I've got about an acre of land that sits between an active creek and the road. The land is very wet, flooding several times a year. Currently it has a couple of very large sycamores as an overstory. On the edge of the creek there is also black walnut, osage orange, and a bunch of tall weedy brush that I have not identified (but which I'd like to remove or thin out).
The land is positioned on the north side of a wooded hill, so between the position and the sycamore overstory this land has a short day of partial sun. It's a good 5 degrees cooler than the rest of my yard (zone 6b). The soil is soft and wet, but very filled with nutrients from the regular flooding.
Are there any good food plants or other useful permaculture plants or trees you'd recommend down there? I prefer food plants, but I'll take any recommendations. If nothing else, I'd even take some good looking wet/shade plants that will at least brighten up the entrance to my farm from the road.
My first thought is cattail. It is not used for food by most people but the whole plant is edible, the roots are a source of starches, the fuzz can be mixed with flour in many baked goods and the inner stem is a tasty green. It also can filter the water going by, but if there is much filtering needed I wouldn't be eating it. It also brings in birds such as the red-wing blackbird and mallards which are nice to have around.
My second thought is rice, a widely recognized food crop. I think domestic rice is usually grown in seasonally flooded areas, which it sounds like you have. Wild rice maybe needs continual standing water. I don't know much about rice though.
My third idea is peppermint, I often find it growing wild near creeks and slews, but not in standing water. It smells fantastic, which is how I can always find it, it can be used as a herb, and has pretty purple flowers. It should be able to coexist with anything else you put there.
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
posted 3 years ago
I looked into cattail, but I've read that it requires 8+ hours of full sun, which I definitely don't there. Otherwise i'd try that, since I've read really good things about it - and it's not considered invasive here which it is in other areas. I'm probably going to try spreading it around my pond in the pasture, since I get a ton of sun there.
I don't think I'll mess with rice this year, although wild rice might be something good to look into in the future. I just don't see myself having time for that this year.
Peppermint is interesting, I'll look into that more.
If you look at Table 3, there's a list of plants for riparian zones in Kentucky. I've already got the large trees covered. Does anyone see any plants in the rest of the list that would have stacking benefits to keep inline with the permaculture goals?
I live in a different climate than you, but we do have a lot of wetland areas here, and I live on a north-facing slope. Service berry likes the wet. So does thimble berry and salmonberry--both of which can take a lot of shade. Salal should do well there, too. It likes the shade and doesn't mind moisture. Lingonberry I think likes more sun, but mountain huckleberry likes shade and can tolerate a bit of moisture. Some varieties of blackberries and raspberries should do well there, too, though not as well as when they get more sun. As a ground cover, bunchberry should do well in the more shaded areas. Same with wild strawberries. I think I recall that aronia likes the wet and the shade. It's growing in our shady wet areas, but I haven't had it fruit yet, though it is still young. Our native currants and gooseberries also like the wet and shady areas, so maybe the yummier versions do well in shady wet areas, too? Some currents are pretty, too, such as the clove currant, which has clove smelling flowers.
As for vegetables, miner's lettuce and violets/pansies like the moist and the shade. Maybe watercress would do well? Oxalis/wood sorrels should do well in that area, too.
Other wetland edibles (those these like more sun than you likely get there) are broadleaf arrowhead/katniss/wapato, and camas.
Medicinal plants that grow in the wet shady areas are willows, wild ginger, and devil's club (horribly pokey, large plant that looks like it came from dinosaur times). There's probably a lot more, but I don't really experiment with medicinal plants. You might also be able to grow alders there. Red alders LOVE our wet areas, and they grow fast, fix nitrogen, and then love to fall down for easy firewood.
I hope that helps!
Oh, and another permaculture use for the area would be ducks! They'd do well with the berry bushes--fertilizing them and eating the low and fallen berries, without damaging the plants. They also love puddles and digging in the mud.
I'm assuming that you don't have restrictions on what you can plant/do in such an area. We're pretty limited as to what we can do in our wetlands, as they are protected, so I pretty much just plant edible natives there .
EDIT: I forgot about pawpaws and ground nuts (apios americana) they both can take some shade and live in wet areas. They are also, I believe, native to your general area. Mulberries also can tolerate moderate shade, as well as growing next to walnuts, and they like it wet, though not flooded areas.
In terms of edibles, rye, rice, cattails, watercress, arrowhead, pecan, honeysuckle, and mints would do well along a creek. If you are looking for medicinal plants too, fleabane, water hyssop, and sedge would be good choices. Also, if you remove or thin the brush on the banks, make sure to replace a fair bit of it with other more useful brush so you don't have erosion problems during floods.
You might have enough sun for elderberries. Here, the native red elderberry thrives along creeks without much of a break in the 80-year second-growth canopy...
Beautiful small tree/large bush; the flowers are good for making tasty beverages, and the berries are mostly edible*.
*the berries of RED elderberry are usually described as poisonous, but I have also read that it is really just the coating on the seeds, which will create cyanide in the stomache... so according to some folks you can eat red elderberry if you cook them and somehow remove the seeds. YMMV. In any case you'd probably have S. canadensis in your region, not S. racemosa.
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