Order Herbs Here

Check in on News from the Global Earth Repair Foundation

Two Book Reviews: "The Maya Forest Garden" and "Wild Product Governance"

Two Book Reviews by Michael Pilarski
October 22, 2015

1) The Maya Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands. Anabel Ford and Ronald Nigh. 2015. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California. 259 pages.


2) Wild Product Governance: Finding Policies that Work for Non-Timber Forest Products. Edited by Sarah A. Laird, Rebecca J. McLain and Rachel P. Wynberg. 2010. Earthscan, London. 393 pages.

1) The Maya Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands. Anabel Ford and Ronald Nigh. 2015. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California. 259 pages.
An excellent contribution to the world literature on sustainable, indigenous land management.  After rigorous paleo-botanical, archaeological and ecological research and on the ground consultation with existing practitioners, the authors conclude that the widely assumed cause of the collapse of the Mayan civilization due to deforestation and environmental degradation is not true. The forest gardens developed by the Mayans were sustainable. Their traditional milpa system involved many stages of plant cover, most of the time in forest phases. This resulted in a landscape mosaic of various ages of forest interspersed with smaller areas of corn after slashing and burning forest.  Each corn milpa plot was in corn production for 4 years or so and even during the corn phase the Mayans were planting trees or allowing natural regeneration of desired species in the corn fields.  After corn there were stages of perennial crops, berries and tree crops.  At all stages the plot is tended and harvested. European immigrants only saw the corn as agriculture and didn’t recognize the other phases of production.  As a result of this millennia of forest gardens much of the forests in the Mayan areas are anthropogenic and contain a high % of trees and plants useful to humans such as the breadnut tree/ramon (Brosimum alicastrum)
Forest gardens are all the rage in permaculture circles these days and they have gotten a lot of press, but we are largely a bunch of newbies.  Study of traditional forest gardens such as the Mayan milpa system have a lot to offer modern practitioners. The authors give a list of the most used plant species in the Maya forest gardens, but do not describe layout or species interactions in detail. Further research would be invaluable to forest gardeners in other parts of the world, particularly the subtropics (such as Hawai`i).
The traditional milpa corn/forest fallow rotations are one example of what is often called slash and burn farming.  The better technical term is “swidden” agriculture. Although swidden farmers have been largely decried in recent decades as despoilers of the environment, this can be a very effective and sustainable way to obtain food and sustain societies in the challenging environments of the subtropical and tropical forests.  Modern industrial agriculture there have been ecological failures in very short order.  The Mayan forest gardens are just one example of many tried and true indigenous forest garden strategies around the world.  A comprehensive study is in order to locate and describe the best extant and extinct examples.
For those who are familiar with Terra Preta or biochar it is notable that the Mayan burning for milpas was done in such a way as to create a lot of charred material which gets incorporated into the soils during the rotations.  This is excellent for long-term carbon sequestration.
The authors make a distinction between the traditional milpa systems and the often degraded systems of milpa used today.
The authors make a statement at the end of the book  (page 166) about the “war on subsistence economy” which really rung a bell for me.  What they are referring to is the war on subsistence farmers which the empire has waged around the world over the past centuries of colonialism.  Every year there are less subsistence farmers. Every year the % of the world’s population who are indigenous people or traditional agriculturists lessens.  The noose tightens.  We not only need to learn from the remaining traditional sustainable systems, we need to support the people who are keeping them alive.  And we need to create new sustainable systems where we live, informed by the best traditional systems. I’d recommend Ford and Nigh’s book to anyone interested in permaculture and forest gardens.
A few quotes:
“In its high-performance mode, the Maya milpa is a form of restoration agriculture as defined by Shepard [Restoration Agriculture]. Each cycle of production results in abundant products for family subsistence, trade and tribute. The system also prevents erosion and compaction, increases soil fertility, and builds long-term carbon reserves in the soil and in enriched woodland vegetation.  A dialogue of scientific and traditional farmer knowledge is desperately needed to construct productive conservation landscapes for the future of the tropics worldwide.”
“The current universal faith in the efficiency and low cost of the industrial food systems appears, in the light of recent research, to be misplaced. The perceived benefits of modern technology in agriculture and food production are deceptive and fraught with a number of bio-physical contradictions that bring their sustainability into question.  Upon careful reflection, these contradictions lead us to propose the strategies of the milpa technology as reliable solutions for feeding the growing twenty-first century world population.”
“…we find that the milpa is neither primitive nor unproductive and is positive for human health and the environment. Food produced by the milpa is of high quality, as it is based on the natural fertility maintained by the forest garden cycle, where regenerated woodlands continually restore minerals and organic matter. High biodiversity assures that pesticides are unnecessary and all wastes are recycled in the field. Water is managed by the conservation of vegetation and by the infiltration of rainwater stored in the soil. A healthy and natural relationship is fostered for animals that are attracted to the secondary vegetation of the milpa forest garden, resulting in a kind of semi-domestication based on the landscape. Dependence on fossil fuel is nonexistent, and, far from contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, the Maya milpa creates a long-term store of carbon in the soil.”
2) Wild Product Governance: Finding Policies that Work for Non-Timber Forest Products. Edited by Sarah A. Laird, Rebecca J. McLain and Rachel P. Wynberg. 2010. Earthscan, London. 393 pages.
Non Timber Forest Products or NTFPs is a commonly used term for products wildcrafted from the wild for food, medicine, crafts and industrial uses. As a professional wildcrafter of medicinal herbs in the United States and an expert on sustainable wildcrafting this book was fascinating reading for me.  It details the current status of wildcrafting in many countries around the world and the government policies their wildcrafters have to contend with. Countries discussed include Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, India, British Columbia, [Canada], Scotland, Finland, Sweden, Karalia, [Russia], the Philippines, South Africa, Mexico, Fiji, Yunnan [China], and floral greens in the US Pacific Northwest.
NTFP gatherers (aka wildcrafters) around the world are largely rural people at the low end of the economic spectrum.  Many of them are indigenous people.  Reading this book gives a heartache for the world’s indigenous peoples.  It is obvious from many of the country examples that indigenous people are among the most exploited parts of society. Generally they receive a pittance for the hard work they do gathering the brazil nuts, yohimbe bark, acai berries, etc that find their way into international, national and local commerce. Most of the money goes to middlemen, exporters, corrupt officials and retailers.  A small fraction of the end value goes to the gatherer/producer.  Fair trade certification can help the gatherer obtain a more fair share as outlined in Bolivia’s brazil nut industry.
The worst corruption example was from Cameroon, Africa.  Transporters of NTFPs there have to go through many police or government checkpoints to get to their destination.  At every checkpoint they have to pay bribes to police or government officials or have their loads confiscated.
Tribal peoples in India and the Philippines have to contend with government regulations that make it illegal to harvest NTFPs on their traditional lands. In some countries the state claims ownership over all forests and even trees on private land.  On the other hand, Brazil is much more progressive and allows subsistence gathering of NTFPs for household use.
Finland and Sweden have an official policy of “Everyman’s Right” which means that people can harvest berries and mushrooms on private and public lands.  The “commons’ are still open. In some cases, only locals can harvest.
In some parts of the world (especially Africa) local traditions and laws regulate NTFP gathering much more than government laws.  The degree of sustainable wildcrafting varies widely depending on country (and even region).
This book was designed to educate policy makers around the world on this topic.  It is obvious from the articles that most governments don’t have a clue.  Still, there is progress and this book helps illuminate the current situation. Great reading if you are interested in the international wildcrafting situation.

1974 to 2016: Gatherings Started by Michael "Skeeter" Pilarski

30 different gatherings on this list! I may have missed some. This 10/23/2015 version is my first compilation so I need to research a few dates. 12 of these gatherings I have organized multiple years and 17 just one year. One new one is in the works. This adds up to at least 90 large gatherings I have been a main organizer for. Of course, every one of the gatherings is a team effort. Besides these large gatherings I have organized and taught hundreds of day-long or weekend workshops. Have you been to one or more of my events?

1974 - Okanogan Family Faire (aka Barter Faire). Still going strong. I have been to every single one.
1974 - 1st Conference on Sustainable Agriculture in the Pacific Northwest (went on to become Tilth). Tilth conferences of various sorts have been happening ever since.
1975 - Spring Gathering of Healers (became the Spring Healing Gathering) Lasted 20 years off and on.
1979 - North Idaho Barter Fair. 12 years off and on.
1979 - Northeast Washington Barter Fair (became the Columbia Barter Fair). Lasted 20 years or so.
1981 - 1st Maritime Northwest Permaculture Conference. Lasted One year.
1981 - 1st Interior Northwest Permaculture Conference. One year.
1982 - Okanogan Earthsong Festival. One year.
1983 - Friends of the Trees Gathering. One year.
1984 - Tilth’s 10-year Anniversary Gathering and Barter Fair. One year.
198? -  Northwest Organic Seed Collaboration. Lasted several years.
198?  - Northwest Permaculture Rendezvous. Lasted 6 years.
198?  - Whidbey Island Barter Fair. Two years.
1990 - Bellingham Tree Extravaganza (became the Bellingham Spring Nursery Sale). Still going strong.
1990 - Port Townsend Tree Extravaganza (became the Port Townsend Tree Festival). Lasted 20 years.
1990 - Restoration Forestry Conference. One year.
199? - Kootenay Herb Gathering. One year.
1997 - Bellingham Ethnobotany Lecture Series. One year.
1999 - Northwest Herbal Fair. The last one was in 2011. It might be resurrected.
1999 - Kauai Natural Healing Gathering. One year.
2000 - Montana Herb Gathering, Still going with some breaks.
2001 - Fairy & Human Relations Congress. Still going strong.
200? - Northeast Washington Herbalists Gathering. One year
2007 - Montana Barter Fair. Lasted 5 years.
2008 - Washington Permaculture Convergence (became the Northwest Permaculture Convergence). Still going strong.
2011 - Inland Northwest Permaculture Convergence. Still going strong.
2014 - Gathering of the Realms, Kauai. One year so far.
2014 - 1st North American Permaculture Convergence. One year.
2015 - Spokane Herbal Fair. 2nd annual will be May 2016.
2016 - April. Medicinal Herb Growing & Marketing Conference.


Trees and Shrubs of Value in the Maritime Pacific Northwest of North America

List prepared by Michael Pilarski, Friends of the Trees Society

Version 1, March 28, 2015

This list is composed of 150 trees and shrubs which may (or may not) be economically profitable to grow for products/functions or to sell as nursery plants in the Maritime PNW region.  This is admittedly a very preliminary list.

The chief reference for this list, besides the author’s knowledge, is the book “The Complete Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs”. 2003, Thunder Bay Press, San Diego California.  816 pages.

I went through the book genus by genus.  This list focuses on zone 6 and zone 7 species (occasionally zone 8) which can be grown in the Maritime Northwest.  This is a preliminary list only and only includes a few of the many notable natives. Many other tree and shrub species adapted to the maritime PNW are listed in my Inland Pacific Northwest 1000 Crops list which focuses on zone 3 to 5 plants, including some zone 6.  Zone 6 is the overlap zone between the Inland and the Maritime Northwest.  Zone 6 is risky in most of the interior Northwest and zone 8 is risky in most of the maritime northwest.  In the maritime PNW, Zone 8 is possible in the urban heat islands or carefully protected situations.

Aralia elata (Japanese Angelica Tree) z-4

Aralia spinosa (Devil’s walking Stick) z-5

Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree)

Arctostaphylos species

Buddleia globosa

Buddleia weyeriana

Buddleia davidii


Berberis species (Bayberry)

Bupleurum fruticosum. Shrubby Hare’s Ear, z-7

Bumelia lanuginosa

Buxus microphylla, Chinese Box, z-6

Buxus sempervirens, Common Box, z-6

Callicarpa americana, American Beauty Berry, z-6

Callicarpa bodinieri, z-6

Calluna vulgaris, Heather, z-4

Camellia oleifera (yields cooking and cosmetic oils), z-6

Carpinus species (Hornbeam)

Carya species (Hickory)

Caryopteris species

Catalpa speciosa

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus

Ceanothus x veitchianus

Cedrus deodara (Deodar Cedar) z-7

Cedrus atlantica (Atlas Cedar) z-6

Cedrus libani (Cedar of Lebanon) z-5

Cerastigma species

Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree)

Chaenomeles (Japanese quince)

Chimonanthus praecox (Japanese Allspice, Wintersweet) z-6

Chimonanthus nitans, z-7

Chimonanthus yunnanensis, z-7

Chionanthus retusus, Japanese Fringe Tree z-6

Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe Tree, z-4

Cistus populifolius

Cladastris lutea (Yellowwood)

Clethra acuminata

Clethra alnifolia

Cordyline australis

Corylopsis glabrescens, (Fragrant winter-hazel) z-6

Corylopsis himalayana, z-6

x Crataegomespilus dardarii. Bronvau medlar. A graft hybrid between hawthorn and medlar.

Cryptomeria japonica

Cunninghamia lanceolata (China Fir)

Cupressus glabra, Arizona cypress  z-6

Cupressus macrocarpa, Monterey Cypress, z-7

Daphne species

Davidia involucrata (Handkerchief tree), z-6,

Diospyros lotus

Drimys winteri, Winters Bark, z-7

Empetrum nigrum, (black crowberry) edible fruit, z-3

Eleutheroccus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), z-3

Eleutheroccus species.

Ephedra species

Erica species

Erica cinerea, z-5

Erica tetralix, z-3

Erica vagans, z-5

Escallonia illinita edible fruit, z-7

Euonymus species

Eurotia lanata, Winterfat

Exocorda sp.

Fagus species (Beech)

Fallugia paradoxa, z-5

Fatsia japonica, (Rice-paper plant) z-8

Fraxinus species (Ash Tree) (leaves used for animal fodder)

Fuchsia magellanica

Garrya elliptica, (Silk-Tassel)

Garrya flavescens, (Silk-Tassel)

Garrya fremontii, (Fremont Silk-tassel)

Genista species

Hamamelis species (witch-hazel)

Hibiscus syriacus (Rose-of-Sharon)

Hippophae sinensis (wood yields yellow dye). Berries yield a cosmetic oil.

Hydrangea species

Ilex species

Jasminum beesianum (z-7)

Juglans x bixbyi (hybrid between Japanese heartnut and butternut)

Kalopanax septemlobus (syn. A. pictus), Tree Aralia, z-5

Koelreuteria paniculata (seeds used for beads) z-6

Lupinus arboreus, z-8

Magnolia officinalis

Magnolia species
Margyicarpus  pinnatus (Pearl Fruit) z-7

Microbiota decussata (Russian Cypress), z-3

Myrtus communis, Common Myrtle, z-8

Nandina domestica (Heavenly bamboo) z-7

Nyassa aquatica

Nyassa sylvatica

Orixa japonica

Osmanthus fragrans z-7

Ostrya species

Oxydendron arboreum

Paeonia species

Parrotia persica

Phyllostachys bisettii (bamboo), z-5

Phyllostachys nigra

Pieris species

Pinus species

Platanus occidentalis


Poncirus trifoliata

Petelea species (hop tree)

Pterocarya x rehderiana z-6, one of the fastest growing, deciduous trees)


Pterostyrax hispida

Pyracantha species

Pyrocydonia  dan

Quercus species (600 species of oak!)

Rhododendron species

Rubus (250 species)

Rubus deliciosus

Rubus pentalobus

Rubus odoratus



Salix (400 willow species)

Sapium sebiferum

Sarcococca confusa

Sciadopitus vesticilliata (Umbrella pine)


Sinocalycanthus chinensis

Sophora japonica

Sophora davidii

Sorbus species (mountain ash)

Staphylea species (Bladdernut)

Stellera albertii (fragrant, medicinal) z-5


Stewartia species,

Styrax japonica

Styrax obassia

Symplocos paniculata

Syringa species (Lilacs)

Tasmannia xerophila (Alpine Pepperbush)

Tetradium daniellii (syn. Euodia daniellii)

Korean Euodia

Thujopsis dolobrata

Tilia species

Toona sinensis (z-6)

Torreya nucifera (nut) z-7


Trochodendron aralioides (Wheel Tree), z-6

Umbellaria californica (California Bay laurel)

Vaccinium (450 species)

Vaccinum ovatum (Evergreen huckleberry)

Vaccinum parvifolium (red huckleberry)

Viburnum species

Viburnum lentago, Nannyberry, z-2

Viburnum prunifolium, Black Haw, z-3

Weigelia species and hybrids

Xanthorhiza simplissima , Yellowroot. Medicinal, suckering sub-shrub. Sun to part shade. z-4

Yucca species

Zanthoxylum americanum z-4

Zanthoxylum piperitum z-7

Zauschneria californica

Zelkova species.

Once again, the tip of the iceberg. I plan to do expanded editions with common names. Still looking for the person who will make this an interactive database.

The keen horticulturist will see many glaring omissions in this list, but for beginning horticulturists and permaculturists a study of the species on this list will expand their plant palates.

Another useful book to consult along these lines is Trees of Seattle by Arthur Lee Jacobson.