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E-M:/ More use of Black Locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia) wood (fwd)

Enviro-Mich message from Larry Nooden <ldnum@umich.edu>

The idea (described below) of making more use of black locust lumber because of its rot resistance instead of lumber treated with nasty toxins is great. This is something enviros can promote.

Because this idea seems so useful, I am taking the liberty of forwarding a discussion from another list serve.

I think few know just how durable this wood is. Black locust fence posts last ca 40 years, while steel T posts last only 10-20 years depending on soil moisture and chemically-treated posts do not seem to last more than 20 years, usually less for me. Railroad ties do better.

A word of caution- While black locust is native to some parts of the US, it can be invasive, especially in prairie restorations. More information at: <http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ROPS>

------------ Forwarded Message ------------
Date: Monday, June 30, 2008 1:05 PM -0400
From: The Farmers <ajf-jlf@sbcglobal.net>
To: enviro-semich@umich.edu
Subject: [enviro-semich] Black Locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia) - standing in the wings for a role in abatement of global warming?

We are developing an EEPRA (our acronym for "Environmental Education/Passive Recreation Area) on 17 acres of York Townhip's (Washtenaw Co.) Mary McCann Park. For would-be visitors, the small parking lot is on the east side of Warner Rd. 4/10 mile south of Bemis Rd., 6/10 mile north of Willis Rd. From the lot, a pleasant, if mosquito-filled, 2/10-mile walk through the woods leads visitors to our well-kept secret. We're just six miles south and east of Ann Arbor's Briarwood. The Parks Committee invites visitors to check us out. Although we have much left to before an official opening of the facility, it is open to the public now, and by starting now you can "watch us grow" our EEPRA.)

In looking for a green solution to our need for bench seats in a rustic
"teaching station" on site, I've done a bit of on-line research on black
locust lumber, which we're seriously considering as a natural alternative
to chemically treated lumber.

I've been quite impressed by what I've found, and thought that other semich
enviros might also be intrigued with many characteristics of this
often-overlooked native hardwood.  Here are a couple of links I found
especially interesting:

<http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1990/V1-278.html> (This one sumarizes research.)

<http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Black_locust_uses.html>     (This one
has the comments of many people which practical experience with locust

In brief, the consensus seems to be that black locust is one of North
America's most beautiful, useful, and under-utilized woods. Apparently it
outlasts treated lumber in outdoor and in-ground applications, grows
extremely quickly, is as strong as hickory, is very stable and quite easily
worked before it air-hardens, and everyone is agreed on its beauty as
flooring, furniture, and for decorative purposes.  Historically, it has
been a staple of heavy transportation and mining, providing both railroad
ties and mining timbers.  What blew me away was research out of MUST and
maybe Purdue in the late '80's and early '90's that suggested it may also
have a future as a forage crop, as a way of sequestering carbon dioxide,
and as a renewable fuel resource.  On the negative side, it is subject to
depredation by the locust borer and has considerable invasive capacity.

I have a sample board which I'm exposing to the weather as we evaluate it
for use in our EARP.   I can attest to its beautiful graining, yellow
color, strength, and notable density.  Can't comment at this point on its
tendency to warping or splintering, but what I read indicates that its
stability may largely preclude these negative weathering side-effects.

John Farmer
York Township Parks Committee
EARP project manager

* enviro-semich FAQ

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