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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - March 30, 2010

From: Charleston, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Fruit or nut trees for land in North Carolina
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants I have 70 acres of land in Claremont, NC and am looking for low maintenance trees, plants, vegetables, etc., anything I can grow so that this land doesn't sit unused. I am especially interested in nut or fruit bearing trees, coffee trees? or bamboo. Something that when harvested could yield a little income to help with the taxes, etc.What would you suggest? are any of the aforementioned reasonable alternatives?

ANSWER:

First of all, our focus and expertise here at the Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America so those are the plants we are going to recommend to you.  

At the top of the list there is Carya illinoinensis (pecan).  In fact, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service has two publications that would be valuable in getting started with pecans.  These publications are Growing Pecans in North Carolina and Crop Profile for Pecans in North Carolina. These publications will help you determine if your land is suitable for growing pecans.

There are several other possibilities for native fruits:

Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon)

Asimina triloba (pawpaw)

Malus angustifolia (southern crabapple) and Malus coronaria (sweet crabapple)

Prunus americana (American plum), Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw plum), Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum)

and Prunus umbellata (hog plum)

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) and Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)

There are also native blueberries, cranberries, huckleberries, etc. in North Carolina (Vaccinium spp.),  as well as blackberries and raspberries (Rubus spp.).  [Note: There are too many of each of these fruits that are native to North Carolina to list them separately, but you can determine which of the species of Vaccinium and Rubus grow in North Carolina by using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option and choosing 'North Carolina' from the SELECT STATE OR PROVINCE in the side bar.]

Now, if  you are interested in putting in a vegetable garden or an orchard of fruits that you would commonly find in a supermarket, then you may be surprised to learn that very few of them are native to North America.  You can read more about these non-native fruit-bearing plants in North America in an answer to a previous question.  Your best bet to find out which of these will grow in North Carolina is to visit the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service website.  They have publications for growing fruit trees and vegetable gardens, both native and non-native, that should be helpful. In fact, you might like to contact Catawba County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.  They should have recommendations for possibilities for cash crops on your property.

Finally,  Bamboos are not native to North America and many are considered to be invasive.  Coffea arabica (coffee plant) is not native to North America either and is not likely to grow very well, if at all, in North Carolina.  We wouldn't recommend that you grow either of these plants.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery of some of the plants listed above:


Carya illinoinensis

Diospyros virginiana

Asimina triloba

Malus angustifolia

Prunus angustifolia

Fragaria virginiana

Vaccinium macrocarpon

Rubus trivialis

 

 

 

 

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