Coppicing for firewood – eucalyptus

Coppiced eucalyptus plantation

Coppiced eucalyptus plantation in South Australia

When I lived in the United Kingdom I came across techniques called coppicing and pollarding.  Since I became familiar with them, I have never understood why we don’t make use of these techniques in Australia.

Coppicing is the process of chopping a tree down to just above ground level and letting it regrow with multiple stems at the base.  Pollarding is doing the same thing further up the truck.  Pollarding way a way of using the coppicing technique for trees that are in fields containing livestock.  This enables the tree to sprout new growth without it being eaten by the livestock.

These techniques where developed to enable trees to be harvested for their wood, mostly for firewood, multiple times without killing the tree.  When the tree is simply chopped down any new tree must establish new root systems etc. to support the growth.  With a coppiced tree these root systems are already in place and therefore regrowth takes place much more quickly.  Many trees can be harvested every 5 to 10 years.  The exact timing will depend upon the species and the use of the wood, namely how thick you need it to grow, but the regrowth will be quicker overall.

Why these techniques haven’t taken hold in Australia is a mystery to me.  It may have been that we have had such a ready supply of wood that such approaches have not been necessary.  But as we become more conscious of our limited resources we should become more aware of such techniques and integrate them into our forestry techniques.  Particularly for the production of firewood.

For the small holder, coppicing or pollarding offer the chance to develop a sustainable source of firewood and the possibility to be carbon neutral, where the wood you use is the wood you produce on site.  I don’t feel it is practical for suburban backyards, but for those with an acre or more it should have real merit.

One of the advantages that we have in Australia is that many eucalyptus species coppice well and with their fast grow will produce a good firewood crop.  If you are interested in learning more about this technique I can recommend the book Woodlands: A Practical Handbook published by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.  It is obviously British in its focus but the techniques are fairly universal.  These links will take you to Amazon where you can get the book direct.

Eucalyptus known to produce vigorous coppice shoots in Victoria.

Common name Botanical name
Brown mallet Eucalyptus astringens
Gippsland grey box Eucalyptus bosistoana
Southern mahogany Eucalyptus botryoides
River red gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis
Sugar gum Eucalyptus cladocalyx
Tasmanian blue gum Eucalyptus globulus globulus
Victorian blue gum Eucalyptus globulus bicostata
Yellow gum Eucalyptus leucoxylon
Yellow box Eucalyptus melliodora
Grey box Eucalyptus microcarpa
Messmate Eucalyptus obliqua
Red box Eucalyptus polyanthemos
Candlebark gum Eucalyptus rubida
Sydney blue gum Eucalyptus saligna
Red ironbark Eucalyptus sideroxylon
Manna gum Eucalyptus viminalis

Sourced from the Victorian Government Department of Primary Industries Site. This is an excellent page on the topic well worth visiting.

So let me know, have you had any experience with coppicing techniques?  Has it been successful or is it something you would look into for your plot?

6 Responses to “Coppicing for firewood – eucalyptus”

  1. [...] people are starting to rediscover an ancient technique known as coppicing. Coppicing has been around for thousands of years and involves cutting a tree down to somewhat [...]

  2. [...] is this : if it is taken from renewable locations, for instance managed plantations along with coppiced wood land, it could be carbon dioxide neutral. Which is defined as when level of carbon which is emitted with [...]

  3. [...] when it’s taken from sustainable locations, for instance , managed plantations along with coppiced forest, it may be carbon dioxide neutral. This is defined as the level of co2 which is emitted through the [...]

  4. chicken coop says:

    chicken coop…

    [...]Coppicing for Firewood – Eucalyptus |[...]…

  5. Can I use the information given in this website to cite in my thesis about the coppice. If so, how can I refer you in reference list?

  6. Matt says:

    Hi Henry, sure! Sent a reply to you via email.

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