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New Series of Science Updates on NTFPs From Trees

cluster of pawpaw fruits hanging from a tree branch
Pawpaw is the largest tree fruit native to the U.S. Photo courtesy of Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Trees provide food, medicine, and other things that people need. USDA Forest Service researcher Jim Chamberlain developed factsheets for eight species:

These trees provide fruit and nuts, sweetener, seasoning, Christmas decorations, and medicine. Many of these foods were staples for indigenous communities. For example, Native Americans pickled black walnuts and used them in soups and stews. Persimmons were eaten fresh or dried into cakes that would last for months.

In addition to describing the usefulness of each plant, the factsheets use data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis program to show where the trees are most abundant.

Each of the eight species is economically valuable, although markets are often local or informal. Pawpaw has a short shelf life which makes shipping it a challenge. However, pawpaw is important in rural communities. Its fruit – which tastes like a combination of banana and mango – is sold at community festivals, niche restaurants, and through the internet.

The factsheets cover management and threats for each species. Insects and diseases are threatening several of the trees. For example, thousand cankers disease kills walnut trees, and laurel wilt disease kills sassafras.

Five more factsheets are in development and will cover additional nontimber forest products, such as tree bark for siding and artistic containers.

Learn more about nontimber forest products.

For more information, email Jim Chamberlain at

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