Coppicing Trees – Reasons, Procedure, Tools & Species

Trees are coppiced for two significant reasons, conservation and timber (firewood).

The process involves scheduled cutting of a tree employing standard tree felling methods, gathering up the cut-up wood, and leaving some brushwood behind to rot.

If you have no idea how to begin, then keep reading. In this article, I’ll be giving you all the information you need on coppicing trees.

How To Coppice Trees

There are a few steps required for proper tree coppicing. I will list them out below.

Clearing the work area

Before you begin work, you must make sure the tree area is free from removable obstacles. Start by clearing out any shrubs or decayed wood that could limit your access.

Also, look out for planted stones, as they can damage your saw.

As you clear the area, remember that you have to leave the stump and roots alone so they can re-sprout later.

Felling coppice regrowth

Do a quick study of the tree and decide the direction where you want the stem to fall.

Consider these factors as you decide on the stem-felling direction.

  • The lean and most likely direction of the fall
  • Intertwined tops
  • Ease of cutting the base
  • Space to drop the stems
  • The size of the tree stem
  • The direction of the wind and its force
  • Safety spots for you after cutting

Considering these factors would help you make the right decisions and avoid mishaps.

Follow these steps

Step 1: Cut off any new growth around the outer part of the stool. Be sure to cut as close to the ground as space permits.

Step 2: Be sure that anyone around is at a minimum distance of twice the stem length you are about to cut. Having someone on the lookout for people arriving in the area is good.

Step 3: If the stem you are cutting is up to 8cm in diameter, you can cut them straight through. You can support the branch’s weight with your free hand as you saw using the other.

Step 4: If the stem is up to 15cm in diameter, you can make an undercut from the side facing the direction you want the branch to fall.

Begin cutting at an angle of 45 degrees from the horizontal point. The bark of the tree mustn’t be tampered with. It must remain tight to the wood.

In the early stages, most trees will get hung up. To disentangle these, lift the bottom and pull it away briskly. Some trees may be too heavy to carry. This is where an extra set of hands will come in handy. They can assist you in bringing the tree down safely.

Be sure to handle hung-up trees immediately as they can threaten passers-by. Restrict everyone from walking beneath them until they have been adequately taken care of.

Using chainsaws

A chainsaw can be handy for coppicing trees. Be sure to have enough know-how before using a chainsaw on such a delicate task. Also, wear protective gear when working with the saw.

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After you make the cuts, you should pile up all the brushwood or excess timber into stacks so they can rot down or burn if you have no use for them.

Best Season To Coppice Trees

The months of September running through March are recommended for coppicing trees.

Tools and gear you will need

You can Coppice trees of various sizes, so the tools you will require will depend on how large or small the tree is.

Make sure the tools you are using are in prime condition to get the best results.

Below is a list of all you will need.

  • A first aid kit (in case of accidental injuries)
  • Protective gloves
  • A hard helmet (hard hat)
  • Bow saws
  • Billhooks
  • A felling ax
  • A pair of loppers
  • A shovel
  • Strong ropes
  • Anchor pins
  • Sharpening stones

If you are not working alone, make sure others are putting on personal protective gear.

The Best Species for Coppice Forestry

Several species of trees can tolerate coppicing. However, the best species for coppice forestry will be determined by the specific conditions of your area.

Below, I will list some of the best species for coppice forestry.

Alder: The Alder tree is one of the fast-growing tree species that provide excellent firewood. When they are interspaced, they give a lot of nitrogen to the ecosystem.

Many Alder species can be maintained as thick bushes, responding well to coppicing.

Black Locust: This is another tree species that help provide abundant nitrogen to the system. The wood derived from the black locust tree is very hard, so they are also great for firewood.

These trees are packed with flowers, making them a haven for pollinating insects.

Elderberry: This is one of the few tree species that can be coppiced but still provide food. The elderberry tree provides clusters of delicious, juicy berries rich in nutrients and vitamins, proven to strengthen the human immune system.

Elderberry wood is not as hard as the others. However, its softness makes it a great candidate for grinding into garden mulch.

Willow: Willow trees are fast-growers, especially planted in wet surroundings. These include streams and rivers.

Coppiced willow wood can be used to weave baskets or as mulch for your garden.

Chestnut: This is one of the most popular trees for coppicing. Its wood is of excellent quality, and it also provides edible, nutritious nuts for animals and humans alike.

Eucalyptus: The eucalyptus tree is a fast-growing tree that usually grows out of proportion. Nonetheless, they can be appropriately managed as coppiced species.

The good news is that the juvenile foliage is significantly smaller and rounder than mature foliage, so they’re pretty easy to manage.

Other tree species that can tolerate coppicing practices include elm, ash, and oaks. Coppicing can offer many functions to your landscape layout with proper procedures and tools.

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Reasons For Coppicing Trees

If you’re a beginner with too many soft spots for your trees, you may consider tree coppicing a brutal act. This is because tree coppicing requires cutting trees back hard down to the ground.

However, cutting back hard isn’t as harsh as it seems since the coppiced tree will bounce back with tremendous new growth. The new development will allow you to determine the unique shape and size you want for your tree since you can prune it into the form of your choice.

Coppicing can also lead to the growth of vividly colored stems and foliage. This depends on the tree species, of course.

A coppiced tree can also provide excellent screening in the future since it is bound to grow more vibrantly. You can use coppiced trees as border shrubs.

Besides its ornamental benefits, coppicing trees is a simple way to manage a large tree (or trees) in a small garden. For instance, if you have a large tree close to your home planted in clay soil, coppicing the tree will slow down the growth of its roots, thereby curbing the threat of subsidence.

Removing the tree is an option, but that would mean you have lost your tree. If you still want to have your tree around, then coppicing to control its growth is your best bet.

Experienced arborists agree that managing a tree with the potential of growing too large is far better than removing it. Coppicing the tree to a manageable size for your yard or garden is always the better option if the tree can tolerate it and is not hazardous to the environment.

Since coppicing takes advantage of the tree’s natural growth patterns, cut-off stems will be rapidly replaced by fresh, healthier shoots. If it’s a large tree, then the root system will channel the energy used in feeding the former large stem into producing a new one.

Pollarding and coppicing have for long been a vital aspect of wood management. For ages, the practice has been used to generate fuel (firewood) and building materials. Coppiced wood can also make different kinds of home and office furniture.

In the present day, many conservationists are leaning back to the practice of coppicing in a bid to increase biodiversity. Cutting trees back creates space in the woodlands, allowing better penetration of sunlight and encouraging other trees and wildlife to thrive.

Chestnut and hornbeam trees used to be the most common candidates for coppicing, but now many more trees have been discovered to respond well to the practice. As long as the trees are well established and have not experienced grafting, they will respond well.

Conclusion

The act of coppicing trees is popularly practiced to control significant tree growth and deriving timber for building or firewood.

I trust the information provided in this article has been helpful.

Take care!

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