Multipurpose Tree - /məltēˈpərpəs, trē/ - classification

September 2, 2020

Definition: A tree or shrub intentionally cultivated and managed to provide more than one product and/or function.
Synonym: agroforestry tree

A Closer Look: Most plants provide multiple benefits and, as such, farmers aim to take advantage of as many of those benefits as possible to maximize the productivity and sustainability of their Forest Gardens. TREES staff advise farmers to consider the multiple uses of each plant, whether it is providing useful food or forest products and other environmental services.

Just how "multipurpose" can be a multipurpose tree be?

A fast-growing leguminous tree can serve many purposes. It will fix nitrogen in the soil. If planted in a windbreak, it reduces wind and soil dryness. Depending on the slope on which it is planted, it may also serve to control erosion. During low-wind seasons, that same tree can be coppiced for fuelwood and fodder, or the leaves and stems can be used as a mulch or mixed into the soil to increase fertility and moisture retention.

8 Multipurpose Trees Grown in Forest Gardens 

  • Grevillea robusta
  • Leucaena spp.
  • Calliandra calothyrsus
  • Faidherbia albida
  • Albizia lebbeck
  • Moringa oleifera
  • Gliricidia sepium
  • Ziziphus mauritiana
Read more about some of the most useful multipurpose trees used in the Forest Garden in Chapter 9 of the Technical Manual.