Coppicing is a traditional method of tree management which creates a vigarous cluster of growth from ground level. To coppice is to cut the plant to near ground level removing all growth with the intention for the plant (known as a coppice stool) to reshoot with lots of new shoots (adventitious growth). The subsequent regrowth can then be either thinned out, which creates an interim harvest of smaller growth but encourages the remaining growth to thicken. Therefore the initial thinning may offer stakes for hedgelaying whereas the subsequent growth could be used as jumping poles for horses! Or all the regrowth can be cut off (re-coppice) to start the process again.
The advantage of this kind of tree / shrub maintenance is that the plant sustains a high level of dynamic tissue which creates a lot of energy for the coppice stool. Lifespan of the plant can be increased massively. Some species can even be layered (attaching a stem to the ground to reshoot) to create another coppice stool which will essentially be the same plant.
Traditionally Coppicing was undertaken to create different sizes of straight timbers for various uses such as, Hurdles, hedge laying stakes and binders, firewood, charcoal, walking sticks, etc. Recently it has been employed for bio-crops for powerstations etc where fields of coppice stools are harvested on a routine basis just for there timber. In the urban environment we may employ coppicing techniques on ornamental shrubs such as Red-stemmed Dogwoods, Philadelphus, Ornamental Elders, etc. We can plant or manage Hazel or Eucalyptus as coppice stools to create dense clusters of growth for screening or even wildlife benefit.
Coppice stool maintenance can take a variety of methods which are all dependant on the required growth, product and impact on the specimen. For pliable long lengths for hurdles, Willow species may be recoppiced between 2-3 years. Whereas an Oak maybe harvested every 20 years or more. Not all species of tree will coppice and the process should be started when the plant is young and able to cope with the initial heavy pruning. The more the plant is coppiced the more able it is to reshoot and the larger the initial growth will be.
When managing woodlands Coppicing gives us an ideal way to create lower tree growth and different environments for wildlife. Hazel, Ash and Oak will be coppiced to reshoot as part of a thinning process where the initial planting it tall and slender with little mid canopy. However, deer and rabbits can eat the new young shoots and prevent the tree developing. If this is a risk pollarding (http://www.beddowtree.co.uk/pollarding) should be considered as an alternative.
Species that can be coppiced (size and environment dependant).
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