Producers in the central United States are showing considerable interest in growing alternative crops such as specialty forest products for food, herbal medicinal, decorative floral and craft markets. Crops showing particular promise are shrubs and trees that produce decorative woody stems such as curly willow (Salix matsudana), scarlet curls willow (S. matsudana `Scarlet Curls'), french `Scarlet Curls'), french pussy willow (S. caprea), red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), and branches of flowering trees and shrubs, including apple (Malus spp.), cherry (spp.), cherry (Prunus spp.), and forsythia (Forsythia spp.). spp.). The objectives of this study were to 1) determine yields and performance of 10 woody plant cultivars used in the floral industry, and planted in an alley-cropping configuration, and 2) quantify wholesale prices, establishment and maintenance costs, management and harvest labor inputs, and financial returns by cultivar. Production and performance data are derived from a 40-acre (16.2-ha) alleycropping trial in Nebraska containing 10 species or cultivars of shrubs that produce woody florals. Results are based on two harvests that commenced two and three growing seasons after establishment. Harvested woody stem size and quality were measured and determined, and sold to wholesale florists to determine prices and identify buyer requirements. Annual gross financial returns ranged from a high of $24.94/plant for scarlet curls willow to a low of $0.63/plant for bloodtwig dogwood (C. sanguinea var. atrosanguinea), while net returns per plant for these species ranged from a positive $17.46 to a loss of $1.30. Financial returns varied among species and cultivars due to the combined effects of annual marketable stem production, harvesting and processing labor requirements, and price/stem. Stem production increased over time due to subsequent coppicing of harvested plants. Overall findings indicate that commercial production of selected cultivars of woody florals in an alleycropping arrangement can be a profitable alternative to using conventional woody species.
Woody floral stems are an emerging specialty crop within the floral industry, and stem color is a key to marketability. This study was conducted to assess stem color change over time in order to determine the optimum window for stem harvest. Plants of `Scarlet curls', `Flame' willow, `Bailey', `Cardinal' and `Yellow twig' dogwood were planted in a randomized complete block design in rows parallel to a windbreak.. Each experimental unit consisted of a group of five plants, each of the same cultivar. Plants were initially tagged at a set height and stem diameter and measured for color. Each stem was also tagged with one of three colored tapes, according to initial color: green for green colored stems, red for stems already showing color change, and pink for intermediate colored stems. Color was assessed initially and on a weekly basis for 10 weeks, starting at the end of September, using the Royal Horticultural Society color chart. Data were analyzed using a repeated measures procedure. `Scarlet curls' and `Flame' stems, already displaying color, attained the darkest color value for their cultivar at an early stage and were at the point of harvest in early November, while stems that were initially green never attained a similar dark color value. `Yellow twig' dogwood stems already displaying color and those beginning to color attained the darkest color value in late November. `Cardinal' stems attained a darker color value more quickly than other dogwood stems. In most cases, stems of `Cardinal' dogwood could be harvested from early October until early December, while early November was the optimum time to harvest `Bailey' dogwood stems. Woody florals planted closest to the windbreak were more variable in color development and, in some cases, appeared to be more vigorous.
Nontimber forest products (food, herbal medicinals, and woody floral and handicraft products) produced in forest, agroforestry, and horticultural systems can be important sources of income to landowners. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can reduce the quality, quantity, and profitability of forest products by browsing twigs and rubbing stems, resulting in direct and indirect losses to production enterprises. We evaluated deer damage (frequency and intensity of browsing and rubbing) sustained by 26 species of trees and shrubs, the relationships among morphological features of trees and shrubs to damage levels, and the economic impacts of deer damage on the production of nontimber forest products. Levels of browsing were high (frequency >93% and intensity >50%) in most species of trees and shrubs, with the highest intensity (>60%) occurring in chinese chestnut (Castanea mollisima) and dogwood (Cornus spp.), and the lowest (<20%) in ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), curly willow (Salix matsudana), ‘Scarlet Curls’ curly willow, smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), and pussy willow (Salix caprea). Species of trees or shrubs with one or a few stout stems unprotected by dense branching [e.g., american elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), smooth sumac, and curly willow] sustained the most damage by rubbing. Trees and shrubs with many small diameter stems or with dense tangled branching [e.g. redozier dogwood (Cornus sericea), forsythia (Forsythia suspensa), ‘Flame’ willow (Salix alba), and ‘Streamco’ basket willow (Salix purpurea)] were damaged the least by rubbing. Annual economic costs of deer damage to producers of nontimber forest products can range from $26/acre for pussy willow to $1595/acre for curly willow.