Non-timber or specialty forest products generally fall into four categories:
1) medicinals and botanicals, 2) woody-based forest products, 3) woody florals and 4) handicrafts and specialty woods.
Medicinals and Botanicals
Medicinals and botanicals are plant-derived substances that are used in an enormous variety of food supplements, herbal health items, cosmetics and other products. Medicinals and botanicals can be developed from nearly all parts of trees, shrubs or herbaceous plants, including wood, bark, buds, leaves, roots, fruit, flowers, nuts, sap and pollen.
Woody-Based Forest Products
Woody-based food products include nuts, fruits, and some mushrooms. Nuts with commercial markets include black walnut, Chinese chestnut, pecan, hickory, butternut, hybrid hazelnut, and ginkgo. Commonly harvested commercial "minor" fruits include chokecherry, highbush cranberry, elderberry, pawpaw, and persimmon. High-value gourmet mushrooms, such as a shiitake or oyster, may be grown on logs or wood chips in a forest setting. These products may all be harvested for personal or commercial use. Markets for nut products exist for in-shell products, whole and crushed kernels, oils and soft abrasives from the shell. Fruits may be sold commercially for fresh fruit, jams, jellies, syrups, concentrates, flavorings, and wines.
Woody florals include any woody plant species that has a colorful or unusually shaped stem, bud, flower, fruit or leaf. Common examples include pussy and curly willow, red- and yellow-stemmed dogwoods, forsythia, apple, cherry, plum, grape vines and witch-hazel. These plants, and many others, are regularly used in the floral industry. Woody decorative florals may be sold to florists, retailers or wholesalers.
Handicrafts and Specialty Woods
Handicrafts and specialty woods are frequently used by artisans. For example, “banks” willow or redosier dogwood can be used to stabilize a streamside, as well as for rustic furniture. Smooth sumac, hickory, dogwood and hornbeam seedlings can be used to create beautiful walking sticks. Cottonwood bark, butternut, basswood, walnut, cherry, and catalpa are favorites among wood carvers.