Identifying potential NTFPs and incorporating them into a management plan will help your woodlot achieve its full potential, through utilization of a diverse array of plant and animal resources. A conversation with your neighbor, with friends in town, or with a professional forester may help you identify potential NTFPs on your land and incorporate them into your management objectives. Before harvesting any NTFP, consult with a forester and a buyer to ensure you’re following the best management practices and meeting the product standards necessary for commercialization.
Characterizing the varied uses and values of NTFPs is challenging because of the sheer diversity of interesting and useful forest plants and animals, as well as the potential for multiple uses of each resource. Additionally, NTFP use is seasonal, and often practiced on smaller scales than other forest uses such as logging. For these reasons, NTFP value is best considered cumulatively―as a suite of products harvested during a single season or throughout an annual cycle composed of seasonal activities.
- Maple Syrup―Sugar and black maple (Acer saccharum and nigrum) sap is collected in early spring when mild daytime temperatures contrast with overnight freezes. Other species suitable for tapping include silver and red maple, box elder, and paper birch. Landowners may sell unprocessed sap but more commonly they reduce and sell it as maple syrup―roughly 40 gallons of sap reduce to 1 gallon of syrup.
- Morel Mushrooms―Morel mushrooms (Morchella spp.) are a prized and high value specialty forest food. Morels are found in dry or well-drained forest soils and proliferate after burns. Caution: false morels look like morels, but are poisonous. Always consult with a mushroom expert before picking or consuming any mushrooms.
- Pussy Willows―Pussy willows (Salix spp.) are shrubs with gray-brown bark that are typically associated with wetlands or riparian areas. Willow branches are used by the floral industry when the “cat paws” are bursting.
- Berries and Fruits―Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, juneberries, choke-cherries, and wild plums are harvested throughout the summer months for consumption and sale as berries or value-added products such as jams and jellies. Berry producing plants are typically associated with disturbances such as fire or harvest operations.
- Birch Bark―The bark of paper birch (Betula papyifera) is a traditional material used to construct baskets, decorations, shelters, and canoes. Bark is harvested in the late spring to early summer and, properly done, the harvesting does not harm the tree. Birch is a pioneer species associated with disturbance.
- Cones―Cones of various conifer tree species are collected in the summer and fall and sold, unopened, as a source of seed for tree nurseries and public management agencies. Opened cones are sold to the floral and seasonal de´cor businesses.
- Conifer Boughs―Boughs of balsam fir, northern white-cedar, and other conifer tree species are picked after the first hard frost for use in the region’s wreath industry. Both bough harvest and wreath making provide sources of income.
- Holiday Decorations―Club moss or ground pine (Lycopodium spp.) is harvested from autumn to early winter and sold for use in holiday decorations such as wreaths and runners. Plants are found most often in pine-hardwood and maple-basswood stands. Care should be taken as the timing of harvest corresponds with reproductive spore dispersal.
- Ginseng―Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, L.) is a perennial herb found in the understory of deciduous forests; its root is an important and valuable medicinal product. Caution: Harvesting wild ginseng is regulated by law. Consult with a forester or your state Department of Natural Resources about harvest permits.
- Dogwood―Red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) is a shrub with smooth, bright red bark that is used by the floral industry during the holiday season. Harvesting red-osier dogwood will not harm the plant, which responds to cutting with production of coppice sprouts.
- Wild Game―Game animals such as moose, deer, wild turkey, and grouse are much-appreciated components of forest ecosystems. Management interventions can improve habitat and forested areas can be used privately or commercially for recreation or hunting, provided local laws and permitting practices are observed.
- Furs―Fur bearing animals found in forest ecosystems, such as weasels and martens, can be trapped for their pelts. Preserved pelts can be sold to fur traders.
- Character and Figure Wood―The growth of character and figure wood most likely results from insect and bird injury, knots, decay, burls, and irregular grain coloration or patterns. Examples include burls, birds-eye maple, diamond willow, and “spalted” wood. These specimens can be sliced into high-value veneers, turned on a lathe, or carved to accentuate their appearance and increase their value.
- Small-Diameter Wood―Sticks, twigs and vines are used as decorative material and in traditional basketry. Some tree species, including alder, aspen, birch, dogwood, ironwood, mountain maple, sumac, and willow are sought after for furniture wood. Birch and other hardwood species are also used to make specialty products such as artificial trees and picture frames. Stems for this use are typically between 2 and 10 feet and less than 3 inches in diameter.