I am hard put to think of a single nut tree that DOESN'T produce beautiful wood. Black Walnut, Butternut, Hickory, just to name a few. Might not be in your lifetime though before harvest, but someone will thank you in the future.
Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
I should have edited and reread what I wrote above.
What I meant is that I'm working on an edible food forest. I'd like to add some additional trees that could one day be used for lumber and possibly have other functions in the meantime as well like being nitrogen fixing.
Being nitrogen-fixing, producing a trunk big enough to produce useful lumber (beyond posts, tool handles, and such like), while also producing something edible, and in the meantime being adapted to your climate (dry Mediterranean or desert, unless you are high in the mountains) will make for a very small list indeed. Carob and mesquite come to mind.
Black locust has a reputation for being incredibly hard wood - this makes it great for furniture like writing desks and the like which need a hardwearing surface. It is nitrogen fixing, great bee fodder in the flowers. Any wood you don't end up turning to lumber makes first rate firewood.
I'd end up marketing it differently than other lumber - look for artisan wood workers and furniture makers, rather than for structural lumber.
It also coppices well, which is good in a food forest.
One thing to look out for is that trees don't tend to grow straight and knot free when they are in the open. If your timber trees are crowded by neighbours they will race for the sky more quickly and with fewer branches than if they are looming out of a forest of much lower fruit trees. The oaks in our woods are tightly packed and tend to have 30ft of clear trunk before the first branch. The couple in our gardens have thick branches every few feet starting near ground level.
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Good suggestion. I didn't know that about how to get clear wood.
I guess I should plant several of them together and then after they are growing tall and straight cut the other ones down next to it. That way I get a great burst of nitrogen fixation and straight trees plus extra mulch (My hill is really degraded so mulch and nitrogen are very welcome!)
Among nut trees, there is the California black walnut, though I'm not sure if it is allelopathic like the Eastern species. Black walnuts are a chore to crack, too. There are a few species of pines that produce nuts....the pinyons, the native gray pine, and the Mediterranean stone pine. These last two will produce a sizeable trunk with only small branches up to a considerable height. For something exotic you could check out araucarias, such as A bidwilii.
Among nitrogen fixers there are a number of legume trees which are popular in the tropics and subtropics as nurse and shade trees over things like coffee and tea. They cast a thin shade which can be helpful to quite a few plants in hot summer climates and the taller species would produce useful trunks when cut. Many coppice readily. Your list will be mostly limited by how cold it gets and your ability/willingness to irrigate. Check out various Acacia, Albizia, Leucaena, Calliandra, Gliricidia, Pithecellobium, Enterolobium and their relatives.....
Also Casuarina, though it's wood supposedly cracks badly...
It is indeed. But unfortunately it's too hot and dry for them, unless perhaps you have a moist spot. The few that are around me keep by the river and creeks. The Italian alder (A. cordata), might be an exception to this.
I would hunt for an exotic hardwood grown marketed toward woodworkers. Might be hard to find zebrawood or wenge or whatever, but it would be a high dollar product to sell at maturity. Google exotic woodworking and a ton of stuff beyond the stuff typical to the US comes up. If you can't find plants, well, there's an economic niche just ready to be filled!
Option 2, a jacaranda, but that's because they are a memory from my childhood.
It also depends on your risk of wildfire. I would choose a tree that isn't going to go off like a Roman candle if you are anywhere in the path of a Santa Ana wind-driven fire.
Burns is my original last name, so the combination with Alder is a coincidence. I took the name Alder when we lived in Oregon for a while, because the alders there were huge and impressive. Where I used to live (GA), it's a mere shrub, scarce higher than your head.
That said, with fire danger in mind, perhaps an alder would be a good thing!
Alder only burns well when very dry. Otherwise, Alder Smokes. They use it to smoke salmon.
My sisters like to joke that I was 14 years old before I learned that my name wasn't "get wood". In large part this was because of how often I got sent into the woods with my little Sandvik bow saw for fresh green alderwood for our smokehouse.
Based on that I want to add some nuance to the above quote. I'd say that alder burns as well as any softwood, and like most firewood, burning it usefully when green takes a well-drafted fire in a hot stove, or a high-fuel-density open fire situation (roaring fire). Throw a few green sticks of most anything on embers in a smokehouse firepit, you'll get mostly smoke; perhaps a bit more with alder but not noticeably so. We used alder to smoke salmon because its smoke has a nice innoffensive sweet taste and is low in those nasty back resins (tar) that settle onto salmon smoked by novices who burn whatever's handy.