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Coppicing in the high dessert?

 
pollinator
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I live about 15 miles west / north of Helena MT and is considered high desert.
I have a good well but no streams.
What type of trees would work for coppicing here?  I could water them with no problem.
 
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I'm also curious about this topic, Dennis! I live in Idaho, on the Snake River plains, with less than 9 inches of rainfall a year. The trees that seems to naturally want to grow here, with potential for coping are elm trees. The neighbors call them "trash trees" because they produce thousands of seeds and seem to sucker out everywhere. I've heard then called Chinese Elms and Piss Elms. My plant-finder app identifies them as Siberian Elm. They send up suckers when cut down, like aspens do.

But are aspens suitable to burn? Like a hardwood?
Are elm trees hardwood? Anybody know what they burn like in a fireplace or rocket contraption?

I think black locust and honey locust grow well here. With water, of course.  Anything else thrive in arid/cold conditions?

Interresting side note about these trees: DOC JONES, the herbalism vet from southern Idaho, says siberian Elms are just as medicinal as slippery Elms. Their bark and seeds are fabulous in an herbal medicine setting. Since slippery elm is endangered and tough to come by/expensive, I wonder if these "trash" trees could be quickly grown and harvested for the inner medicine bark using coppicing techniques at a commercial level? 🤔 in the dessert, no less?
 
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From my experience, Siberian elms are excellent firewood.  They are hard wood, can also be used as oak is used , in furniture or wood turning or building.  The wood is beautiful.

It is also very tough stringy wood, making it hard to split.

I had no idea the inner bark could replace slippery elm bark!

There’s a great thread on coppicing trees for firewood, maybe there are trees on the list you know grow in your climate

https://permies.com/wiki/202826/Coppice-Trees-Firewood

 
Thekla McDaniels
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And here is something else!

I searched Siberian elm medicinal use, to follow up on the suggestion noted above, and found this!

http://naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/u/ulmus-pumila=siberian-elm.php

I lived in western Colorado for many years, indeed thought of Siberian elm as a trash tree until I learned a few things about it beyond how readily it sprouted from its annual and very prolific seed crop.

Anyone else who has witnessed Siberian elm colonizing everything from pavement cracks to ditch banks to garden soil may share my amusement at the instructions given for germinating the seeds!

It does also list many other uses for parts of the tree.

I have eaten the seed before it dries (including the papery part) by the handful.  Quite tasty .
 
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I also would be much interested in coppicing in the high desert!    We have a challenging placement of the structures on our property and dessicating winds in the winter. When I moved here and learned you have to WATER SOME PLANTS IN THE WINTER I thought what the heck.    We coppice here but more bushes, like forsythia, then trees.

Looking forward to learning more!


Sandy  
 
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Dennis Barrow wrote:I live about 15 miles west / north of Helena MT and is considered high desert.
I have a good well but no streams.
What type of trees would work for coppicing here?  I could water them with no problem.



Hi Dennis
Sounds like beautiful country there. So basically just about any hardwood/deciduious/broadleaf tree will coppice that will grow where you live. My first question would be what are you coppicing for? With that information we could talk more about specific species suited to your climate that may have those properties. Ideally you're irrigating trees grown for wood products as little as possible, so I'd echo what others have said and look at the native species that already grow well in your locale. 'Trash' trees are often some of my favorites. They may not be 'perfect' when it comes to specific qualities, density, rate of growth, workability, etc, but if they are happy to grow and thrive with little care, then they're great candidates in my book. So the Siberian elm definitely sounds like a winner.

I've spent some time in the Rockies in Colorado and there we'd look to poplars/aspens/cottonwoods, willows, alder, Siberian pea shrub, buffaloberry, seaberry/buckthorn Ceanothus species, scrub oaks... Those are some of the ones that float to the top for me. But if you've already got stuff growing there, research how well they coppice. And if you're looking to plant stuff, start with what you specifically need from these plantings. That's my 2 cents at least.
 
Dennis Barrow
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Hi Dennis
Sounds like beautiful country there. So basically just about any hardwood/deciduious/broadleaf tree will coppice that will grow where you live. My first question would be what are you coppicing for? With that information we could talk more about specific species suited to your climate that may have those properties. Ideally you're irrigating trees grown for wood products as little as possible, so I'd echo what others have said and look at the native species that already grow well in your locale. 'Trash' trees are often some of my favorites. They may not be 'perfect' when it comes to specific qualities, density, rate of growth, workability, etc, but if they are happy to grow and thrive with little care, then they're great candidates in my book. So the Siberian elm definitely sounds like a winner.

I've spent some time in the Rockies in Colorado and there we'd look to poplars/aspens/cottonwoods, willows, alder, Siberian pea shrub, buffaloberry, seaberry/buckthorn Ceanothus species, scrub oaks... Those are some of the ones that float to the top for me. But if you've already got stuff growing there, research how well they coppice. And if you're looking to plant stuff, start with what you specifically need from these plantings. That's my 2 cents at least.



Hi Mark,
It is beautiful here.  Anything I plant will need to be fenced until established as the deer,  (family of mule deer think they are part of our family. I keep trying to scare them away, but they think I am playing with them.  They don't understand that I have a couple of freezers.
The elk can be a nuisance also.  We have a local herd of around 100 of them.)

I am looking to coppice for a variety of uses.
wind breaks
fencing, (would like to have wood close for "wattle" fences.  I can drive a couple miles down the mtn and get willow)
firewood, but I do have lots of pines on my 10 acres.  Had a small fire this spring that burned a little over an acre of my land and a couple acres of the neighbors.  We are replanting this spring with ponderosa as that is what was burned.  Because of that we are going to have lots of firewood for the next 2-3 years.  Neighbor does not want the destroyed trees so I get them for the work. ;-)
borders
different types of trees, mainly ponderosa on my place.

I like the sounds of the Siberian Elm.  But am open to any that would grow fairly rapidly.  I am pushing 70 and want to use them in my lifetime.   lol   8 to 10 years would be great.  And of course expense is a key factor.  

I would love to have a couple maple trees for the color.  A neighbor about a mile from me has 2 in her yard.  She said it took a long time for them to get established tho.

I think I will try some willow this spring.  I have a run-off pond that is just starting to hold water after 3 years.  Of course in the summer it dries up fairly quickly, but is only 100 feet from a hose bib so I could help them in the main part of summer.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I just remembered another good thing about Siberian elms!  

Their flower is quite inconspicuous.  What it looks like from the ground is kind of just a black lump on the twigs, but there are thousands of them on a big tree, and their pollen provides very early forage for bees.  Maybe there’s nectar too.  
If my memory serves me, in Grand Junction, Colorado, they “bloom” in late February.
 
Mark Krawczyk
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Dennis Barrow wrote:



Hi Mark,
It is beautiful here.  Anything I plant will need to be fenced until established as the deer,  (family of mule deer think they are part of our family. I keep trying to scare them away, but they think I am playing with them.  They don't understand that I have a couple of freezers.
The elk can be a nuisance also.  We have a local herd of around 100 of them.)

I am looking to coppice for a variety of uses.
wind breaks
fencing, (would like to have wood close for "wattle" fences.  I can drive a couple miles down the mtn and get willow)
firewood, but I do have lots of pines on my 10 acres.  Had a small fire this spring that burned a little over an acre of my land and a couple acres of the neighbors.  We are replanting this spring with ponderosa as that is what was burned.  Because of that we are going to have lots of firewood for the next 2-3 years.  Neighbor does not want the destroyed trees so I get them for the work. ;-)
borders
different types of trees, mainly ponderosa on my place.

I like the sounds of the Siberian Elm.  But am open to any that would grow fairly rapidly.  I am pushing 70 and want to use them in my lifetime.   lol   8 to 10 years would be great.  And of course expense is a key factor.  

I would love to have a couple maple trees for the color.  A neighbor about a mile from me has 2 in her yard.  She said it took a long time for them to get established tho.

I think I will try some willow this spring.  I have a run-off pond that is just starting to hold water after 3 years.  Of course in the summer it dries up fairly quickly, but is only 100 feet from a hose bib so I could help them in the main part of summer.




Sounds great Dennis! I'd also add black locust (and perhaps New Mexican locust assuming it's hardy enough as I think it's a bit more dry adapted) to the mix as well (and maybe nanking cherry too). Also, have you ever ordered from Lincoln Oakes Nursery in North Dakota? They're in a slightly different landscape, but I wouldn't be surprised if the climate is somewhat similar. I've gotten some nice stock from them in the past and have found their prices to be very reasonable.

 
Dennis Barrow
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Mark Krawczyk wrote:



Sounds great Dennis! I'd also add black locust (and perhaps New Mexican locust assuming it's hardy enough as I think it's a bit more dry adapted) to the mix as well (and maybe nanking cherry too). Also, have you ever ordered from Lincoln Oakes Nursery in North Dakota? They're in a slightly different landscape, but I wouldn't be surprised if the climate is somewhat similar. I've gotten some nice stock from them in the past and have found their prices to be very reasonable.



Thanks Mark;

I will look into Lincoln Oakes Nursery.

Also will research the locust's.
 
Rebekah Harmon
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Hey Mark, for what kinds of reasons would you use sea buckthorn for coppicing?  I have them in my orchard as a nitrogen fixer, but I didn't know you could coppice it.
 
Mark Krawczyk
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Rebekah Harmon wrote:Hey Mark, for what kinds of reasons would you use sea buckthorn for coppicing?  I have them in my orchard as a nitrogen fixer, but I didn't know you could coppice it.



Hi Rebekah
So I also have planted them as a companion/nurse tree nitrogen fixer and they do double duty when/as I coppice or pollard them and use the biomass as either chop and drop mulch or use it to make biochar. I also anticipate that the coppicing will stimulate some root die back, releasing organic matter into the soil.

They're a quality fodder for livestock so they could either be occasionally browsed or used for cut and carry fodder.

As a suckering species, any time we cut them heavily, we tend to see new sprouts form from adjacent roots. We could use this as a technique to propagate more plants or another opportunity to generate mulch or biomass.

And last, most of the folks I know with fairly substantial plots of seaberry harvest fruits by pruning off branches, flash freezing them and then knocking them about to dislodge the fruits. If done with intention, I'd imagine this could be done in a pollarding style.

Because all of our seaberries were unsexed seedlings we have roughly equal parts male and female plants. We manage the female plants much more gently and use the males for more of the biomass/chop and drop mulch.

I'd imagine it'd make a great addition to a living hedge also where it could be periodically 'laid' to keep it dense.

It sure is a great species!
 
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