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Sassafras to replace Oak?

 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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I still learning about food forests.  Our forest is mostly Oak.  However, they are falling over left and right, they don't look too good.  Originally we thought to do what we can to figure out what is wrong with them and work on that, then start planting a food forest in some parts.  I wouldn't want to plant a bunch of nut trees and then have them crushed by a big oak!

However, we also have lots of little sassafras trees.  I've read that given the opportunity, they can get rather tall.  But I've also read that it can be a brittle wood.

So I'm wondering in these big open spots in the woods where the oaks have fallen, would it be a good idea to plant sassafras for a new top story tree.  Or is it too brittle?  Would it be better to focus on the oaks?
 
Jami McBride
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Location: PNW Oregon
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You didn't say, but I assume you are wanting a replacement for fuel - is this correct?
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Why not take seeds from any fruit you eat this year... every apple, cherry, plum, peach, persimmon, whatever plant them out and see what grows?  No major loss if nothing grows.  If the seedlings make it, you can always graft desirable varieties later. 

I love sassafrass, but I think oak might be more useful in terms of food, fuel or building material. 
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Yes fruit trees are going in for sure.  But we're looking for the upper most story for a food forest.  We have no plans on cutting these trees down.  We have more standing dead and on the ground dead wood to last our life time and who ever comes after us. 
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
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walnut work? i hear some varieties leaf out late, making it possible to grow a veggie garden underneath before the leaves come in.

I have a lot of Sassafras trees. Not sure what they are good for other than Filé Powder, root beer, ecstasy, and some nice wood (love the wood and leaves on these for some reason). Most of mine are growing in understory or edge, naturally, near sweet gum, oak, maple, tulip poplar, black walnut. They are 3" - 6" in diameter and 20' to 30' tall (guessing). I seem to get a few new ones every year and lose one or two. I love the looks of them, but not sure I would plant them other than the uses mentioned above. Do you know of other uses for them?
 
                
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Dr_Temp wrote:
walnut work? i hear some varieties leaf out late, making it possible to grow a veggie garden underneath before the leaves come in.


Walnut species are somewhat toxic to many other plants, though.  The roots carry the toxin (juglone) as well as the leaves, so growing under the canopy might be limited to plants that can tolerate exposure to it.

http://gardening.about.com/od/gardenproblems/qt/Black_Walnuts.htm

Dr_Temp wrote:I have a lot of Sassafras trees. Not sure what they are good for other than Filé Powder, root beer, ecstasy, and some nice wood (love the wood and leaves on these for some reason). Most of mine are growing in understory or edge, naturally, near sweet gum, oak, maple, tulip poplar, black walnut. They are 3" - 6" in diameter and 20' to 30' tall (guessing). I seem to get a few new ones every year and lose one or two. I love the looks of them, but not sure I would plant them other than the uses mentioned above. Do you know of other uses for them?


You're lucky that yours are that size.  They seem to grow as a spreading thicket on my land.  Haven't seen any specimens that large.  Unfortunately, they are a bit of a pest as far as spreading goes -- a nearby thicket in the front yard is quite eager to spread into places that I've planted things I don't want invaded.  It's easy enough to pull up the shoots, but they seem to snap off from the roots below, and will grow back.

On the other hand, I agree that it' a pleasant-looking tree.    And if grown to lumbering size, I really like the wood.  My only experience with working it is from a single large board I bought once.  It's a somewhat soft wood; harder than butternut, but much softer than oak.  It's similar in color when finished to red oak, but browner.  Nice even grain.  Open-pored like oak, but a bit less so.  Very easy to shape.  Very pleasant smell when cut.

--Steve
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
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FoolYap wrote:Walnut species are somewhat toxic to many other plants, though.

Possibly, but not as bad as many would like you to think. I believe the biggest issue is with black walnut. Lots of plants are toxic to other plants. Guess it is part of the design. Many ways to over come this, including not growing certain plants, growing buffer plants, or finding something that works similarly to the idea presented, just a different tree than walnut. I have included a couple quotes from the book 'tree crops' at the bottom. Also some good stuff on buffer plants in "Gaia's Garden - second edition"

FoolYap wrote:
You're lucky that yours are that size.  They seem to grow as a spreading thicket on my land.  Haven't seen any specimens that large.  Unfortunately, they are a bit of a pest as far as spreading goes -- a nearby thicket in the front yard is quite eager to spread into places that I've planted things I don't want invaded.  It's easy enough to pull up the shoots, but they seem to snap off from the roots below, and will grow back...

...Very pleasant smell when cut.

Mine seem to be in thickets too, but not sure if it is from the root system or the berries they produce. not that I have ever found the berries, but the internet says they exist. I love these trees fro some reason. Not sure why. They do not seem to be fast growers. Have noticed that they break off easily at the ground, so not good for climbing.  They have made a circle thicket at one spot on on the forest edge. Agree with you, the fragrance is very pleasant. Not sure mine are big enough to make cut boards out of, but you could make stick furniture out of them. Still, something about them I just like. Maybe it's the mitten/alien leaves.




The following is taken from (Tree Crops - a permanent agriculture, J. Russell Smith, 1953 edition, page 212).

For decades the United States received a substantial import of nuts from Naples. Most of them were grown on the slopes of Vesuvius and the nearby Sorrento penin- sula, where it is a common practice to cover the vegetable gar- den with walnut trees. These trees stand up tall and spare like the common black locust (RoDinia @ezldoacacin) of the United States. Because they carry their heads high and because they leaf late in the season, the trees permit the Italian sun to T-q?Ch the garden crops beneath, thus making a profit through two sources of income. The same type of gardening prevails in the gardens of Baalbek, in many other parts of Palestine and Syria, and throughout Persia, where one frequently sees the white branches and green foliage of the walnut standing abo\rc the wall that protects almost every garden of that IIungry land.

(and from page 223)

The Persian walnut is especially aliuring to plant breeders because of its great variation within the species-variation as to blight resistance, frost resistance, speed of growth, size, shape, quantity, and flavor of fruit, thickness of shell, and in other ways. One of its chief troubles is early spring growing and con- sequent frost injury. Yet there are strains here and there that remain dormant to an unusually late period in tile spring.
For example, I happened to be walking through some or- chards near Grenoble, France, on June lo, 1913, and inquired what had kilied a tree that stood leafless in the orchard. The owner replied, “lt is not dead. It has not come out in leaf yet.” This incredible fact was evidently true. A perfectly healthy tree it was, just beginning to show the first sign of growth. Across the road, cherries were ripe, farmers were making hay. and the wheat was in head. This late-blooming tree was not of the best, but its nuts, though scanty, were of quality good enough to cause the tree to be kept.
This type of variation is not rare. As I rode from Milan to Paris on May 18, 1926, I saw from the car window, shortly after entering Switzerland, a number of trees that were much less advanced in foliage than their fellows nearby, Trees with similar habits have been found in America.
We have one tree among our hybrids that continues dormant until about the first of June, about four weeks later than the normal, but after it puts forth its leaves it makes three or four times as much growth as the other trees of the same age. (J. W. Killen, Felton, Delaware, February 8, 1916.)

Side note: 'tree crops' scanned pdf version is on the net. 1929 edition and 1953 edition. Nut Growing by Dr. R. T. Morris (Macmillan, 1921) is also available, which as a lot of good grafting diagrams and is mentioned by J. Russell Smith in his 'Tree Crops' book. I also picked up a copy of 'Nut Growing' for the physical library.
 
                
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Dr_Temp wrote:
Possibly, but not as bad as many would like you to think. I believe the biggest issue is with black walnut.


I'll have to take your word for the former.  Thanks for the excerpt.

I love these trees fro some reason. Not sure why. ... Still, something about them I just like. Maybe it's the mitten/alien leaves.


The leaves are definitely interesting.  They're also a host species to spicebush swallowtail butterflies, which are a lovely addition to our yard.    And the caterpillars for that species are one of the more striking specimens I've ever seen.

I've never seen berries on mine either, though it's possible the birds are simply getting them before I ever see them.  I'm fairly certain mine are spreading by root, not berry-drop, because of the roots I find spreading laterally out from the thicket, when I pull up the unwanted shoots.

--Steve
 
                            
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Hickory?
 
Richard Kastanie
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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When we had a major ice storm in January 2009, I noticed which trees were most prone to damage. Sassafras was one of the worst. Although a few were pretty much unscathed (mostly larger trees, which is interesting because with many other species the larger trees were more prone to damage), a large portion of them were severely damaged, with large parts of the tree splitting and coming down. A few were uprooted, but not very many compared to all that were just disfigured. On the plus side, most of the damaged ones sent up really vigorous regrowth and seem to be recovering much better than most severely damaged trees of other species.
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Pecans! Aslo chinese/european chestnuts. And certain hybrid oaks have acorns that make great livestock feed.
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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If the oaks are dying I would wonder why.  Maybe you can get the county agent or state forester in your area to take a look.  They might be able to tell you why you are loosing these large trees and what to do about it.  If they are getting past their prime and it is just their time to go you might consider logging a few selectivly and use the money you get to replant nut trees or other oak trees. Either of these choices are hard wood and will last a very long time. Sassafras is a softer more brittle wood.  I consider it a 1st growth tree here on my place.  I dont think that you want it as your main tall tree in the forest.  Variety and diversity are the key. 
 
                          
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This is an interesting discussion, but nobody is saying where they are.  I live in coastal downeast Maine.  I have plenty of oak, but I'm almost completely unfamiliar with sassafras growing here.

Dan
 
Geoff Kegs
Posts: 30
Location: Northern lower Michigan
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Huisjen wrote:
This is an interesting discussion, but nobody is saying where they are.  I live in coastal downeast Maine.  I have plenty of oak, but I'm almost completely unfamiliar with sassafras growing here.

Dan


That is the best point anyone has made on this topic in my opinion.  If the OP doesn't say where he is from, it is difficult to say if you can replace oak with sassafras or not, since this species is completely site specific...It won't just "grow" anywhere, and in the zone it grows in, it might only mature to a small pole-sized tree, or it could mature to a 80' tall 18"+ diameter tree...

<----That is the coolest smiley ever.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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I'm sorry.  For some reason I"m not getting notified when there is a reply!  I'll read through all these and try to figure out why I"m not getting an email.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Read though all the replies.  Thank you!  We are in Missouri.  I"m used to other forums just displaying your location.  I"ll be sure to put that next time.  So it doesn't sound like sassafras would be good as a new top story tree. 
 
Jeanine Gurley
pollinator
Posts: 1399
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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I have noticed this in a lot of threads.  Where you live plays a big part of Permaculture.  Would anyone be interested in a Where RU thread?
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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  I would ask that everyone put their location in the area under their Name - This is done in your profile. 

When logged in, look at the small buttons in the upper right hand corner on any permies page. 
You'll see home help search admin profile logout - click on Profile.  Once on your profile page, on the nav bar at the left - click on Forum Profile Information.  The first text field box at the top is called Personal Text - this is where you type in your location to be paired with your name.

I hope this helps 
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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FOOD TREES, HARDY, PRODUCTIVE FOR THE NORTH especially

Chestnut and other

http://www.badgersett.com/


I would look at Doyle's thornless blackberries also.
 
Matt Banchero
Posts: 27
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You didn't say where you are located.  I'm in Northern California where many of our oak forests are dieing from Sudden Oak Death (Phythoptera Ramorum).  If that is the case you shouldn't count on that firewood being there in a couple years as it will be rapidly consumed by hypoxylon, oyster and turkeytail mushrooms

Black walnut is likely a good tree species to plant for wildlife, firewood and in the long term a highly valuable timber species.  White oak, Valley oak and white/valley hybrids are resistant to Sudden Oak Death and will maintain many of the species that would die out in the absence of native oaks. 

I'm not entirely sure what your motivations are...firewood, canopy cover, biodiversity?
 
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