So what is a Coppice? Coppicing is a woodland management system that originated in Europe and remains important in southern England still today.
The trees are cut down low to the ground in the winter time, the stump or stumps left are called stools. New growth will emerge from around the stool and can then be harvested again in the future. The area in any given year to be coppiced is called a coupe. With that in mind no more than 10% of any given area should be cut in a 5 year period. Depending on the purpose of the wood harvested determines the length of time between coppicing. Also the type of tree grown is something to account for. In 5 years an elm will be approximately 3” in diameter, a Box elder could be 4”, an oak may only be 1-1/4”.
The results of trees being coppiced can be seen everywhere even if the people who did it weren’t aware that in fact that’s what they were doing. Next time you are traveling down the road just look out the window and you will see where someone cut down a tree and new growth coming from the base. Now these people were most likely cutting the tree down and not expecting eight more to replace what they removed. Note: It must be stressed here that proper coppicing be done in the winter time when the trees are dormant. But here we have an opportunity, one could let these new saplings grow for a year or two and cut them out to use for bean poles. You could also let them grow for five or ten years and cut them down for fire wood. The list is endless, if its willow you have the coppice could be used as a perpetual source of basket weaving material.
If a tree has been Coppiced it is being kept in a juvenile state, there is a small leaved lime in Westonbirt Britain they claim is approximately two thousand years old. This tree is on a twenty year coppice cycle. If you start to coppice tree’s on your property and I hope you do, it would be wise to educate others about how and why this is done. After all it’s sustainable and encourages carbon sequestering, just two of the many reasons to do it. Please note also that burning wood for home heat is considered a carbon neutral practice. Anyone who cuts wood knows how difficult it can be to maneuver a huge chunk of wood onto a splitter, or just getting it into the truck to haul home. Imagine going out and cutting trees into manageable pieces that only need to be split in half so they can dry properly.
So now that you know what it is, we should probably talk about what kinds of trees coppice well. From my own experience I can tell you that Mulberry coppices well, along with Elm, and Box elder. See the list below for these and more tree’s known to coppice well, and don’t forget to check out my short article about Pollarding too. You will find links to some of the trees on this page that will provide more information about specific species.
Trees that Coppice well: