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Nitrogen composition of tree leaves

Nitrogen content of various tree leavesAs I raked up four big bins of leaves Monday, I couldn't help thinking of all of the other Americans engaged in the same chore.  And yet, as always, I have it backwards.  Here I am raking up leaves out of the driveway, not to clear the driveway of waste, but to salvage a precious resource.  Isn't that mentality at the heart of permaculture --- seeing nothing as a waste product?

I've been wondering which tree species have the highest quality leaves, so I took a little time to search the scientific literature.  The best study I found was "Seasonal Nutrient Dynamics in the Vegetation on a Southern Appalachian Watershed" by Frank Day and Carl Monk.  I've excerpted the nitrogen content of the various trees in the chart above.  I'm not surprised that Black Locust tops the chart since the species fixes atmospheric nitrogen using bacteria attached to its roots.  What does surprise me is that thick oak and rhododendron leaves, which I assumed were low quality, actually have a high percentage of nitrogen compared to puny little maple leaves.  Although I can't find a value for Sycamore (my current leaf of choice), I suspect it may be a high quality leaf based on its phylogeny and texture.

We've started shipping our automatic chicken waterers to Australia.  If you live Down Under, now's a good time to check them out!


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