Final Report for FNE95-102

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 1995: $1,850.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Susan Minnich
Coles Brook Farm
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Project Information

Summary:

Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE95-102

Ms. Minnich is interested in exploring the cultivation of native wildflowers and medicinal herbs in a forest setting, in conditions as near as possible to those prevailing where these plants occur naturally. She hopes, eventually, to harvest and sell these plants, thus simultaneously realizing a profit, proving the suitability of her techniques, and relieving pressure on wild populations. Many of these wild populations have been seriously depleted by overharvesting.

Ms. Minnich thinned approximately two acres of forest in such a way as to leave a stand of mixed species of varied ages and densities, creating a number of micro-ecologies at ground level. She prepared very small, scattered seedbeds, none larger than 4’ by 15’, turning the earth and straining the topsoil, to remove weeds. She fertilized with bone meal, green sand, and rock phosphate, but did not add manure or other organic matter to avoid introducing weed seeds. She then planted seeds or cuttings of goldenseal, ginseng, blue cohosh, bloodroot, goldthread, jack-in-the-pulpit, foamflower, partridgeberry, wild ginger, maidenhair fern, red trillium, may apple, bluebead lily, Hepatica, and Tiarella cordifolia. She made a point of planting the goldenseal and blue cohosh upslope, in well-drained locations, and the jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, and may apple in sandy soil, near a stream.

Watering was necessary during the first summer, and some weeding was necessary during the second. Otherwise, the plants did not require a lot of tending.

After three years all of the original planting of ginseng was lost; Ms. Minnich is not sure why. A replanting is doing well. Most of the jack-in-the-pulpit is doing well, and the blue cohosh, goldenseal, goldthread, and bloodroot are thriving. The Tiarella, foamflower, and Hepatica are also doing very well. The partridgeberry and wild ginger have not been particularly successful. Ms. Minnich observes that these are both difficult species to establish. In the case of the latter, however, it may simply be a matter of time, as wild ginger is a slow-growing plant.

Ms. Minnich is pleased she was able to show that many native plants can be grown in this semi-wild fashion. She has observed considerable interest in her project, but she believes this is a suitable technique only if one’s objective is conservation of native species. She does not feel that growing wild plants in this way, and on this scale, can be justified on economic grounds, particularly considering that some of these species do not reach marketable size for many years. If wild plants like these are to be grown commercially, she believes road access and a small tractor, to assist with seedbed preparation, will be necessary.

Cooperators

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  • Laurence Hollander

Research

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.