The Species Index includes productive plant species for North America: Many edible and many are useful to produce fuel, fiber, feed and ‘farmaceuticals’.
The Species Index will prove indispensable as we strive to rebuild circular economies for primary production of our basic needs.
We can and must create a new culture around productive plants by regenerating our skillsets around how to grow, use and care for them.
Perennial plants live more than one season. These include perennial-like plants and self-seeding annuals.
- require less work, fewer inputs and avoids tilling, which preserves soil structure
- have extensive root systems that regenerate living soil, which holds more nutrients, minerals, beneficial microorganisms and water
- can withstand extreme weather, serve to sequester carbon and stabilize slopes
Perennial food crops, in particular, are high in proteins, fats and carbohydrates; are not destroyed by harvesting and yield for multiple years.
The Species Index includes plants from all climate zones in the US and Canada and parts of Mexico.
A plant’s performance is governed by the total climate: length of growing season, timing and amount of rainfall, winter lows, summer highs, wind, and humidity.
The U.S.D.A. maps are limited, describing only where a plant may survive the winter.
Sunset’s climate zone maps take all these factors into account and show where that plant will thrive year-round. Even though these are limited to North America, anyone anywhere can use these patterns and find analogs to similar climate zones.
Much of our urban forests stop at the top. The Species Index includes many forbs/herbs, non-woody vines and shrubs of all sizes.
The more levels of natural forest architecture that our productive plants populate, the less work they will be to maintain because they displace unwanted species (i.e. weeds).
A healthy, diverse understory also increases the survivability rate of our urban trees, increasing their resistance and resilience by providing a whole host of ecological functions for the trees and each other.