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Thinking of looming energy concerns, I went looking for a thread dedicated to coppice firewood.  I couldn't fine one, so I'm starting one here.

I'm hoping, when people are cold this winter, they turn to efficient, sustainable heating options like the Rocket Mass Heater.

In addition, it would be ideal if we saw a widespread adoption of coppice woods, which can regenerate in as little as 5 years (vs 20-80 years for a tree to reach harvestable maturity).

For the unfamiliar, coppice refers to the practice of periodically cutting a tree or shrub back to ground level to stimulate growth and provide firewood or timber.  More info here: https://permies.com/t/116394/coppicing-quick-intro

Some benefits of coppice:
- regenerates rapidly
- no replanting
- keeps carbon better in regrowth cycle
- can be inter-planted with other valuable crops
- harvestable at variable diameters, eliminating most splitting

Some great coppice species include:
- Chestnut (Castanea sativa): fast growing, great coppicer, straight, multi-purpose (building, fencing, craft)
- Osage orange/Hedge Apple (Maclura pomifera): extraordinarily high BTUs, good coppicer, multi-purpose (fencing, bows, craft)
- Mulberry (Morus rubra/alba): high BTUs, good coppicer, edible fruit, multi-purpose
- Hazelnut (Corylus avellana): good coppicer, edible nuts
- Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia): great coppicer, nitrogen fixer, multi-purpose (building, fencing, edible)
- Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba)


What should be added to this list?
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pollinator
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-Willows (Salix sp.)
-Linden/Basswood (Tilia sp.)

We'd love to coppice, but probably we'll need to go for pollarding geared towards firewood instead. The roe deer will munch any shoots they can reach, and there are lots of them. Are there any deer-proof coppice species?
 
gardener
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black locust isn’t necessarily always a good coppicer if you’re looking for something that will just resprout from the stump. with black locust you’re likely to get a thicket of suckers coming from all sorts of random spots on the roots. which might be fine in some situations, but might not be in smaller systems where things need to stay in their lane a bit more. maybe thoughtful pollarding would give better results?

that said, i’m still firmly in the pro-black locust camp.
 
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Ash and poplar are both good fast growing coppice trees that have wide use as firewood.  
 
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A great resource that only recently came out is “Coppice Agroforestry” by Mark Krawczyk.  Over 500 pages of extremely valuable information for anyone interested in this topic.
 
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I would add hawthorn to the list as well--multipurpose (wood, hedging, edible fruits for humans and wildlife) and it has a history of being used in laid hedges so it should withstand repeated cut and regrowth cycles.
 
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Based on the book I'm reading, the best coppice system chooses trees that suit the ecosystem and that have a higher value end product than firewood. Then all the stems that don't make the grade for the high-end-product - or the branchy bits - turn into firewood. It's all about stacking functions.

Also, your ecosystem and storage space are factors. Softwood has the same BTU/mass, but less BTU/volume - if storage space is limited, growing harder wood varieties would make sense. Similarly, if your ecosystem has an 8 month  heating season, you may want some harder wood varieties.

I recall that Joel Salatin said he cuts and intermixes harder and softer varieties to make it easier to start the fire.

There are many subtleties to starting a system like this! I recommend you read, "Coppice Agroforestry" by Mark Krawczyk It's very well written and researched.
 
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This is probably talked about in detail in the book Jay and another poster mentioned, but one thing I've learned while pollarding my mulberry is to be careful of the timing of doing so. If I cut it back before it goes into dormancy it will shoot up vigorously much later than it would normally grow. Also the sap will still be running through the branches. Cutting it later, the sap is largely reduced and it doesn't try to grow back until the following season. In either case it grows back fine. The mulberry I have is a vigorous beast. The long poles it puts out make good short term garden supports and can even be woven to a certain extent while green.

I've learned haphazardly from doing this without even realizing it was called pollarding, and without really knowing what I was doing, but I believe the dynamics are probably similar for coppicing.

 
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Oak is another species to add to the list. It needs a much longer regrowth period than something like hazelnut but, if you're coppicing for firewood, it would be worthwhile considering. Bonus points for useful bark.

It's fairly common for people to coppice alder too. I've no idea what it's like to burn (it can't be worse than willow or poplar, surely?) but it grows quickly and tolerates damp land. I have heard of people using the leaves as goat fodder too.
 
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I planted a few dozen poplar trees for future coppicing, but they didn't do very well.  Not sure if it's the deer or other critters, or the fact that where I had to plant them is so far away from the house that I just don't get up there to water often enough for baby trees.  but not many of them are doing well.  If I can get them established, the mature root system would probably get them through future growth cycles.  
 
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Ligustrum (aka privet) regrows fast & burns reasonably well. It can be very invasive so use caution on where you grow it. Difficult to make it disappear once it is established.

Yaupon also regrows fast & burns well. Never seen any as large as ligustrum though. It is more of a bush than a tree. The dried leaves make a nice tea.

Both of these can be repeatedly cut down just above ground level & will keep on growing back.
 
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Luke Mitchell wrote:
It's fairly common for people to coppice alder too. I've no idea what it's like to burn (it can't be worse than willow or poplar, surely?) but it grows quickly and tolerates damp land. I have heard of people using the leaves as goat fodder too.



About alder, I can’t speak for all alders, but at least some species of alder are “hardwood “, which is to say it’s dense, probably good firewood.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I have a strong sense of deja vu on this act of posting that most stone fruit make for good coppicing.
Apple, peach, cherry, almond, apricot, pear, (probably) crabapple, nectarine and so on.

Another is Siberian elm.  Fast growing, tolerates many soil types, and doesn’t need much water, but grows faster with more water.  

Stacked functions:  GREAT firewood, also beautiful hardwood for turning, or furniture or what have you. The coppice stems strong enough to build trellises and other plant supports, or furniture.  Wind breaks.

Goat (and other animals?) feed, people feed (the seeds are wonderful in salad or just a handful as a snack.  As the seeds develop they get to a stage where the seed is at the center of a green flat bract that will dry and be carried by the breezes.  Harvest a handful of seeds when they are a bright (almost) lime green.  The greens are tender and sweet, and the developing seed is like a nut. Probably quite nutritious, though I know of no statistics on it).
 
Luke Mitchell
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:I have a strong sense of deja vu on this act of posting that most stone fruit make for good coppicing.
Apple, peach, cherry, almond, apricot, pear, (probably) crabapple, nectarine and so on.



It makes sense that apples and pears make good coppice or pollards. They get pruned pretty hard in most orchards! Plums, apricots and cherries are in the Prunus genus which also responds well to coppicing/pollarding/hedging.

Here is a video I found recently about coppicing apple for firewood.



Thekla McDaniels wrote:Another is Siberian elm... GREAT firewood, also beautiful hardwood for turning, or furniture or what have you.



I'd forgotten about the elms! The elms here (Field, Wych) seem to respond to being cut by suckering, mostly, but you could still get a good amount of firewood out of an area of suckers left for a few years. It might get a bit unmanageable though!
 
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greg mosser wrote:black locust isn’t necessarily always a good coppicer if you’re looking for something that will just resprout from the stump. with black locust you’re likely to get a thicket of suckers coming from all sorts of random spots on the roots. which might be fine in some situations, but might not be in smaller systems where things need to stay in their lane a bit more. maybe thoughtful pollarding would give better results?

that said, i’m still firmly in the pro-black locust camp.



Thanks for this information, we just had to cut down a black locust and we are certainly glad to have the wood for overnight heating but I got excited about the prospect of coppicing when I saw it in the first list. Unfortunately, it is located between our chicken coop and future garden area, so a thicket of suckers would be pretty troublesome... I wonder if root pruning would help to contain the spread of suckers and encourage coppicing or would that be more likely to just kill the stump at this point?
 
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More info on using Mulberries.

You can prune them harshly every 45 days and they'll grow back taller each time, as well as putting out WAY more fruit.

I tried this this past summer and couldn't believe the incredible speed they grew back at.

Here's the vid that tipped me off on this. I did just as he says with my dwarf everbearing black mulberries, stripping the leaves and all, and the results were amazing:



I'm going to try just pruning them that way without stripping the leaves next.

Pruning them alone motivates them to put on more fruit and the leaf stripping is tedious.
The leaves are also edible for humans and livestock.
 
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If I could design a 1 acre (200’ x 200’) woodlot it would look something like this:

Ring the whole lot on 3, maybe 3.5 sides with Osage Orange spaced every 15’.  That wood alone would probably yield up plenty for one home with a RMH after a few years, but why stop there.

In between the Osage I would plant 1, maybe 2 poplars for fast wood.  This would not be great firewood, but it probably would work just fine in a RMH.

Assuming the Osage grew 10’ out from its center, I would allow for a 5’ walking space and then another row of poplars, a 10’ lane and another row of poplars.  This should be plenty of fast-growing wood that won’t take up too much space.

By now we have used 25’ of 200 feet. Assuming the other side of the lot needs 10’ for Osage to grow plus a 5’ lane, we have allocated 40’, leaving 160’ left.

I would be tempted to go with at least 2 and possibly 4 rows of Black Locust for a general purpose tree.  I would leave 20’ after the last row of poplars, 4 rows of Black Locust on 10’ centers (20 trees/row) , followed by another 20’ lane.

This patch of Black Locust would take up 100’ laterally, leaving 60 feet left.  I think I would want to fill this last 60 feet with 3 rows of a branching deciduous tree on 15’ rows and 15-20’ centers.  In the past I would have used ash.  Now I would want some ash substitute—options?  Chestnut?  Open to suggestions here.

This should quickly yield up a huge amount of wood for a RMH plus space for cutting and equipment.  I deliberately included hardwoods and fast-growing softer woods.  The Osage alone would heat a home indefinitely once it gets to maturity and the poplars would probably produce heat in a RMH (but only a RMH) after about 2-3 years.  The rest is just bonus.  Maybe it could even be sold for profit?

At any rate, this is my personal idea for a mixed species 1 acre woodlot that primarily would be grown for heat and capable of coppice.  And of course, the wood could be used for other things too.

My thoughts, feel free to critique.

Eric
 
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Buckthorn refuses to stop growing and definitely can be a useful wood. If not for firewood, for tool handles, spoons and other carving. I probably cut 300 of them off near ground level a few years ago and they have pretty much all quadrupled at this point.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Eric Hanson wrote:If I could design a 1 acre (200’ x 200’) woodlot it would look something like this:

Ring the whole lot on 3, maybe 3.5 sides with Osage Orange spaced every 15’.  That wood alone would probably yield up plenty for one home with a RMH after a few years, but why stop there.

In between the Osage I would plant 1, maybe 2 poplars for fast wood.  This would not be great firewood, but it probably would work just fine in a RMH.

Assuming the Osage grew 10’ out from its center, I would allow for a 5’ walking space and then another row of poplars, a 10’ lane and another row of poplars.  This should be plenty of fast-growing wood that won’t take up too much space.

By now we have used 25’ of 200 feet. Assuming the other side of the lot needs 10’ for Osage to grow plus a 5’ lane, we have allocated 40’, leaving 160’ left.

I would be tempted to go with at least 2 and possibly 4 rows of Black Locust for a general purpose tree.  I would leave 20’ after the last row of poplars, 4 rows of Black Locust on 10’ centers (20 trees/row) , followed by another 20’ lane.

This patch of Black Locust would take up 100’ laterally, leaving 60 feet left.  I think I would want to fill this last 60 feet with 3 rows of a branching deciduous tree on 15’ rows and 15-20’ centers.  In the past I would have used ash.  Now I would want some ash substitute—options?  Chestnut?  Open to suggestions here.

This should quickly yield up a huge amount of wood for a RMH plus space for cutting and equipment.  I deliberately included hardwoods and fast-growing softer woods.  The Osage alone would heat a home indefinitely once it gets to maturity and the poplars would probably produce heat in a RMH (but only a RMH) after about 2-3 years.  The rest is just bonus.  Maybe it could even be sold for profit?

At any rate, this is my personal idea for a mixed species 1 acre woodlot that primarily would be grown for heat and capable of coppice.  And of course, the wood could be used for other things too.

My thoughts, feel free to critique.

Eric



Quite a plan!  A lot of thought went in to it!

If I were to inherit this acre in 50 to 100 years, I would wish for medicinal trees (Hawthorne), and food species (fruit and nut) to feed me and keep me well by my wonderful fire.

And I wonder why only coppicing trees were included.  Seems like some other species might add diversity to the habitat created.  In particular how about a pair of gingkos.  They say the nuts are good and nutritious, but there’s a stinky part surrounding the nut that makes people not want to plant the female tree.  A wood lot seems a perfect opportunity for a valuable but stinky gingko.
 
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Dropping in to say how much I appreciate everyone's responses.  I'll update the top post reflecting many of the suggestions at some point soon.

In the meantime, I 100% agree that firewood should only be 1 consideration for a coppice wood, and that the burnable bits ought, in most cases, to be what is left over after more valuable and honorable purposes have been derived from the lions' share of each harvest.  At the same time, have grown and harvested wood for building, craft, food, medicine, and firewood, I can say that in my experience, there always tends to be a surplus of "waste" wood at the end of any endeavor, perfect for the wood stove or, ideally RMH.  I seek to leverage this surplus in the most environmentally and economically sound and integrated way possible.  Giant, intentional brush fires are rampant in my neck of the woods, and it always hits me luck a punch to the stomach.

Additionally, I value everyone who has noted the suitability of pollarding in addition to coppice.  
 
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In warmer regions - eucalyptus species. In California two of them are most popular: Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus camaldulensis.

I have a 30 year old grove of the camaldulensis - around 0.75 Ha. Coppiced or not, it's growing faster than I'm typing these words.
I started cutting them, because I consider them weeds - they do not not support any local plant species on the forest floor and are useless for placing a garden between them, because of sheer amount of leaves and barks being dropped. Also I want to increase pasture space, I don't want them to grow beyond manageable size and on top of that they cast the shade on my garden area in the time when I need sun.

I just cut 20 of them in early summer, milled some wider trunks and the others I left to "pre-dry". I noticed that milling dried eucalyptus is way more successful than milling them in green state. Just get a carbide tipped blade.  If the wood is properly seasoned without cracks - not an easy task with this species, then it's simply gorgeous, rot resistant, woodworking lumber.  Next year I'm going to use the planks to make doors and windows for my small barn/coop that we are finishing building.

Just from these 20 trees I have excellent firewood for at least 5 years and wood chips for sheep and chicken bedding for 20 years. The stumps that were left already have 2 meter tall growth (after 4 months only).
 
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Cristobal Cristo

Coppiced or not, it's growing faster than I'm typing these words. I started cutting them, because I consider them weeds - they do not not support any local plant species on the forest floor and are useless for placing a garden between them, because of sheer amount of leaves and barks being dropped.

I think you just explained why this tree *isn't* a good choice, at least in your ecosystem! A huge side benefit of the coppiced forests in Britain is how much they support particularly song birds, but also amphibians and insects. There are volunteer organizations rehabilitating abandoned coppice land specifically for those ecological benefits. There are plenty of ways to design a coppice system that stacks functions and avoids the many pitfalls my province is facing because of mono-culture tree plantations. Almost all ecosystems have at least some trees that will coppice - here we have native species of hazels and maple that do so easily. The native oak isn't the best for firewood, but I know other oaks would grow here and at least still support other flora and fauna, rather than simply out-competing everything.

There are also a few evergreen trees that can be managed with a system similar to coppicing, but with a few key differences. There's a BC farm that coppices Christmas trees as a successful business model. Again, I'd want to look closely to ensure that if one chose to follow that example, that they did so in the spirit of permaculture, rather than the Industrial Ag extractive model. Every summer when I read about my province burning up and smell the smoke, my heart tells me that we're way past time to invent a better way forward.
 
Eric Hanson
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When I made my post about the acre woodlot, I may have misinterpreted.  I read it as purely being about firewood production.  All those trees were optimized for firewood.

Poplar certainly is not great firewood, but it does grow very quickly, could be useful while other wood comes in, and would be suitable for a RMH (but probably only an RMH).

I chose Osage because it is relatively quick growing, will coppice very well (you can’t kill it!) and is probably the best, hottest firewood available.  Also, the wood makes great handles and other tools.

And of course Black Locust is sort of like a cross between a poplar and Osage Orange.  It grows fast and straight like poplar but it burns almost as hot as Osage.

And certainly other trees could make up the remainder—the “ash” portion.

And also to address the shading concerns, I would thin trees in rows to allow more space and light.  This would also make harvesting easier.

Actually I think this setup would heat several homes per year using a RMH.

Eric
 
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I'm morphing a native forest into a forest garden. The ability to coppice was one of the characteristics I used to decide which trees to grow.
So far, I have Mulberry, osage orange, honey locust, and black locust growing.
The only one, from the op list, that I don't have on my "to grow" list, is jujube. I don't think it will grow in my location.
 
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Beech (Fagus) is a good candidate for pollarding or coppicing, can produce an edible nut, holds it's leaves long into the winter, is nice wildlife habitat, on top of it's decent lumber and excellent firewood qualities.
 
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A book I like very much that includes much about coppicing is The Woodland Way by Ben Law.
He is from Brittain, where there is a long tradition of coppiced woodland management.

Here in the middle western Oregon part of the Eastern Pacific, I have seen Hybrid Poplars coppice and pollard very well.
Also the Big Leaf Maples seem to do well coming back from major pruning.
I think it is an excellent strategy that I want to get into more.

The Horses love Poplar prunings and Maple prunings, so one thing I am planning is to get some Pollards going to cut branches of leaves for "hay".



 
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Luke Mitchell wrote:Oak is another species to add to the list. It needs a much longer regrowth period than something like hazelnut but, if you're coppicing for firewood, it would be worthwhile considering. Bonus points for useful bark.

It's fairly common for people to coppice alder too. I've no idea what it's like to burn (it can't be worse than willow or poplar, surely?) but it grows quickly and tolerates damp land. I have heard of people using the leaves as goat fodder too.



I'll second oak, though I have next to no experience with it so far. I have heard good things!

On alder, up here we have the speckled alder - shorter, shrubby, and fast growing. I've coppiced and pollarded multiple alder clumps over the last ~10 years, a couple times each (!!), and they definitely make decent fuel for a RMH. The wood tends to crackle and pop quite a bit, burns down quickly, and any smoke-back you get does stink a little, but it's generally perfectly sized, easy to harvest and puts out a decent amount of heat for such soft, light wood. I like to use it in the earlier part of heating season (about now) before I start in on the larger diameter wood and split logs. Definitely would recommend, especially with the added benefit of nitrogen fixation!

Aspen / poplar, I have to say, has been terrible in my experience. I've seen where a decent burn is going, good bed of coals building with excellent rocketing and lots of heat pumping out, but with the addition of poplar to the mix, the fire cools down and starts to smolder. Perhaps it's so porous as to hold a ton of water, even when "dry"? I stopped using poplar entirely in the RMH - makes much better soil carbon than firewood...would rather just mulch a fruit tree with it.

j brun wrote:Beech (Fagus) is a good candidate for pollarding or coppicing, can produce an edible nut, holds it's leaves long into the winter, is nice wildlife habitat, on top of it's decent lumber and excellent firewood qualities.



I'll second, third and fourth beech  Though a bit slower, like oak, beech coppices beautifully and does put on decent size if you manage it well (pro-tip: select down from the hundreds of sprouts to just 3 or 4 while they're still tiny)  Whenever I'm putting a turkey on the barrel of my 8" RMH, I make sure I have plenty of 3 to 5 inch diameter unsplit beech on hand to feed the beast. That's, based on the growth rate I'm seeing so far in shady areas, between 6 and 15 years of regrowth from a coppice stump (tighter growth rings / denser wood generally yields higher BTU)

My suggestion for the list is birches - white and yellow birch have proven themselves to be eager for regrowth, and especially with yellow birch, are very decent performers for firewood. While white birch is nearly as fast to grow as aspen/poplar, birches don't seem to have the same "cooling" effect.
 
Eino Kenttä
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Tristan Vitali wrote:
My suggestion for the list is birches - white and yellow birch have proven themselves to be eager for regrowth, and especially with yellow birch, are very decent performers for firewood. While white birch is nearly as fast to grow as aspen/poplar, birches don't seem to have the same "cooling" effect.


Around here (northern Scandinavia) birch is the most popular firewood for most people - the "fancy" wood. Some people even intentionally save their birch wood for the coldest time of the winter, using other species at less harsh times. Of course, part of the reason for this is probably that northern Scandinavia has ridiculously few native tree species, and none of them probably compares very well with the likes of osage orange or black locust.

One thing I've heard about birches (the European species at least) is that they coppice well when their diameter is very small, but tend to die if you let them grow too long before coppicing. On the other hand, I have seen birches that seem to be derived from stump shoots on quite big stumps... I don't know.

A couple more suggestions for the list:
-Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris and S. josikaea) Coppice like crazy around here, and the wood is supposedly the hardest (and one of the densest?) commonly grown in Scandinavia. Now, S. vulgaris suckers quite a bit, so might not be an awesome choice if you want the trees to stay where you put them. Also, they might put some of the regrowth as suckers, rather than coppice shoots. S. josikaea, on the other hand, doesn't sucker as far as I know, and the extremely vigorous unintentional coppice stools I've seen around here (from when people thought their ornamental bush grew too big and massacred it with a chainsaw) were mostly S. josikaea.
-Rowan/mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) Good quality wood, coppices and pollards well. Plus the berries are beloved by birds, so if you cut them on a long rotation they could probably be good for that too. Also, there are some sweet-berried cultivars with berries that are supposedly nice eating for people.
 
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I'm located in a hilly , wet zone 6.
Box elder( a kind of maple), mulberry, locusts, invasive honeysuckle and catalpa all grow here and back from the roots quite readily.
I only recently learned that mulberry is rot resistant and good firewood, but those qualities make it top of my list.
I had been pollarding them on a one or two year cycle, but I think I'll try the 45 day cycle instead.
None of my animals love the tree hay, but they will eat it.
When I harvest the poles this winter , I want to try propagating some of them and making hoop houses with the rest.
 
Jay Angler
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Tristan Vitali wrote:

That's, based on the growth rate I'm seeing so far in shady areas, between 6 and 15 years of regrowth from a coppice stump (tighter growth rings / denser wood generally yields higher BTU).

This is important - sometimes we get too focused on "fast growth" when in fact, slightly slower growth will give us more BTU's for our effort.

Eino Kenttä wrote:

Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris and S. josikaea) Coppice like crazy around here, and the wood is supposedly the hardest (and one of the densest?) commonly grown in Scandinavia.

What sort of diameters do you see? There are a couple of varieties of Lilac on my land, but I suspect they're a variety that was chosen for flowers, not wood!
 
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Jay Angler wrote:What sort of diameters do you see? There are a couple of varieties of Lilac on my land, but I suspect they're a variety that was chosen for flowers, not wood!


The diameters aren't that huge. If I'd take a wild guess I'd say the max diameters are 10-15 cm. Syringa josikaea again seems to perform better in this regard, but in terms of wood volume per year it's probably not a champion. I mainly mentioned it because it makes an extremely hard and probably quite dense wood, and because the cut stumps send out lots of shoots. Also, it's in the same family as ash (Oleaceae) so the wood might share some caracteristics with ash although the diameter doesn't get nearly as big. If anyone is interested I could take measurements and/or pictures of a few S. josikaea stumps close to here that have 3-4 years' regrowth after being cut.

On a side note, I met a guy who makes bows for a living, and he said that lilac wood is among the best if you can find a trunk that is thick and straight enough. Apparently, out of all the types of wood that can be found around here, lilac is the only one that makes a good bow from a trunk split in 2. From what I understood, with most types of wood you have to find a thicker trunk and split it in at least 4 pieces, or the bow will vary too much in thickness between middle and sides which makes it likely to crack. With lilac this is apparently not an issue.
 
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Eino, pictures are *always* appreciated. Even if one didn't want to use this plant primarily as a source of coppiced firewood, it sounds as if using it as part of a hedgerow and coppicing it within that context, it would be a useful addition.  Harvesting firewood from hedgerows is a long tradition in England for sure - probably elsewhere as well.

I looked up the species, and I expect the ones I have are both Syringa vulgaris based on the leaf shape. I did find a reference to S. josikaea being grown in Oregon, but I'd have to do some hunting to see if there's any around my area. Neither of mine are growing in particularly kind locations - one is competing with cedar and the other is competing with rocks, but I'll have a closer look at what size the largest stems are later, at least to satisfy my curiosity.

Firewood density, according to Hubby who's our family pyromaniac, is a mixed blessing. Low density gives him a quick, hot fire, but is easy to light. Denser wood lasts much longer in the wood stove, but can be harder to start. He's had the odd lot of wood that's been so dense, he found it quite hard to light and had to make sure he mixed it with other woods. So many of us have lost that sort of knowledge, and many who grew up with fires, may not realize how much those of us that grew up with central heating systems have a steep learning curve to climb!

However, the neat thing about lilac is that people often grow a hedge of it in their front yard and it would be considered totally normal for them to prune it intermittently - stealth urban firewood with pretty flowers!
 
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Jay Angler wrote:the neat thing about lilac is that people often grow a hedge of it in their front yard and it would be considered totally normal for them to prune it intermittently - stealth urban firewood with pretty flowers!


Yeah, especially for people living in places with those crazy regulations saying you can't grow anything useful...

I'll try to take some pics tomorrow, and measure the old trunk diameters, to see how bad my guess was.
 
Eric Hanson
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I am liking the direction this thread is taking.

If we are to stack functions better (my acre stacked time—a reasonable goal considering how long it takes to grow trees), one tree that I would love to work in American Chestnut trees.

The American Chestnut used to occupy much of the land east of the Mississippi and the trees were true giant—sometimes reaching 200’ tall.

They had the following qualities (among others):

Grew quickly
Coppiced very well
Produced long, hot, slow burning wood
Wood was very rot resistant
They produced Chestnuts!


The Chestnuts encouraged all sorts of wild life to grow—Chestnut trees were an important keystone species.

Unfortunately Chestnut blight all but wiped out the population of chestnut trees about a century ago.  But starting in the ‘80s, there was a program to grow chestnuts that were crossed with Chinese Chestnuts which were immune to the blight (in fact, the blight came from the Chinese Chestnuts).  It took a total of six generations—3 cross pollinations and three back crosses—to get trees that are basically 100% American Chestnut except that they are blight resistant (meaning that blight lives on the trees but does not harm or even interfere with the tree growth and function).

A Chestnut tree will produce chestnuts in about 15 years.  At my age, if I planted chestnuts right NOW, I could possibly harvest chestnuts in my retirement and maybe collect and burn fallen chestnut sticks to burn along the way.

Really, I don’t know if I really want Chestnut in this type of Woodlot.  I really do want to plant a few Chestnut trees, but they are NOT cheap—the individual seeds costing $75!

But I have some land so I may do this just for the sake of reintroducing a great old tree.

Eric
 
William Bronson
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$75 per seed, not per seedling?
Are they actually better than Chinese chestnuts in some functional way?
 
Eric Hanson
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William,

That’s right, $75 per seed!

And these are American Chestnuts which will eventually get absolutely huge!  They can get about 200 feet tall!  A Chinese chestnut is a much, much smaller tree (more of a large bush really).  Chinese chestnut trees were easier to harvest because they didn’t tower 200 feet in the air.

If I were to plant a seed tomorrow, I could expect to get the first actual chestnuts in about 15 years just as I retire.  It wouldn’t be much, but more would get added each year.  And these trees would then grow on for generations.

I would be ok using fallen sticks and branches, but I would think it a crime to cut down one of these trees for its wood.  Too bad because it does coppice very well and the wood is excellent for lumber (we likely would not have needed PT lumber if we had chestnut lumber), general woodworking, and was excellent firewood.  Apparently it was one of the most ideal hardwood species to have around.

I would love to see these forests come back.  Of course, I will never see a forest of them but I could be among the first generation to see some living, thriving examples in about a century.

Eric
 
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I’d agree with the above warning against eucalyptus, especially in fire probe places like California. These fast growing weedy trees and their highly flammable oils create catastrophic fire risk even in places with no history of forest fires, like Samoa. In most cases good hard woods like fruit trees are fire resistant, but eucalypts are an exception. I loved the look and smell of them at my grandma’s place in Southern CA, but if I owned that property now I would cut them, and I love trees so much my Pacific Crest trail name was the Lorax.
 
Beau Davidson
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I bought my chestnut bare root from https://www.interwovenpermaculture.com/ a couple years ago.  They were way more affordable than what you're describing - I think $25 per tree or something like that.  Landraced between 4 varieties in the midwest so I'm hopeful.

Looked at the site - seemingly they don't have any right now, but I've met them and they're generally very responsive to inquiries.
 
Eric Hanson
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Beau,

Are these American-Chinese hybrid trees?  Are they the most recent backcross variant?

The reason I ask is that there are earlier generations of American-Chinese hybrids that are available for considerably less.  The problem as I understand is that they are just about guaranteed to eventually succumb to chestnut Blight.

There is a parallel program that specifically inserted one gene into the tree’s genome that produced oxalic acid (if memory is serving me properly here and now).  If I am getting this straight, oxalic acid makes the chestnut basically immune to chestnut blight.  And also, if I am remembering correctly, oxalic acid is used by all kinds of plants to fight off various fungal pathogens, with wheat being just one example of a harmless (and very useful) plant that uses oxalic acid.

The two programs—backcross and gene insertion—competed for years with the backcross method gaining the early upper hand.  Thousands of acres were planted to chestnut trees, infected with blight about 200x stronger than the wild strain, and selected for best resistance.  Those seeds (chestnuts) were then pollinated by Chinese chestnut pollen, with the progeny selected for most American traits and best resistance, again infected with 200x blight and those survivors crossed with Chinese and then American and again.

It took a total 6 pairings—three cross pollination and three back crossings to get trees that were 15/16 American, looked 100% American, and only had Chinese blight resistance.  This took almost 40 years.  The last (6th) generation became available for general purchase just a few years ago and the purchase price reflects this enormous investment.

The parallel program started much, much more recently but ironically ended at about the same time.  The parallel program involved splicing in just one gene, something that has been technically doable for decades but only recently has the price come down to consider something outside of a medical concern.  The splicing approach is vastly faster, involves only one gene, and requires very little acreage by comparison.  I suppose that the parallel approach may be selling their own seeds and they may be able to really get the price down to something much more affordable.

I would be very curious to know exactly what type of chestnut you actually got—a “pre-production” chestnut, a backcross chestnut, or a spliced chestnut.

Eric
 
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