Plant Guilds

Free Plant Guilds eBooklet

We teach the fundamentals of plant guild design at every Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course we host.
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Bryce Ruddock

Integrated Forest Gardening
Released in 2015
From our Friends and Associates…
Bryce, Dan and Wayne.

Bryce is Midwest Permaculture’s Official ‘Plant Guy’. When we have questions about plants or need detailed design work for clients, he’s our go-to guy and wonderful to work with as well.

 Integrated Forest Gardening - Released July 2014

Learn More About This New Book Here

From the Forward of the Plant Guild eBooklet

As Midwest Permaculture grew, so did the number of requests from people looking for information and recommendations concerning what plants to add or combine to an existing tree on their landscape to create a useful plant guild. We referred them to Midwest Permaculture’s “Official Plant Guy”, Bryce Ruddock, who chairs the discussions of Plant Guilds on our networking site.  Eventually, we asked Bryce to design some foundational guilds as every day examples that would help guide those who are new to permaculture.  After he completed these we asked a PDC student of ours, Jesse Tinges, to use his landscape architectural skills to create the sketches.

We have been sharing these plant guilds with the students in our Permaculture Design Certificate Courses and they found these guilds to be so helpful and informative that we decided to make them available to the wider public with Bryce and Jesse’s blessings. With the assistance of Milton Dixon’s editing skills they are now in a public format that is easy to share on the internet.  We hope that you find them practical, useful, and inspiring.

The team effort that emerged to create this booklet is actually a good example of how guilds, plant or human, really work together. The drawings and narratives seeped into the soil of our collective efforts and continued to germinate until they materialized in the form that you see here.

While the drawings in this booklet give a simple bird’s eye view, know that in three dimensions we are filling in all the spaces and niches from the overstory or canopy tree (generally what the guild is named after) down to the soil. In addition, the plant guilds have root systems that cover every depth –mimicking that which exists above the ground, below, and include the incredibly important functions of the fungi and mycelia.

A successful plant guild will naturally evolve over time and will have diversity, interdependence and good relationships, as is needed in our human relationships as well. Resilience naturally occurs in such systems, strengthening the whole community.

Please use, experiment and enjoy!

Becky Wilson
Cofounder – Midwest Permaculture
March 2013

 These are the 9 Plant Guilds Found in the eBooklet

A permaculture design for an ash tree plant guild.A permaculture design for a plant guild that works to support bees.A permaculture design for a plant guild that works well with an evergreen tree.
A permaculture design for a plant guild that works well with hazel.A permaculture design for a plant guild that works well in a small orchard.A permaculture design for a plant guild that works well with an oak tree.
A permaculture design for a plant guild that work well with a serviceberry.A permaculture design for a plant guild that work well with a walnut tree.A permaculture design for a plant guild that grows well in seasonally wet soil.




26 thoughts on “Plant Guilds”

  1. I appreciate you making this information available to the public. I am a permaculture student doing research on plant guilds. My guilds will be adapted to 5000′ elevation zone 5b Rocky Mountain foothills alkaline soil location. But it’s super useful to see your guilds.

    1. Can you send me information on your adaptations. I live in 4b-5a zone mountain dessert with much clay. I have imported sand and topsoil but now have 9 fruit trees. Looking to make a fruit tree/ nut guild.

        1. So these people you just listed…They would be a resource for permiculture for high desert? I live in Idaho in a high desert with clay as well. I’ve brought in sand just as the other person. I have struggled to find information for my area too. We have hot dry summers and snowy, icy freezing winters.

          1. Hi Prudence,

            I would recommend looking at what Eliot Coleman in Maine is doing for some year round growing tips in a cold winter climate.

  2. Hi Becky & C. I hope this finds you well
    many thanks for putting this resource online!!!
    Antonio Scotti

    1. Hi Antonio — Good to hear from you! You are most welcome — please feel free to translate to Spanish/Italian. Maybe you have some of your own guilds to add for your climate and zone.

  3. This is wonderful. I want to thank you for your life’s work. I have been living under a rock. How many guilds do you share in the paper back?

    1. From Bryce:

      There is a small degree of allelopathy to Populus deltoides, (eastern cottonwood). Paw paws may work as might persimmons as long as they get enough light and are not beneath the cottonwood. Imitating patterns found in nature we can also use vining crops on the cottonwood. Here the riparian grape (Vitis riparia) grows on the trees along the Oak Creek floodplain a few hundred yards away from us. Substituting any grape and/or hardy kiwi would use that verical niche to good advantage. Other species in that flood plain grouping here are mulberry, strawberry, and black raspberry. Understory plants like wild ginger (Asarum canadense) can be placed in the deeper shade. Most of the Wet Meadow Guild can be used as long as there is sufficient light. A natural tree associate is the northern hackberry. There is a European variant of the hackberry with superior nuts that might be substituted and do well in that association.I think that Oikos carries that species. Bryce

  4. I have loads of appreciation for our local Mid-West Permaculture pioneers! Although permaculture concepts are applicable no matter where you are, it is EXTREMELY helpful to study permaculture where you are for details such as these plant guilds, as examples of plants to use given in books from Australia don’t do us much good here. I wonder if you’ll be developing a plant guild with the Chestnut as the primary tree any time in the future? Keep up the excellent work.

  5. Well done! If I have any suggestions for additions, it would be for adding more vines.

    An excellent reference. That you, Bryce and Midwest
    Permaculture and jesse Tinges and Milton Dixon.

  6. You published the ebook before I was scheduled to give
    my presentation on the pear guild in my hort class!
    For my works cited page, do I use Milwaukee, WI or Stelle,IL as place of publication? Thanks

  7. What a great resource! Have glanced through and found much useful to my acreage for different areas. Have a pecan orchard, for the walnut guild would the guild plants noted work with pecans? Is there any plant that brings up zinc from the soil for pecans to utilize?

    1. Dandelion, nettles and brassicas (from cabbage and kale to mustards, shepherd’s purse and pennycress) are all supposed to accumulate zinc as well as other minerals. Now weather they’ll do well under or near a pecan is another matter. The pecan is supposed to be mildly allelopathic and the only bit of info I could find said that cabbage was sensitive. You may have to observe what grows under them naturally and go from there.

    2. Pecans,hickories, hicans, heartnut, buuternut, and buartnut are all in the same plant group as walnuts.
      Within that larger group the greatest allelopathic affect is by black walnuts with the other walnuts having a lesser affect. So black walnut has the most juglone with all others in the group having less.
      Zinc accumulating plants are Sedum alfredii, cabbage, pennycress,sorghum, dandelion, and chicory. Comfrey strangely does not significantly accumulate zinc. Rge pecan as you know is taprooted but the feeder roots are in the shallower zone and may compete with some of the shallower rooted accumulator plants. Using some of the plants along with side dressings of compost rich in zinc from composted plants on the list may help. Perhaps a cover crop of a Brassica family plant such a B rapa would help.

  8. I think there may be a small error in the ebook.

    “Many of the coniferous trees will raise the pH of the soil but it should be noted that hemlock will have the greatest effect upon the soil pH beneath it. This can make for a very challenging site as few plants can adapt to the high acidity levels of the soils beneath the hemlock.”

    Raising the pH would make the soil more alkaline, not more acidic. So which is it?
    Some web-sites say pines do not affect soil pH:

    1. John, it seems you are correct on both accounts. The intent was that the acidity was raised effectively lowering the pH and in the most authoritative articles I could find it was stated that it is the existing pH rather than the effect of the needles. I’ve edited the eBooklet to reflect this. Since these guilds are based on personal observation and experience they should still be valid.

      Thanks for catching this! Many eyes have looked through this countless numbers of times and still things slip through. Ultimately this is the permaculture communities, so efforts to improve it will make it better for everyone. I’ve also added a version number (currently 1.1.0) so folks can keep track of the latest eBooklet.

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