Non-timber Forest Products
In addition to the timber resources
in Oregon forests, and the amazing variety of products that
can be produced from them, a huge variety of products harvested
from Oregon's forests are not timber-based. We call these
products by many different names: secondary, minor, special
or specialty, non-wood, nontraditional, and non-timber.
In this discussion, however, we'll use
"non-timber forest products," the most appropriate
and descriptive. These forest products are hardly "secondary"
or "minor" to forest users who rely on them for
a living. They aren't any more or less "special"
than timber-based products, considering the popularity of
some of them and the exotic character of others. Not all
of the products are "non-wood," as woody branches
can be used in the production of such forest products as
furniture and baskets, and for forest users whose ancestors
may have harvested these products for generations, they
aren't "nontraditional." "Non-timber"
describes a harvest that does not require cutting timber.
are plants and plant parts that are harvested from
forests. They can be classified into four broad
product lines: edibles, specialty wood products,
floral greens, and medicinal and dietary supplements.
Mushrooms are probably
the most well-known, edible, non-timber forest product.
A matsutake mushroom and beargrass, both important
in Oregon, are pictured at left.
Edible Forest Products.
Examples of these products include mushrooms, berries, nuts,
tree saps and resins, ferns, wild tubers, and bulbs. In
Oregon the annual commercial mushroom harvest is amulti-million
dollar industry. In Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, more
than 25 species of commercially valuable mushroom species
have been identified.
Huckleberry harvesting is the basis
for an important cottage industry, and an important cultural
activity for many Northwest Native American tribes.
Specialty Wood Products. A specialty
wood product is any product from tree wood that isn't derived
from sawn wood (the tree isn't cut down to produce it).
Examples include carvings, branch furniture, and handicrafts.
Floral Greens. A variety of forest
plants and plant parts are used in floral arrangements and
dried ornaments. Next time you buy flowers from a commercial
florist, notice many native species are used for color.
Salal leaves and twigs, pearly everlasting dried flowerheads,
moss, beargrass leaves, alder tops, false-cedar boughs,
dogwood twigs, Oregon-grape leaves, huckleberry leaves and
twigs, fir boughs, and many other native plant parts find
their way into this market niche.
Medicinal and Dietary Supplements.
This group includes forest-harvested plants or plant parts
with therapeutic value. Medicinal and dietary supplements
have likely been harvested from the forest since the earliest
humans, and the commercial harvest of these plants is the
highest valued group of non-timber forest products. Dozens
of plants in Oregon forests have known therapeutic uses,
but only a fraction of these have been tested for safety
and efficacy by the federal Food and Drug Administration
(FDA). FDA-approved items become medicines or drugs, while
the rest are naturopathic and folk remedies. Sources of
FDA-approved medicines/drugs found in Oregon include:
- cascara buckthorn, a tall shrub whose
bark is stripped and processed into a natural laxative,
- Pacific yew, an understory tree whose
bark is stripped and processed into a cancer-fighting
- foxglove, a nonnative understory
herb from which is extracted digitalis, a compound found
in heart medication, and
- St. John's wort (Klamath weed), a
nonnative understory herb from which is collected an herbal
medicine. In 1997, the commercial harvest of St. John's
wort reportedly exceeded $47 million (for all western
Non-timber forest products are an important
resource found in our forests. As such, forest managers
make decisions taking them into consideration. In some areas,
for example, landowners and managers manage for mushrooms
and huckleberries. In some cases, like the mushroom harvest
permit system, they are increasingly regulated to monitor
human impact on the resource.
- Washington State University Cooperative
- USDA Forest Service, Willamette National
- Forest Products Journal, October
1998. Vol. 48, No. 10, pp. 10-19