At an active restoration site in South King County, Nicoterra Trails is pruning Big Leaf Maple -(Acer Macrophyllum) where trees have sprouted from large old stumps. This location was logged within 20 years and the typical red alder, Indian plum, and Big Leaf maple species have filled in the new niche. As many as 1 dozen new stems have sprouted from single old maple stumps. In the long term, these clusters will crowd each other, while the trees crown will be limited in reaching maturity. A thicket of living and dead stems will prevail. Multi-stemmed trees expose more tissue to disease and insect attack. Indeed, many of the trees on this site have tar spot on their leaves. Though not serious, it blights the late season foliage.
From a restoration point of view, multi-stemmed trees shade understory plants and restrict their growth. By coppicing these maples down to 3-5 stems, we hope to both stimulate the tree toward one central stem and support biodiversity in plant and animal life below, though we can’t be sure, there is still so much we don’t know.
Coppice is an Old World word. According to the site Countrysideinfo of UK -The word ‘coppice’ is derived from the French ‘couper‘ which means ‘to cut’. Coppicing is the process of cutting trees down, allowing the stumps to regenerate for a number of years (usually 7 – 25) and then harvesting the resulting stems.
It makes use of the natural regeneration properties of many tree species, including Oak, Hazel, Maple, Sweet Chestnut, Lime and Ash. Cut such trees down and they will regenerate from the cut stump, producing many new shoots, rather than a single main stem. Regrowth can be exceedingly rapid, with new shoots growing as much as 5cm a day. Oak stems can exceed 2m growth in one season, while Sallow may grow to almost 4m high in the first summer1.
In this effort we not attempting to create a marketable and I might add sustainable product but merely to assist the maturing health of maples while promoting ground diversity on restored sites.