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Oak for coppice

 
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Does anyone have experience with the various species of Quercus for coppice. Which species show the most robust regrowth when cut down to a stump? All the same?
 
steward
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Down here in north Florida is the Water Oak, Quercus Nigra. I've cut down some young trees using a bow saw, up to 3" at the ground. Sometimes they come right back.
 
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
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Good question i think time of year may be important and soil miosture
then to manage the coppice; ie prune to limit stems
 
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Location: Missouri
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I apologize if this begins a bit remedial but...

In the world of Forestry the Quercus family is often split into "Red oak" and "White oak" groups. While all true oaks are in the same family the 2 groups are distinct in basic leaf morphology, bark color/patterning, time to acorn maturity (reds 2 years, whites 1), and the ability for inter-species hybridization (whites with whites, reds with reds)

Since all oak species are extremely vigorous stump sprouters I would lean towards picking trees with the fastest growth rates. In the eastern US I would recommend using many of the "red oak" variety of the Quercus family.

In Missouri in particular the most common "white oak" species, Northern White (Quecus Alba), Post oak (Quercus Stellata), and Burr Oak (Quercus Macropcarpa) all grown considerably slower than their "red oak" cousins. In timber production in the Missouri Ozarks region "red oaks" would grow on average (based on a 60 year continuous growth and yield survey) 1/10" diameter annually in a fully stocked forest setting. But finding individuals with decades of annual growth in the 1/4" -1/2" range was not uncommon on good sites with large canopied trees. "White oaks" in contrast were measured to grow at about 1/2 the speed. Even on the best sites finding a Quercus Alba with more than 1/4" annual growth rings was uncommon.

As you head east annual growth rates greatly increase but the trend of "red oaks" outgrowing "white oaks" continues. Much of this has to do with growth strategies and life spans of the trees. "White oaks" will generally live for 2-3 times longer than "reds". I am sure this in not always the case, but it is a rule of thumb that I have noticed over time.

The "red oaks" I would recommend for copice would be Pin Oak (Quercus Palustris) and Scarlet Oak (Quercus Coccinea),then Black Oak (Quercus Velutina) or Northern Red (Quercus Rubra). If you are located in the south east or eastern coastal region you have a lot more quick growers to choose from. The south west has a lot fewer.

Hope this helps.

J
 
andrew curr
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when managing a woodlot one should bear in mind supression
a fast grown oak will have denser harder timber
a slower grown oak will be more absorbent ie more suitable for barrels
American red oak barrels are the secret to our national drink (Bundaberg rum)
[a fiery tonic that can make willy wagtails fight emus]
 
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Hi, I'm looking for any information on Bur Oak (Quercus Macrocarpa) coppicing. According to the USDA plants database, it doesn't coppice - http://plants.usda.gov/java/charProfile?symbol=QUMA2
Has anyone had experience coppicing this species? Its the only Oak that grows in my region (Manitoba). Jay Hayes, you seem to be quite knowledgeable. What say you?
 
pollinator
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I find that pollarding the oaks is better than coppice, leaving the main trunk and pollarding the side branches gives faster and better regrowth. I have experience with most of the California oaks, both reds and whites as desribed above.
 
Jay Hayes
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Hey Patrick,

I have worked with Quercus Macrocarpa in both Missouri and Northern Minnesota (nearer to your neck of the woods). It is my experience that the trees stump sprout fairly well in both locations. The growth and form is pretty poor in the north compared to what I am used to, but both Burr and Northern Red oaks (Quercus Rubra) should be likely candidates for you.

If you have established Burr oaks you are looking to coppice I would recommend doing your cutting during the dormant season. In my experience oaks are such vigorous sprouters that time of year hardly matters; but since you are pushing the native range of the trees, and since most burr oaks I have seen in the far north are slow growing, I would error on the side of caution and not stress the tree to much by cutting hard while the sap is up.

Andrew, I have no idea what a who is willy, what is a wagtail, nor why they might have a beef with emus....but it sounds like a great time! As counter-intuitive as it may seem you are spot on with your fast/slow growing woods density statement. I'll have to see if I can scare up some Bundaberg next time I feel like picking on a large flightless bird.

J
 
andrew curr
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A willie wagtail is a tiny insectavore
They have a beut symbiosis with sheep they keep flies off sheep and in return get wool that they spin with grass to make a cute nest!
Is there a best time of year to coppice oaks???
 
steward
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I can attest that Red Oaks grow much faster than White . Both seem slow for coppicing though . Here Oak is used for barrels that age SourMash Whiskey. White Oak I believe. That fiery brew has also been known to cause certain omnivores to fight emus also. At least thats what they said.
 
gardener
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Jordan Lowery wrote:I find that pollarding the oaks is better than coppice, leaving the main trunk and pollarding the side branches gives faster and better regrowth. I have experience with most of the California oaks, both reds and whites as desribed above.



I thought pollarding meant cutting off the trunk and side branches at some point up off the ground. Do you mean you keep the central trunk and cut off side branches? Is that pollarding?

I'm interested if oaks can be pollarded because pollarding is common and useful here, but there are no oaks, and it would be nice to have some harder woods than the common willows, poplars and russian olives.
 
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The Woolly-leaved Oak (Quercus lanata) is native to the Himalayas, so should grow well in Ladakh. It's a 30m (100ft) tall evergreen white oak, so it won't be as fast growing as reds, but you can be confident it's suited to the Kashmiri climate.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Thanks, I need to make a trip to Kashmir or Himachal to get seeds or plants unfortunately it's a lot more convenient and faster to go to Delhi than Kashmir or Himachal, and Delhi nurseries don't really have plants suitable for us, except for indoor use. We are not in the Kashmiri climate at all. We are considerably higher and colder, and much much drier. But I do want to try some plants from those places to see if they'll live if we give them good water.
 
pollinator
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we have emerald ash borers in our white ash, and the medium to medium large trees all come back fine when cut down, but the extremely large ones didn't..so I would say they are good for coppice..but the borers are still here..
 
pollinator
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I've just pollarded several oaks because they were threatening to block our house's southern exposure and I could use some oak for shiitake bolts. Do I need to put tree wound dressing on the stumps?
 
pollinator
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In my limited experience felling english oaks the older standard trees don't tend to sprout after felling or pollarding, but younger stems - up to about 8 inches resprout a bit more readily.
 
Cj Sloane
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The largest one was about 8" in diameter which just happens to be the limit of my comfort level. I don't normally consider myself wimpy but the neurotic Jewish mother in me wants to assert herself when I contemplate using a chainsaw on a larger tree. In fact the larger tree was insisting on defying physics and started to fall the wrong way. My husband put a rope around it and convinced it to fall where we wanted it (the hinge was only like a half inch).

Still, my question remains. Is that tree wound glop necessary?
 
Rebecca Norman
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I was hoping somebody more expert than me would answer your question. I've tried to learn what I could about pruning from reading books and online, and just doing it for the last several years. Most of the experts say that you shouldn't put any paint or "tree wound" product on pruning or other cuts. They seem to say that that was a fashion in previous decades, and is perhaps perpetuated by stores selling products, but in fact tree wounds do better without any such treatment. I wish I had a link for you but I've read this more times than I can count, and I hope someone more knowledgeable than me pitches in.
 
Cj Sloane
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Thanks Rebecca.

I have that wound stuff for grafting, otherwise I don't think it would have occurred to me. Also, my husband did cut down a large maple a few years ago which has sent out some nice shoots with no goop so I was leaning in that direction.
 
Jay Hayes
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CJ,

I think your question is, do you need to put the wound care goop on the fresh cut oak stump to aid in sprouting? If that is the question the answer is definitely "no". I work in the forestry/logging field and a great deal of natural regeneration in the oak woods in this area comes from stump sprouts. Most oak species will sprout aggressively and you have done all the work necessary to facilitate that. The sprouts will come from dormant basal buds around the root collar of the tree and while they will be attached to the stump while it rots they are connected to the existing vascular system below the cut, so there is very little worry of rot entering the new stems. If you were to thin the sprouts down to a single stem over time then wait a few decades it would be very tough to see a difference in the base of the sprouted tree from one grown from seed, the old stump will start to rot and that will not adversely affect you new tree/trees. I'm guessing you will keep cutting these back every few years and have the same results.

I hope this helps and that I understood your question.


J
 
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I've coppiced young English Oak but it comes back really shrubby and the trunks don't grow straight.
 
Cj Sloane
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Jay Hayes wrote:
I think your question is, do you need to put the wound care goop on the fresh cut oak stump to aid in sprouting? If that is the question the answer is definitely "no".



OK, that helps. I was really wondering if helped the tree, but in looking around at trees cut over the last few years they seem to have done fine with no goop.
 
Cj Sloane
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Jose Reymondez wrote:I've coppiced young English Oak but it comes back really shrubby and the trunks don't grow straight.



I think shrubby is fine if you're going to use those sprouts for firewood. If they produce acorns like that, that would be cool too.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Jose Reymondez wrote:I've coppiced young English Oak but it comes back really shrubby and the trunks don't grow straight.



Here we pollard willow trees as a matter of course. It's how they are grown and harvested here. The first pollarding often grows back not very straight, but once the base of the tree gets big and thick, future pollardings grow much straighter, because the new sprouts grow very vigorously, fast and crowded, forcing each other to be straight.

I don't know if it would be the same for oaks, but since you mentioned "young" oaks, I thought I should add this observation.
 
Cj Sloane
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A little off topic, but how are the willows used where you are?
 
Rebecca Norman
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Cj Verde wrote:A little off topic, but how are the willows used where you are?


Willow sticks here are used for
- Tool handles and poles etc.
- Firewood
- Roofing (flat earth topped roofs much like in pueblos)
- Sometimes woven for fencing
- planting more willows!
 
Cj Sloane
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Cj Verde wrote:I've just pollarded several oaks because they were threatening to block our house's southern exposure and I could use some oak for shiitake bolts. Do I need to put tree wound dressing on the stumps?


So here's an update:

Five weeks later it's putting out new shoots. No glop was used.

My husband just asked an interesting question:
Can you graft white oak onto a red oak?
I would think the answer is yes but I'd like someone else to confirm.
Should I do this in early spring like with apples?
 
Cj Sloane
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Check it out, lots of growth in a month:
 
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I've heard the alcohol making willie wagtails fight emus comment years ago.  Glad to have it interpreted.  I had always assumed 'wagtail' referred to the ladies, but had no idea what the willie part meant.  Not unusual when an austrailian drops into local speech.
 
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Traditionally, coppicing and pollarding were done in a woodland where the whole area was managed as coppice or as coppice with standards (larger single-trunked trees for timber.) If you cut a single specimen in an open area, new growth will be shrubby, just as an oak growing in a field will be spreading and wide. It is the shade of other trees that makes for tall, straight trunks, reaching for the sun. Thus the redwoods from deep forest, with the first branch 50 feet up or more. For species that will regrow from a cut stump (not most conifers), coppicing prolongs the life of the tree. For example, English foresters figure that oaks live from 150 to 400 years as single-stem trees. Eventually, they age, get diseases, and fall. Coppiced oaks are known to live for a thousand years or more, since the wood is renewed.

Coppiced land was (and is) cut on a rotation that took into account the species, the climate, and the projected use for the wood. Dorothy Hartley, in her amazing book Made in England, has a wonderful account of how a crew would go and live in the woods by a hazel coppice at harvest time, making wigwam shelters and cutting the poles. The coppice wood was sorted by size--the smallest being saved for binding barrels, loads of wood, or other bent work, and then on up through broom and tool handles to hurdles (portable fence panels) and finally to poles for furniture or structures. Coppice wood of other species was used for firewood, or harvested at a specific size for special uses, like the hop poles used for trellising the long hop vines.

One essential in all this was that the whole coppice area be cut at once, and allowed to grow up at once, so that the product is straight poles that cut and stack easily and are usable without milling. You don't want the trees putting all their energy into crooked, twiggy, unusable branches. The woodlot can be divided up into several areas that are cut in different years, so you have a little wood every year. If the species is suitable, and the rotation is long enough for good-size poles, you can use them for framing a house.

Pollarding is the same procedure, carried on a few feet off the ground, leaving some of the trunk intact. It is more vulnerable to age than coppice, as the trunk can age and fail. It was used when it was desirable to keep the new growth off the gound, as with willow for basketry; when livestock or deer aren't fenced out and would eat the young shoots, preventing regrowth; when another forest crop was growing at ground level (ginseng???) ; or when the bushy top growth is desirable for shade.

The first I heard of coppice was in the Whole Earth Catalog or the related CoEvolution Quarterly in about 1981. Since then, I've seen quite a bit about it in publications out of the UK, and I think the UK has public-service pamphlets about it, as conservation volunteers over there are now helping perform tasks like hedging and coppicing that used to be part of the normal farm economy.
 
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