[permaculture] Best edible plants in Zone 5 rain garden?

Douglas Woodard dwoodard at becon.org
Sun Feb 21 07:01:38 EST 2010

Suggestions in no particular order:

Nannyberry, Viburnum lentago. Large shrub, often treelike, to 6 metres
or more. The fruit is bland (like a small, very low-density date with a
big stone) but pleasant.

Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa. Shrub to 2.5 metres.
Fruit can be harsh for fresh eating. Good for juice. High in antioxidants.

Spicebush, Lindera benzoin. Shrub to 3 metres.
While this is not often thought of as edible by humans, I have read of
the fruit being used by a gourmet chef for a kind of relish. I
speculate that it might be used as a minor ingredient in apple pies.
Related to cinnamon. The fruit is about 35% fat and very popular with
migrating birds in the fall. Can take shade. Avoid areas exposed to
wind. Distantly related to cinnamon, similar smell (from bruised twigs
and leaves) and flavour. I've seen it growing on heavy wet clay, and on
a moist sandy loam slope.

Wild raisin, Viburnum cassinoides. Shrub to 4-5 metres.
I'm not too sure just how edible the fruit is. 6-9 mm.

Groundnut/Hopniss, Apios americana
Perennial plant, edible root, non-woody vine climbs up anything
available, dies to ground in fall. Likes moist soil with high organic
matter. Suits north edge. Eaten by deer and squirrels, other animals.
Major food plant of native peoples and early European settlers. Much
reduced by settlers' habit of running pigs in woods.




Pawpaw, Asimina triloba
Native North American fruit tree, shrub or tree form, to 12 metres.
Bottomland tree. May be able to take a little flooding during growing
season. Often grows as understory tree, in which case poor fruit
production. Avoid locations exposed to wind.
Spreads by root sprouts, forms clonal colonies. 2 clones needed for
fruit. Best to plant at least 2 cultivars or seedlings fairly near each



Good nursery for grafted trees
Their cultivar Shenandoah is well regarded.

Northern pecan, Carya illinoensis
Range north in Mississippi valley to southern Iowa.
Bottomland tree. Trees have been known to survive very severe flooding
in growing season, though crop was lost.
In northern areas, problem is nut filling restricted by heat units and
season length, rather than tree survival. Seedlings and selections from
extreme north of range are desirable for this reason.







possibly if nut production not required

Black elderberry, Sambucus canadensis
Shrub to 3 metres. Tough plant. Spreads by root sprouts moderately.
Cultivars available, origin New York State, Geneva station; and
Agriculture Canada, Kentville, Nova Scotia.

Cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon

Highbush cranberry, Viburnum trilobum
Upright shrub to 4 metres.
Fruit "can be used to make a delicious jelly, especially tasty with
meat." There is a cultivar, "Wentworth," which originated with Prof.
Elwyn Meader in New Hampshire. It appears to be hardy on the southern
Canadian prairies; at least it is sold by nurseries there.

Note that V. trilobum has club-shaped glands on the leaf stalk (petiole)
where it joins the leaf. It is often confused with closely related
European guelder rose V. opulus, which has bristle-tipped stipules and
saucer shaped glands at the junction of petiole and leaf blade, and
foul-tasting fruit.

Sometimes the North American highbush cranberry is classified as 
Viburnum opulus var. americanum.

Note that stipule = "a leaflike or scaly appendage, one at each side at
the base of the petiole of the leaf." If your eyesight is not of the
best, you may need a magnifying glass for these and the glands.

Arrowhead/arrowleaf, wapato, Indian potato, duck potato, Sagittaria
Edible root
Grows in standing water, also in soil that is flooded in spring and
stays moist all year.




Red mulberry, Morus rubra
is reported to grow in areas where it is annually flooded. The popular 
high-quality cultivar "Illinois Everbearing" is a hybrid of red mulberry 
and the Asian "white" mulberry Morus alba.

A good source of information on native plants is the North American 
Native Plant Society

See the links Associations and Plant Sources.

Thanks to my fellow emmebrs of the North American Fruit Explorers
who helped.

Doug Woodard
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Joan Huyser-Honig wrote:
> Many residential and organizational property owners in our area are planting
> rain gardens, mainly with native ornamental plants. Can anyone recommend
> (native) edible perennials that would do well in a rain garden in Zone 5
> (hardy to -20 F)? As I understand it, rain gardens sometimes hold water for
> up to 48 hours in their deepest sections, so I'd also like to know whether
> recommended edibles can take standing water for two days or whether they
> should be planted more toward the rain garden edges.
> Joan Huyser-Honig
> Huyser-Honig Creative Services
> 1016 Oakdale Street SE
> Grand Rapids, MI  49507
> Telling Your Stories, Advancing Your Cause
> Phone: (616) 241-0931 x11
> Fax: (616) 241-1500
>  <mailto:joan at hhcreatives.com> joan at hhcreatives.com
>  <http://www.hhcreatives.com/> www.hhcreatives.com

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