A whisper from the woods

Ask me (almost) anything, August 2022

Aug 15, 2022

Team members, Jeremy and Ralph, are interested in doing a tree-planting project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They need more information about planting in the tropics. They, also need advice on how to start a nursery.
This is a two-part article.

In Part One, we will explore planting in the tropics.
In Part Two, which will be shared in September, we will share ideas for starting a nursery.


Map showing the Congo rainforest.*

Planting in the tropics

Although Mark has limited experience working in a tropical climate, a number of his projects are located in warm, temperate rainforests which look like some tropical ecosystems. They have a closed canopy of tall trees, vines, climbers, epiphytes (orchids & ferns), etcetera.

“When we were selecting trees and shrubs for these projects, we focused on those plant species with very fertile seed production that would propagate easily in the nursery. These plants were often those which could be spread by birds such as fruiting seeds, and you can collect them for free!” Mark says.

According to Mark, the nursery and planting approach should mimic what happens in nature He suggests using the local environment as a guide. Copying what is already known to work will give the best results!

Following this line of action, Mark focused on the most vigorous plants first. Afterward, he looked at specialist plants like fruit trees. He said that, sometimes, these might be the same species, vigor, and fruit. These plants tend to be the “volunteer” types that will spring up in a bare patch where the sunlight can reach the ground (such as after a storm or when an old tree falls over). These plants give structure and protection to the more sensitive plants.

Another method that works well, is using plants that can be grown from cuttings. They may take longer to establish in the nursery, but they can be quite easy to grow. A porous soil mix coupled with regular watering is essential to avoid disease, mold, and fungus infections.

Finally, there is the method of layering. “This method used in the rainforest is to use one main planted shrub, with many small shoots or branches. Then, lay the shrub over onto the soil, and cover the still attached shoots with soil, so that the sprouts shoot from the stems directly into the ground. This can be effective in the rainy or monsoon seasons when there are higher temperatures. Using a mulch of leaves over the soil, etcetera. is also helpful to get the shoots to “strike” and not dry out,” Mark says.

Thank you very much for raising these questions, Ralph, and Jeremy! Thank you for taking the time to explain these matters to us, Mark! We appreciate the opportunity to learn.

Do not miss out on next month’s article. Mark will share some guidance on how to start a nursery!

Get in touch with Ralph and Jeremy if you want to know more about the projects they are planning.

*Image source: See here.

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