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The lost art of coppicing trees

A few years ago, while wandering in the woods near my home in Marshfield, I stumbled upon what can best be described as a three-tree. It is three tree trunks growing out of one large trunk. I showed it to a friend who is a logger by trade, and he said that three trees growing out of one trunk are very unusual to find in nature. I photographed it the other day for Instagram and started doing some simple searches in Instagram for the hashtag threetree. It brought up this protected three-tree in the forests of the Czech Republic.

A little simple Google searching and I started seeing videos about forest management and a term called coppicing. Coppicing, according to Wikipedia, “is a traditional method of woodland management which exploits the capacity of many species of trees to put out new shoots from their stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, which is called a copse, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level, known as a stool.” I found numerous pages and videos about it in the UK. Coppicing is considered to be a lost art that is gaining new ground there as a sustainable forest management technique. I found it fascinating, because while I am pretty certain that the three-tree that I found was created by nature, I do wonder if the 8,000 year-old technique was sparked by nature’s design.

If you are interested in learning more about this for your property, there are great websites about the topic:

https://www.conservationhandbooks.com/how-coppice-trees/

http://smallwoods.org.uk/our-work/woodland-products/a-brief-history-of-coppicing/

https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/coppicing-trees-for-firewood-zm0z18fmzmul

https://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-01-17/coppice/

And some videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkRuMqVuJDE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DFDReXD-kg

It is a slow process over many years, but every time you coppice an area, you can use the wood for firewood, building fences, building garden furniture, etc. Long-term you will harvest a larger volume of wood from your property sustainably, by providing a lush and safe environment for wildlife as it grows back.

Here is an article a little closer to home about coppicing in our area:

https://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/coppicing-firewood

While the trees that you would use here in New England would be different in species from those used in the UK, there are still many to choose from, as this excerpt from the article explains: “The most obvious advantage of coppicing is rapid growth, thanks to the already established rootstock. Larger stumps will produce more sprouts, so choose trees that are at least four inches in diameter. We’re fortunate in the northeast that our most desirable firewood species (maple, beech, birch, oak, cherry, and hophornbeam) coppice relatively easily, using a five-step system.”