Hornbeam Experiment


Hornbeam coppice regrowing in our 2017 coppice coupe

A short survey of our 2016 coppice coupe (brambles permitting) showed that three of our six experimental Hornbeam coppices have survived. This is a slightly disappointing result, but the surviving coppice stools are doing very well, and we found many hornbeam seedlings that have taken advantage of the sunlight and warmth in the coupe. Despite being a shade-tolerant tree it is noticeable that those that failed had the least direct sunlight. A long dry spell in 2017 may not have helped, one stool showed promising regrowth in the first year but was looking very poorly by the end of 2017.

There is a risk whatever we do. If we do nothing the old coppices will eventually fall apart under the weight of mature stems and die. Traditionally, re-coppicing Hornbeam every thirty years or so preserved these old stools sometimes for centuries. But the longer the interval between coppicing, the greater the chances of failure. Some say that after 50 years it is not worth re-coppicing neglected stands. Our Hornbeams had been re-growing for 60 years when we re-coppiced them and only half failed. We would argue that the general benefits of coppicing made the experiment worthwhile. As well as an increase in natural Hornbeam regeneration, this coupe also produced the first Oak seedlings in Lag Wood for decades.

It is also worth recording that there were three old Hornbeam stools of a similar age which we coppiced in our 2018 coupe. All three are in good sunlit positions and have abundant regrowth over a year later (see pic below). Old coppiced Hornbeam is part of the distinctive character of Lag Wood. All these survivors will help to preserve that character for many decades to come.


Coppice regrowth in our 2017 coupe. Ash left, Hornbeam right.


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