Nitrogen fixing plants

Employing natures integrated fertility

In permaculture and natural 'farming' there is a strong focus on closing energy and nutrient cycles. The objective is to avoid the need to import external sources of nutrient and fertility by retaining and building it directly on site.

The two obvious was to achieve this is with the use of animals (manure) and plants capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere. While animals have their place, they are not without their challenges and so plants make an ideal starting point. Nitrogen fixing plants develop a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria and fungi in the root zone to achieve this miracle.

Having access to a ready source of nitrogen (essential for growing green leaves and thus photosynthesis) allows these plants to grow extra fast and quickly modify the local conditions to be more favorable for other plant species. By incorporating appropriate species of these plants amongst other plantings it is possible to accelerate the growth and development of the ecosystem.

Identification

The most obvious indicator of nitrogen fixing capability is that of legumes (fabaceae family), plants with seed pods like beans, peas, kowhai, tagasaste and many more. Another group is the actinorhizal plants that do not have seed pods.

Related

Purple Coral Pea Shrub

Purple Coral Pea Shrub

Common name  Purple Coral Pea ShrubLatin name  Hardenbergia violaceaFamily  FabaceaeForest layer  verticalHeight (m)  2Flowers  PurpleDrought tolerance  Evergreen  Nitrogen fixer  Perennial  Shade / Sun  Full sun - part shadeSoil type  LightPropigation method  Cutting
Elaeagnus pungens

Elaeagnus pungens

Details  Found on sunny slopes, road sides and thickets in lowlands, usually below 1000 metres and especially by the sea
Origin -
E. Asia - China, Japan.
Common name  Elaeagnus, Thorny olive, Thorny Elaeagnus, Oleaster, Silverberry, Silverthorn, Pungent ElaeagnusLatin name  Elaeagnus pungensFamily  ElaeagnaceaeHeight (m)  4Diameter  4.00Forest layer  shrubEvergreen  Edible  Fruit / berries  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Wind tolerance  Maritime exposureShade / Sun  Full shade to full sunSoil type  Most
Elaeagnus x ebbingei

Elaeagnus x ebbingei

Latin name  Elaeagnus x ebbingeiFamily  ElaeagnaceaeHeight (m)  5Diameter  5.00Forest layer  shrubEvergreen  Edible  Fruit / berries  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Wind tolerance  Maritime exposureShade / Sun  Full shade to full sunSoil type  Most
Elaeagnus multiflora

Elaeagnus multiflora

Details  All round great plant for most locations and food forest installationsCommon name  Goumi, Cherry silverberryLatin name  Elaeagnus multifloraFamily  ElaeagnaceaeHeight (m)  3Diameter  2.00Forest layer  low-treeEdible  Fruit / berries  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Jugulone tolerance  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Full to part sunSoil type  Most
Kakabeak

Kakabeak

Details  Grows in open, sunny, steep sites, often on rocky outcrops, slips, the bases of cliffs or edges of lakes and streams. It is a relatively short-lived plant, sometimes lasting 15-20 years.Latin name  ClianthusFamily  FabaceaeHeight (m)  2Diameter  1.50Forest layer  shrubEvergreen  Frost sensitive  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  SunFlowers  Red
Judas Tree

Judas Tree

Details  Hardy to -15CCommon name  Judas Tree, RedbudLatin name  Cercis siliquastrumFamily  LeguminosaeHeight (m)  12Diameter  10.00Forest layer  low-treeSeeds / nuts / tubers  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  MostFlowers  Pink
Chinese licorice

Chinese licorice

Common name  Gan Cao, Chinese licoriceLatin name  Glycyrrhiza uralensisFamily  Fabaceae or LeguminosaeHeight (m)  0.4Diameter  0.60Forest layer  rhizosphereSeeds / nuts / tubers  Edible  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Shade / Sun  Full sun - part shade
Evergreen laburnum

Evergreen laburnum

Details  This Himalayan shrub is evergreen in mild sheltered sites, semi-evergreen elsewhere, losing its leaves in hard frost but soon recovering again in spring. The growth is upright and flexible, allowing plants to be trained on warm walls where they are sheltered and flower more profusely. The blooms are large and bright yellow, like those of laburnum but in short upright clusters. Although good drainage is important, make sure plants are watered in summer to prevent sudden die-back.Latin name  Piptanthus nepalensisHeight (m)  2.5Diameter  2.00Forest layer  shrubEvergreen  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Shade / Sun  Full sun, Partial shadeFlowers  Yellow

Chinese Yellow Wood

Details  Broadly spreading, deciduous. New growth silvery blue-grey, very hardy. Creamy white pea-like flowers in dense erect clusters. A legume, fixes nitrogen from the air. Rare in NZCommon name  Chinese Yellow WoodLatin name  Maackia AmurensisHeight (m)  6Diameter  6.00Forest layer  low-treeNitrogen fixer  Date  July 10, 2010Wind tolerance  LowShade / Sun  Full sunSource  Appletons
Silk tree

Silk tree

Details  Broadly spreading, deciduous. Often flat topped,late into leaf. Dark pink flowers on top of the leaves in January. The small leaflets of the compound leaves quickly disintegrate after leaf fall. Drought & heat tolerant.Common name  Silk tree, Persian silk tree, pink silk treeLatin name  Albizia julibrissin roseaHeight (m)  10Diameter  12.00Forest layer  low-treeSeeds / nuts / tubers  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Date  July 02, 2012Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  MostFlowers  PinkSource  Appletons
Tree Lucerne, Tagasaste

Tree Lucerne, Tagasaste

Details  A wide spreading, tall, deciduous shrub. Vigorous growth, leaves and white flowers in spring eaten by native pigeons (krereru). Foliage can be cut for grazing stock in droughts and for use as mulch material. Fixes nitrogen. Can be killed by severe frosts.Common name  Tree Lucerne, TagasasteLatin name  Chamaecytisus PalmensisFamily  FabaceaeHeight (m)  4Diameter  3.00Forest layer  low-treeSeeds / nuts / tubers  Evergreen  Frost sensitive  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Date  July 04, 2012Propigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  HighShade / Sun  Full sun - part shadeSoil type  MostFlowers  WhiteSource  Appletons, Wild seedRating  
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
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New Jersey Tea

New Jersey Tea

Details  Deciduous shrub growing in dry woods and on gravelly banks, often on sandstone or limestone bluffsCommon name  New Jersey Tea, Wild SnowballLatin name  Ceanothus americanusFamily  RhamnaceaeHeight (m)  1.2Diameter  1.00Forest layer  herbaceousPerennial  Nitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  MostFlowers  White
Liquorice

Liquorice

Common name  Liquorice, Cultivated licoriceLatin name  Glycyrrhiza glabraFamily  Fabaceae or LeguminosaeHeight (m)  1.2Diameter  1.00Forest layer  herbaceousEdible  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  ModerateShade / Sun  Full sun - part shade
Sea berry

Sea berry

Details  Nitrogen fixing small tree with thorns producing copious small berries born directly on branches. High in vitimins. Hardy, wind and drought tolerant.Common name  Sea Buckthorn, SeaberryLatin name  Hippophae rhamnoidesFamily  ElaeagnaceaeHeight (m)  6Forest layer  low-treeEdible  Fruit / berries  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  HighShade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  Most
Crimson clover

Crimson clover

Details  Multipurpose nitrogen fixing legume and beneficial insect plant. Sow late summer for rapid bulky upright growth. It goes dormant in the cold of winter before resuming growth in spring up to 1m high and sporting a striking crimson bloom in early summer. Chop and dig in prior to flowering or leave for a valuable nectar rich food supply for bees and beneficial insects.Common name  Crimson cloverLatin name  Trifolium incarnatumHeight (m)  1Forest layer  herbaceousNitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow directShade / Sun  Full sun - part shadeSoil type  MostFlowers  RedSource  Kings Seed
Senna multiglandulosa

Senna multiglandulosa

Details  Senna multiglandulosa is a species of flowering plant in the legume family known by several common names, including glandular senna, downy senna, and buttercup bush. It is native to Mexico, Guatemala, and western parts of South America, but it is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and in some areas of the world has become naturalized in the wild. In some places it is considered a weed, for example, in New Zealand and New South Wales.[1] This is a hairy or woolly shrub which can grow to six meters in height, becoming treelike. The leaves are each made up of several pairs of thick, hairy, oval-shaped leaflets each measuring up to about 4 centimeters long. The leaves are studded with visible resin glands between the leaflets. The inflorescence is a raceme of several flowers, each with five golden yellow petals measuring 1 to 2 centimeters long. The flower has seven fertile stamens with large anthers and three sterile staminodes. The fruit is a legume pod, flattened or inflated and coated in hairs, reaching up to 12 centimeters long and filled with beanlike seeds.Common name  Cassia, glandular senna, downy senna, buttercup bushLatin name  Senna multiglandulosaFamily  FabaceaeHeight (m)  4Forest layer  low-treeSeeds / nuts / tubers  Evergreen  Frost sensitive  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Full sunFlowers  YellowSource  Gore bay
Siberian Pea Shrub

Siberian Pea Shrub

Details  A genus of shrubs mostly native to Central Asia, some inhabiting dry, half-desert regions with hot summers and bitterly cold winters. They include some of the toughest and most accommodating of all plants, some able to survive temperatures down to -40°C. (A diversion for quiz addicts: this is the one point in the Centigrade and Fahrenheit scales of temperature where they are numerically the same.) As with many plants of such origin, they are often armed with an interesting variety of spines, some making useful impenetrable barriers. One of the toughest of all plants with clusters of yellow pea-flowers in May.Common name  Siberian Pea ShrubLatin name  Caragana arborescensFamily  Leguminosae/FabaceaeHeight (m)  4Forest layer  shrubSeeds / nuts / tubers  Evergreen  Edible  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Date  July 07, 2013Propigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  HighShade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  MostFlowers  YellowSource  https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk
Cape broom

Cape broom

Latin name  Genista monspessulanaHeight (m)  3Forest layer  shrubSeeds / nuts / tubers  Evergreen  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Propigation method  Sow directWind tolerance  GoodShade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  MostFlowers  YellowSource  Kaikoura
Black locust

Black locust

Details  Fast growing thorny tree with ground durable timber.Common name  Black locustLatin name  Robinia pseudoacaciaFamily  Fabaceae or LeguminosaeHeight (m)  25Forest layer  canopySeeds / nuts / tubers  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  ModerateShade / Sun  Full sunFlowers  White
Kowhai

Kowhai

Details  New Zealand nativeLatin name  Sophora tetrapteraForest layer  canopyEvergreen  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  HighShade / Sun  Full sun - part shadeFlowers  Yellow
Blue lupin

Blue lupin

Details  Grows well in most locations where it improves soil with organic matter and nitrogen. Bees enjoy the flowers.

Practical Plants
Plants for a future
Common name  Blue lupinLatin name  Lupinus angustifoliusFamily  LeguminosaeHeight (m)  1Forest layer  herbaceousNitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow directTags    Bees  Flowers  BlueRating  
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
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Earthnut Pea

Earthnut Pea

Latin name  Lathyrus tuberosusFamily  LeguminosaeForest layer  ground coverSeeds / nuts / tubers  Edible  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Full sunColour  Pink

Liquorice

Details  hardy to about -15°cCommon name  LiquoriceLatin name  Glycyrrhiza glabraFamily  Leguminosae/FabaceaeHeight (m)  0.5Forest layer  rhizosphereSeeds / nuts / tubers  Edible  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Date  July 03, 2013Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Sun, part shadeSoil type  Sandy to LoamyColour  Purple/LavenderSource  https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk
spring vetchling or spring pea

spring vetchling or spring pea

Details  Very valuable spring colour is produced by one of the most lovely dwarf perennial peas, with masses of violet blue pea flowers in April and May. Some L. vernus var. albus (white) are also included in here.Latin name  Lathyrus vernusFamily  LeguminosaeHeight (m)  0.2Forest layer  herbaceousPerennial  Nitrogen fixer  Date  July 22, 2013Propigation method  Sow pot / trayFlowers  PinkSource  http://www.plant-world-seeds.com
Oleaster, Russian Olive

Oleaster, Russian Olive

Details  Wind-resistant, quick-growing, deciduous shrub with silvery foliage and fragrant flowers, followed by edible, ornamental fruits.Common name  Oleaster, Russian OliveLatin name  Elaeagnus angustifoliaFamily  ElaeagnaceaeHeight (m)  7Forest layer  low-treeEdible  Fruit / berries  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Date  July 11, 2013Propigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  HighShade / Sun  Full sunFlowers  YellowSource  https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk
Carob

Carob

Details  A species of flowering evergreen shrub or tree in the pea family. It is widely cultivated for its edible pods, and as an ornamental tree in gardens. The ripe, dried pod is often ground to carob powder which is used as a substitute for cocoa powder.Latin name  Ceratonia siliquaFamily  FabaceaeHeight (m)  15Forest layer  canopySeeds / nuts / tubers  Evergreen  Perennial  Nitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow pot / tray

Silver wattle

Details  Fast growing, copices readily, good firewoodCommon name  Silver wattleLatin name  Acacia DealbataFamily  FabaceaeHeight (m)  25Evergreen  Nitrogen fixer  Drought tolerance  Date  July 01, 2010Wind tolerance  HighShade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  DrySource  Appletons

Italian Alder

Family  Betulaceae

Red Alder

Common name  Red AlderDate  July 07, 2010Details  Broadly conical deciduous. Vigorous growth on hillsides as well as streamsides. Produces good hardwood timber for furniture and panelling. Planted for shelter. Red winter buds identify this alder.Family  BetulaceaeForest layer  CanopyHeight (m)  25Latin name  Alnus RubraNitrogen fixer  Shade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  MoistSource  AppletonsWind tolerance  Moderate

Pink tree broom

Chinese wisteria

Soil type  MoistSource  Appletons

California mountain mahogany

Common name  California mountain mahoganyDate  August 03, 2013Details  Broadly spreading deciduous shrub or small tree. Birch-like leaves, creamy white flowers in spring, followed by seeds with long curly feathery tails. Seed from Central Otago, coping with weather extremes. Fixes nitrogen on its roots.Family  RosaceaeForest layer  ShrubHeight (m)  4.0Latin name  Cercocarpus betuloidesNitrogen fixer  Shade / Sun  Full sunSource  Appletons

Bladder Senna

Colour  Yellow/OrangeCommon name  Bladder SennaDate  July 08, 2013Details  Easily grown shrub with bright yellow flowers produced throughout the summer, followed by large, inflated seed pods.Family  Leguminosae/FabaceaeFlowers  June, July, AugustForest layer  ShrubLatin name  Colutea arborescensNitrogen fixer  Perennial  Source  https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk

Marlborough weeping broom

Height (m)  4.0Latin name  Chordospartium stevensoniiNitrogen fixer  Source  Appletons
Demand white clover

Demand white clover

Details  Dense stoloniferous and persistence clover type with good winter hardiness and improved winter, spring production. Small- Medium LeafedCommon name  White CloverLatin name  Trifolium repensVariety  DemandFamily  FabaceaeForest layer  ground coverNitrogen fixer  Date  August 08, 2013Propigation method  Sow directColour  WhiteSource  http://www.specseed.co.nz/
Icon "Semi Winter Active" Lucerne

Icon "Semi Winter Active" Lucerne

Common name  Icon LucerneLatin name  Medicago sativaVariety  IconFamily  FabaceaeForest layer  ground coverEvergreen  Nitrogen fixer  Date  August 08, 2013Propigation method  Sow directSource  http://www.specseed.co.nz