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I would like to plant trees in a small area of land in N.E. England, to supplement our long-term firewood supply i.e. they will periodically be chopped and re-planted, or coppiced depending on species.

As I see it the two main factors are:

  1. yield - how much wood I'll get per tree/per square metre each year
  2. quality - how suitable the wood is as firewood

Lesser factors would be cost, attractiveness, disease resistance, and maintenance.

What are the obvious tree varieties to consider in my location that give a good balance of fast growth and useful fire-wood, and what are reasonable expectations?

  • What’s your definition of „periodically“? – Stephie Jan 30 at 15:25
  • I see on documentaries that Linden responds well to coppice treatment but I don't know how well it burns. There is an English poem about fire wood , I do not know it except the last line :' Ash makes a fire fit for a king. " Ash does burn very well . – blacksmith37 Jan 30 at 16:03
  • I believe/think the faster growing species burn the fastest and the slow grow trees like Oak burn the longest. You might want something in the middle. – GardenGems Jan 30 at 18:25
  • @Stephie when they are ready – Mr. Boy Jan 31 at 17:02
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Coppicing is more productive than felling and replanting, since you are not wasting time while the tree produces a large root system.

Almost all native UK species can be coppiced, but for firewood you probably don't want to grow oak which needs a 50-year cycle between harvests!

Willow can be coppiced annually. Other popular "short period" trees are hazel and hornbeam, but those typically have a 7 year cycle between harvests. After that you are looking at species like sycamore with 15 years between harvests.

Birch can be coppiced on a 3 or 4 year cycle, but there is a risk of killing the trees so that may not be a good choice for you.

Willow is very easy to grow from cuttings. Just add lots of water. In fact virtually any lump of willow wood (even a slice cut from a large trunk) will start to grow roots if you simply leave it in a bucket of water for 6 or 8 weeks. For coppicing you want to plant the cuttings 12 to 18 inches apart, so over time they develop into a "forest" of vertical stems, not individual "trees".

There are two downsides to willow's growth habits. Don't leave "rubbish" lying no the ground after you harvest willow, or next year you will have small willow trees growing everywhere. The other issue is less easy to fix: don't grow willow anywhere near underground drainage pipes. The roots are notorious for finding a way into the drains to access the water, and then causing blockages and major structural damage.

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  • You say Willow can be coppiced annually by which I suppose you mean the tree is happy, but for useful sized wood presumably not! In the longer term, coppicing much larger harvests at longer periods might average out so I wonder if you have any knowledge on that if short term "how soon can I get some wood" isn't an issue? – Mr. Boy Jan 31 at 17:05
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The answer depends on how you plan to harvest the trees as well as how you plan to burn the wood.

My answer will focus on coppiced trees because they will not require replanting after harvest and can usually be cut without heavy logging equipment unlike full sized trees.

Also, as far as I understand coppiced trees will produce more biomass in a shorter period than regular growth (citation needed).

I found a source that contains recommendations and details about coppice in the UK, it lists the following trees as good choices for coppice and provides some info about each:

Many types of deciduous tree can be coppiced: Alder, Ash, Beech, Birch (3-4 year cycle), Hazel (7 year cycle), Hornbeam, Oak (50 year cycle), Sycamore Sweet Chestnut (15-20 year cycle), Willow but Sweet Chestnut, Hazel (7 year cycle), and Hornbeam are the most commonly coppiced tree species currently. The trees are cut during the winter before the sap has risen, and the branches are all cut low to the ground. By repeatedly cutting the trees their lifespan can be greatly increased.

The optimal type of tree and coppice cycle also depends on how you will burn the wood, as the source continues:

The new growth that results usually curves out a little from the stool, is fairly straight and manageable, and can grow very fast. Because the wood from coppicing is relatively small it also takes less time than large logs to season and you should easily be able to season it over one summer. Coppiced firewood can be burnt in a wood stove and is ideal for use in gasification / batch boilers - these boilers have very larger fireboxes which can take long length logs. You fill up the firebox and the boiler burns the fuel transferring the heat to a heat storage or accumulator tank for use when needed.

source: https://www.stovesonline.co.uk/coppicing-firewood.html

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Look up "the firewood poem" by Lady Celia Congreve ;It was only written about 100 yr ago but is said to be based on much older poems. It only refers to burning , not growing , but it is a good starting point. And as I said in my comment Ash ( Green ash in US) does burn exceptionally well . I had a storm downed ash tree and cut it into fireplace length but did not split it. I could put a 12" diameter 20" log into a fire in a fireplace in the evening and in the morning have nothing but warm ashes ; no smoke , no sparks poping , etc.

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  • 1
    Uh...how does this answer the question? – Stephie Jan 30 at 22:41

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