[permaculture] nitrogen fixing trees/shrubs that feed livestock

Clint Popetz clint at cpopetz.com
Sun Dec 26 15:11:16 EST 2004

On Sun, Dec 26, 2004 at 11:49:07AM -0800, Toby Hemenway wrote:
> On 12/26/04 8:04 AM, "Clint Popetz" <clint at cpopetz.com> wrote:
> > Aiee, be very careful about russian olive (and its relative autumn
> > olive.)  They are both very invasive.  [snip]  They're swarming
> > all over the place, steadily shading out or strangling other species.
> > In the west, they're eating away at riparian woodlands.

First of all, let me say that I appreciate all your work Toby, and
that your book Gaia's Garden was very inspiring to me when I was first
being introduced to permaculture.

> You might find "Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience" by David
> Theodoropoulos a useful counter to unfounded claims that invasive species
> are a major cause of ecosystem damage. 

I am by no means a natives-only evangelist.  But on a case-by-case
basis, it is possible to point to _some_ invasives that are turning
places into monocultures and wiping out fragile ecosystems.  Kudzu,
honeysuckle, autumn olive, and multiflora rose are all examples of
things I _don't_ want on my land, because they are nearly impossible
to contain.  I am not telling other people _not_ to grow them; every
situation is different.  I am just pointing out that they out-compete
most things in their path, and thus caution is encouraged,
particularly if one is wanted to create an ecosystem that also
contains other, more fragile plants, because these species (whether
they are labeled "invasive" or simply "agressive" or maybe "really
damn successful") don't play nicely with neighbors.

Sure, in some longer time scale 20 acres of dense Autumn Olive will be
succeeded by something.  But I may not live that long.

> We need to learn to get comfortable with it instead of engaging in
> bound-to-fail projects like Russian-olive pulling. 

If Autumn Olive already covers your land, I agree.  If you are
considering planting it as an N-fixer, I simply suggest caution, lest
one waste money on roots, seeds, and saplings of other species that
will be engulfed in short order.  If a designer is aware of that risk
and chooses to plant anyway, more power to them.

I think part of designing a good ecosystem should be the notion of
balance, and therefore "plays well with others" is high on my list of


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