While I don't want to encourage you all to start asking us questions--we would rather focus on writing/editing the book and pulling together our species databases--Mark and I did get an information request from one of our Kickstarter subscribers recently that I responded to because I was in a place to actually try using all of our databases for the first time to answer his question!
This person asked: "I've got Robinia pseudoacacia growing on some east facing, moist slopes but am looking to plant some locust on a south-facing, droughty slope. I thought the drought tolerance of the R. neomexicana might be a good fit. Any thoughts? Do you know of anyone in the PNW that has tried it?"
I took the opportunity to use our database resources to give him a quick response:
"Here is some of what we have in our database on R. neomexicana:
It sprouts from stumps and root crowns. New Mexico locust spreads by rhizomes, forming dense thickets.
Because of its rapid growth and prolific sprouting, efforts are made to suppress New Mexico locust, especially
after timber harvest. However at least one reference says it grows slowly, so it seems there is some conflict in the data on it, in that if it grew slowly efforts to suppress wouldn’t be noted, probably.
It is considered to have high hedge tolerance.
The following reference has some data on its use as a fodder crop:
Urness, P. J., D. J. Neff, R. K. Watkins, and Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station (Fort Collins Colo.). 1975. Nutritive Value of Mule Deer Forages on Ponderosa Pine Summer Range in Arizona. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station.
This ref states that leaves in June had crude protein of 25% (higher than alfalfa) but they had very low digestibility for mule deer (only 39%); may be even less digestible for cattle, goats, etc., but that is a guess on my part.
We have no data on its use/quality for firewood or medicine.
The bark, root and seed are said to be poisonous by one reference, but there is also evidence of the flowers being edible, as well as the fresh seed pods and dried pods, too.
No evidence of basketry use that we have found. It is used for erosion control.
It's a multistemmed shrub: implication: it may not yield poles of as high a quality or large a size as R. pseudoacacia. It has been used for fence posts and fuel. It is of little use as lumber due to its small size and limited distribution, but the wood is hard, heavy, elastic and durable. Native peoples used branches for cradle boards and arrow shafts and the wood for high quality bows.
The USDA says it grows to 4 feet tall in 20 years, which seems rather slow and may not be very useful to you, though its max height is 25’. They also say it is only MODERATELY drought tolerant.
I do not know of anyone working with R. neomexicana. Perhaps Mark does."
The fact I was in a position to relatively easily pull up this range of information, gathered from dozens of different resources, demonstrates the reality that the coppice/resprouting species databases are turning the corner. We have as of today or yesterday, ended our "in breath" of gathering information from all over the world on almost 900 (mostly North American native) woody plants, and are beginning the long and tedious process of editing our databases to consolidate the information into useful form. The response to our questioner gives you a sense of the kind of information we have gathered, even for a relatively obscure species like Robinia neomexicana. We are getting there folks, we are getting there! As I said to someone recently, we are at the apogee of the elllipse--the point furthest from the center of the ellipse, and are turning the corner to begin heading back home and bring this thing to completion!
Given that it has taken us three years to get to this point, we are hoping that it won't take us three more years to get back from this point. I think we are gathering speed. But life throws its curve balls, so we don't want anyone holding their breath. But it will be a damn fine piece of work when we are done, that is for sure.