plants all of the time in the forest. Most of them aren't worth removing as they don't actually invade. But, there are a few who do and I think it's worth it to try to remove them or change the soil so that they can maybe die down on their own.
 
Alder Burns
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You could consider adding nut trees, especially in edges and clearings as the young trees will appreciate a bit of sunlight. There are several natives and exotics adapted to your climate to consider....walnuts, hickories, oaks, chestnuts, etc.
 
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