Pollarded trees, an ancestral technique for the sustainable use of forests

Topping is a technique once used to prune trees. There is no classification or typology for pollarded trees. There is not even an agreed definition that covers all possible types of topping.

Ancient woodcutters used this technique to prune beech trees which have a perimeter of more than two meters at their base, and at 3 meters high they show the traces of pollarding: where the thickness of the trunk is interrupted to give way to several thick branches and the scars of the branches which have been cut many decades ago.

Keep in mind that topping, as a special type of pruning, can be done in different ways and affect different types of trees depending on their species, shape, or age. Similarly, trees of species with no definite apical dominance, which have grown isolated and without competition, or which have suffered trauma to their apical branches, may also show an appearance similar to that of pollard trees, although they have no not been molded by hand by man.

Thus, it is sometimes difficult to know if a tree has been pruned or pollarded or if the shape of its branches responds to natural phenomena.

In the Basque Country, beeches were pollarded when they were about 50 years old. The main guide was cut, and next to the cut area the tree produced a series of branches which were then cut about every fifteen or twenty years.

This wood was intended above all for the charcoal burners, who lit themselves in the forest itself. And this charcoal was then used in metallurgy. Other logs, of specific sizes and shapes, were transported to shipyards for ship joinery. But all that is over. First the use of wood for boats was abandoned, then came the decline of charcoal.

If you are interested in this topic and want to learn more, I recommend: STATEMENT NOTES. GUIDE TO GOOD PRACTICES FOR THE POND.

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