What Is Coppiced Hazel?

The art of coppicing, a traditional method of woodland management, has been practiced for centuries, and one of its stars is the resilient and versatile hazel tree. This guide delves into coppiced hazel, answering essential questions about the practice, its benefits, and the myriad uses of this fascinating tree.

What Is Coppiced Hazel?

Coppiced hazel refers to hazel trees that are harvested in a unique way known as coppicing. This method involves cutting the tree down to its base or stool, prompting it to produce new shoots. This form of management has been practiced for centuries and allows for sustainable harvesting without killing the tree.

The hazel tree’s resilience and ability to bounce back after coppicing makes it an ideal choice for this method. It’s widely found in temperate zones, particularly in Europe, where coppicing has historically been part of the woodland management technique. Hazel’s fast growth and the fact that it’s a renewable resource are part of what makes coppiced hazel so popular.

How Do You Coppice Hazel Trees?

To coppice a hazel tree, you first need to select a suitable tree that is mature and healthy. Cut the tree down to a stump, leaving about a foot of the trunk above ground. Make sure to cut at an angle to allow water to run off and prevent rot.

Once cut, the tree will naturally start to send up new shoots from the base. These shoots grow quickly and form a bushy cluster of poles that can be harvested in the future. Coppicing is typically done in the winter when the tree is dormant, to minimize harm and promote vigorous regrowth in the spring.

What Are The Benefits Of Coppicing Hazel?

Coppicing hazel provides many environmental and economic benefits. It promotes the growth of a diverse understory of plants and can increase biodiversity in a woodland area. Additionally, it creates a sustainable source of timber, as hazel can be coppiced repeatedly without killing the tree.

Hazel’s rapid growth makes it ideal for coppicing, as it can provide a regular harvest of wood. The method of coppicing also helps to maintain the health and longevity of the tree, by allowing light to reach the forest floor and promoting the growth of a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Can Coppiced Hazel Be Used For Firewood Or Other Purposes?

Coppiced hazel is excellent for firewood as it burns well with a good heat output. Its wood is also incredibly versatile and can be used for a wide variety of purposes beyond heating. Traditionally, it has been used for wattle fencing, hurdles, and even furniture making.

In rural crafts and woodland industries, hazel poles are used in various ways. The young and flexible shoots can be used for weaving baskets or crafting walking sticks, while the more substantial poles can be used in construction. Hazel is also used in horticulture for plant supports and garden structures.

How Long Does It Take For Hazel To Regrow After Coppicing?

After coppicing, hazel trees can take anywhere from 7 to 10 years to regrow fully before they are ready for another harvest. This growth rate is fairly rapid in comparison to many other tree species, making it a practical choice for sustainable woodland management.

During this growth period, the trees provide a changing habitat that supports a variety of wildlife. It’s also during this time that the hazel tree forms a thick canopy, preventing light from reaching the ground, thereby inhibiting the growth of underbrush.

Are There Specific Hazel Varieties That Are Suitable For Coppicing?

Most varieties of hazel (Corylus) are suitable for coppicing, but the common hazel (Corylus avellana) is the most frequently used species in coppice systems. It is widely spread in Europe and known for its vigorous growth and resilience.

Other species, such as the Turkish hazel (Corylus colurna), can also be coppiced, but may not respond with as much vigor as the common hazel. Selecting a suitable variety is key to establishing a successful and productive coppice.

Can Coppiced Hazel Provide Habitat Or Food For Wildlife?

Yes, coppiced hazel can provide both food and habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. The new shoots that spring up after coppicing provide food for various animals, such as deer and rabbits. Moreover, the nuts produced by hazel trees are a valuable food source for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.

The habitat created by a coppiced hazel woodland is unique, as it provides a mix of open space and dense cover. This can offer ideal nesting sites for many bird species and serves as a refuge for small mammals. Over time, a coppiced woodland can contribute to an increase in biodiversity.

Are There Any Specific Techniques Or Considerations For Maintaining A Coppiced Hazel Area?

Maintaining a coppiced hazel area requires regular cutting to ensure the health of the trees and productivity of the woodland. This process should ideally be carried out during the dormant winter months to minimize stress on the trees. To maintain biodiversity, it’s recommended to implement a rotational coppicing system, in which different sections of the woodland are cut each year.

It’s also crucial to protect young shoots from damage by wildlife. Fencing or individual tree guards can help prevent browsing damage. Care should also be taken to control any invasive species that may attempt to outcompete the hazel.

Can Coppiced Hazel Be Used For Crafts Or Woodworking Projects?

Indeed, coppiced hazel is a popular material for various crafts and woodworking projects. Its wood is both flexible and strong, making it ideal for a variety of uses. Traditionally, it’s been used in the creation of wattle fences, hurdles, walking sticks, and baskets.

In modern times, it’s often used in rustic furniture making, garden structures, and even artistic sculptures. Due to its sustainability and unique properties, hazel continues to be a favored material among craftsmen and woodworkers.

What Are Some Alternative Uses Or Applications For Coppiced Hazel?

Beyond the traditional uses in crafts and firewood, there are numerous alternative applications for coppiced hazel. It can be chipped and used as a garden mulch or compost, helping to enrich the soil and conserve moisture. The wood can also be turned into charcoal, a process that was once a major industry in many parts of the UK.

Some cutting-edge uses include converting coppiced hazel into biofuel, or using the wood in sustainable building materials. Moreover, the tall, straight poles can be used for yurt building, wigwams, or other natural building structures.