Pollarding, a pruning system involving the removal of the upper branches of a tree, promotes a dense head of foliage and branches. In ancient Rome, Propertius mentioned pollarding during the 1st century BCE.[1] The practice occurred commonly in Europe since medieval times, and takes place today in urban areas worldwide, primarily to maintain trees at a determined height.[2]

Traditionally, people pollarded trees for one of two reasons: for fodder to feed livestock or for wood. Fodder pollards produced "pollard hay" for livestock feed; they were pruned at intervals of two to six years so their leafy material would be most abundant. Wood pollards were pruned at longer intervals of eight to fifteen years, a pruning cycle tending to produce upright poles favored for fence rails and posts and boat construction. Supple young willow or hazel branches may be harvested as material for weaving baskets, fences, and garden constructions such as bowers. Nowadays, the practice is sometimes used for ornamental trees, such as crepe myrtles in southern states of the USA,[3][4] although the resulting tree has a stunted form rather than a natural-looking crown.

Pollarding tends to make trees live longer by maintaining them in a partially juvenile state and by reducing the weight and windage of the top part of the tree.[5] Older pollards often become hollow, so can be difficult to age accurately. Pollards tend to grow slowly, with denser growth-rings in the years immediately after cutting.

Dülmen, Umland -- 2014 -- 7064
A line of pollarded willows in Germany


Newly pollarded near Sluis
Newly pollarded willow trees between Sluis and Aardenburg in Zeeland (Netherlands)
Pollarded trees near Sluis two years later April 2009 cropped to match last times more or less
The same trees two years later, showing the gradual expansion of the trees' crowns

Pollarding began with walled cities in Europe which did not have room for large trees. The smaller limbs that resulted could be used for heat and cooking.[6]

As in coppicing, pollarding is to encourage the tree to produce new growth on a regular basis to maintain a supply of new wood for various purposes, particularly for fuel. In some areas, dried leafy branches are stored as winter fodder for stock. Depending on the use of the cut material, the length of time between cutting will vary from one year for tree hay or withies, to five years or more for larger timber. Sometimes, only some of the regrown stems may be cut in a season – this is thought to reduce the chances of death of the tree when recutting long-neglected pollards.

Pollarding was preferred over coppicing in wood-pastures and other grazed areas, because animals would browse the regrowth from coppice stools. Historically, the right to pollard or "lop" was often granted to local people for fuel on common land or in royal forests; this was part of the right of Estover.[7]

An incidental effect of pollarding in woodland is the encouragement of underbrush growth due to increased light reaching the woodland floor. This can increase species diversity. However, in woodland where pollarding was once common but has now ceased, the opposite effect occurs, as the side and top shoots develop into trunk-sized branches. An example of this can be seen in Epping Forest in London/Essex, UK, the majority of which was pollarded until the late 19th century. Here, the light that reaches the woodland floor is extremely limited owing to the thick growth of the pollarded trees.

Pollards cut at about a metre above the ground are called stubs (or stubbs). These were often used as markers in coppice or other woodland. Stubs cannot be used where the trees are browsed by animals, as the regrowing shoots are below the browse line.

Epping Forest pollard
Ancient pollarded beech tree in Epping Forest, Essex, England

Although people who migrated to the United States from Europe continued the practice, experts have come to believe that pollarding older trees harms the tree. The smaller limbs grow from wood that is not as strong, and the weaker trees will not live as long and can be more easily damaged by storms.[6]


As with coppicing, only species with vigorous epicormic growth may be made into pollards. In these species (which include many broadleaved trees but few conifers), removal of the main apical stems releases the growth of many dormant buds under the bark on the lower part of the tree. Trees without this growth will die without their leaves and branches. Some smaller tree species do not readily form pollards, because cutting the main stem stimulates growth from the base, effectively forming a coppice stool instead. Examples of trees that do well as pollards include broadleaves such as beeches (Fagus), oaks (Quercus), maples (Acer), black locust or false acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia), hornbeams (Carpinus), lindens and limes (Tilia), planes (Platanus), horse chestnuts (Aesculus), mulberries (Morus), Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), willows (Salix), and a few conifers, such as yews (Taxus).[8]

The technique is used in Africa for moringa trees to bring the nutritious leaves into easier reach for harvesting. Pollarding is also used in urban forestry in certain areas for reasons such as tree size management, safety, and health concerns. It removes rotting or diseased branches to support the overall health of the tree and removes living and dead branches that could harm property and people, as well as increasing the amount of foliage in spring for aesthetic, shade and air quality reasons. Some trees may be rejuvenated by pollarding — for example, Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana "Bradford"), a beautiful flowering species when young that becomes brittle and top-heavy when older.

Oaks, when very old, can form new trunks from the growth of pollard branches, i.e. surviving branches which have split away from the main branch naturally.

Origin and usage of term

A pollard oak marking part of the ancient parish boundary of Wash Common, part of Newbury, and Sandleford
A pollard oak marking part of the ancient parish boundary of Wash Common, part of Newbury, and Sandleford, UK

"Poll" was originally a name for the top of the head, and "to poll" was a verb meaning "to crop the hair". This use was extended to similar treatment of the branches of trees and the horns of animals. A pollard simply meant someone or something that had been polled (similar to the formation of "drunkard" and "sluggard"); for example, a hornless ox or polled livestock. Later, the noun "pollard" came to be used as a verb: "pollarding". Pollarding has now largely replaced polling as the verb in the forestry sense. Pollard can also be used as an adjective: "pollard tree".[9]

See also


  1. ^ Richardson, jr, L. (1992). A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 318. ISBN 978-0801843006.
  2. ^ Pruning and Training Plants, Joyce and Brickell, p.55, Simon and Schuster, ©1992, ISBN 0-671-73842-9
  3. ^ Southern Living 2003 garden annual, page 111; published 2003 by Oxmoor Publishing
  4. ^ Tree Care Industry Magazine, Volume 17, page 38, published 2006 by National Arborist Association
  5. ^ Read, Helen. "A brief review of pollards and pollarding in Europe" (PDF). Burnham Beeches National Nature Reserve (October 2006). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-14.
  6. ^ a b Boyle, John (2017-03-16). "Answer Man: What's with the tree hacking? Stop the topping!". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  7. ^ "Forests and Chases of England and Wales: A Glossary". Info.sjc.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  8. ^ "Royal Horticultural Society, Pollarding". www.rhs.org.uk.
  9. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 1933: Poll (v), Pollard (v), Pollard (sb2)

External links

Bradgate House (16th century)

Bradgate House is a 16th-century ruin in Bradgate Park, Leicestershire, England.

Edward Grey's son Sir John Grey of Groby married Elizabeth Woodville, who, after John's death married King Edward IV. Their son Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset made preparations for building the first Bradgate House in the late 15th century but died before work began. It was his son, Thomas Grey, 2nd marquis of Dorset who built the first Bradgate House, completing it circa 1520. This is one of the first unfortified great houses in England and one of the earliest post-Roman use of bricks. It was lived in by the Grey family for the next 220 years. It is believed that the house was the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, later Queen, ruling for a mere 9 days before being overthrown by Mary I. Jane was executed in 1553 and when her father was executed the following year the estate passed to the crown. Local history claims that groundskeepers marked the occasion of Jane's execution by pollarding the estate's oak trees in a symbolic beheading. Examples of pollarded oaks can still be seen in the park. In 1563 the family regained favour, and the Groby manor, including Bradgate, was restored to Jane's Uncle, Lord John Grey of Pirgo. His great-grandson was made Earl of Stamford. Later earls acquired estates in Enville, Staffordshire, and Dunham Massey, Cheshire.

Sometime after 1739 they moved out of Bradgate, which began a long decline. The spectacular ruins of the house are still visible at the centre of the park. The house was approximately 200 feet (61 m) long, featuring a main hall measuring 80 by 30 feet (24.4 m × 9.1 m). As well as considerable remains of walls and fireplaces, it has four truncated towers and the chapel is still intact, containing a tomb effigy to Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford and his wife.In the mid-19th century, George Harry Grey and the 7th Earl of Stamford and Warrington commissioned a new house to be built designed by the architect Mr M.J. Dain of Dain and Parsons, London, and built by the local builder Mr Thomas Rudkin. Bradgate House was completed in 1856 in the village of Groby, Leicestershire and built in the Jacobean style it has been referred to as the Calendar House because it had 365 windows, 52 rooms, and 12 main chimneys. The house was sadly demolished in the mid-1920s when Leicestershire estates were sold by late Earls niece Katherine Henrietta Venezia Grey, who incidentally changed her surname to Grey on the condition of her inheritance of the estates from her deceased uncle. Bradgate House in the village of Groby is frequently confused with the 16th-century ruined house of the same name in Bradgate Park 2 miles in distance.

Brampton Wood

Brampton Wood is a 132.1 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Cambridgeshire. The site is west of Brampton in Cambridgeshire. It is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.


Chitemene (also spelled citemene), from the ciBemba word meaning “place where branches have been cut for a garden”, is a system of slash and burn agriculture practiced throughout northern Zambia. It involves coppicing or pollarding of standing trees in a primary or secondary growth Miombo woodland, stacking of the cut biomass, and eventual burning of the cut biomass in order to create a thicker layer of ash than would be possible with in situ burning. Crops such as maize, finger millet, sorghum, or cassava are then planted in the burned area.


Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which exploits the capacity of many species of trees to put out new shoots from their stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, which is called a copse, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level, known as a stool. New growth emerges and after a number of years, the coppiced tree is harvested and the cycle begins anew. Pollarding is a similar process carried out at a higher level on the tree.

Many silviculture practices involve cutting and regrowth; coppicing has been of significance in many parts of lowland temperate Europe. The widespread and long-term practice of coppicing as a landscape-scale industry is something that remains of special importance in southern England. Many of the English-language terms referenced in this article are particularly relevant to historic and contemporary practice in that area.

Typically a coppiced woodland is harvested in sections or coups on a rotation. In this way, a crop is available each year somewhere in the woodland. Coppicing has the effect of providing a rich variety of habitats, as the woodland always has a range of different-aged coppice growing in it, which is beneficial for biodiversity. The cycle length depends upon the species cut, the local custom, and the use to which the product is put. Birch can be coppiced for faggots on a three- or four-year cycle, whereas oak can be coppiced over a fifty-year cycle for poles or firewood.

Coppicing maintains trees at a juvenile stage, and a regularly coppiced tree will never die of old age; some coppice stools may therefore reach immense ages. The age of a stool may be estimated from its diameter, and some are so large—perhaps as much as 5.4 metres (18 ft) across—that they are thought to have been continually coppiced for centuries.


Copythorne is a village and civil parish situated in Hampshire, England, within the boundaries of the New Forest National Park.

Epicormic shoot

An epicormic shoot is a shoot growing from an epicormic bud, which lies underneath the bark of a trunk, stem, or branch of a plant.

Farmer-managed natural regeneration

Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is a low-cost, sustainable land restoration technique used to combat poverty and hunger amongst poor subsistence farmers in developing countries by increasing food and timber production, and resilience to climate extremes. It involves the systematic regeneration and management of trees and shrubs from tree stumps, roots and seeds.FMNR is especially applicable, but not restricted to, the dryland tropics. As well as returning degraded croplands and grazing lands to productivity, it can be used to restore degraded forests, thereby reversing biodiversity loss and reducing vulnerability to climate change. FMNR can also play an important role in maintaining not-yet-degraded landscapes in a productive state, especially when combined with other sustainable land management practices such as conservation agriculture on cropland and holistic management on range lands.

FMNR adapts centuries-old methods of woodland management, called coppicing and pollarding, to produce continuous tree-growth for fuel, building materials, food and fodder without the need for frequent and costly replanting. On farmland, selected trees are trimmed and pruned to maximise growth while promoting optimal growing conditions for annual crops (such as access to water and sunlight). When FMNR trees are integrated into crops and grazing pastures there is an increase in crop yields, soil fertility and organic matter, soil moisture and leaf fodder. There is also a decrease in wind and heat damage, and soil erosion.

In the Sahel region of Africa, FMNR has become a tool in increasing food security, resilience and climate change adaptation in poor, subsistence farming communities where much of sub-Saharan Africa's poverty exists. FMNR is also being promoted in East Timor, Indonesia, and Myanmar.FMNR complements the evergreen agriculture, conservation agriculture and agroforestry movements. It is considered a good entry point for resource-poor and risk-averse farmers to adopt a low-cost and low-risk technique. This in turn has acted as a stepping stone to greater agricultural intensification as farmers become more receptive to new ideas.

Index of forestry articles

This article is the index of forestry topics.

Non-timber forest product

Non-timber forest products (NTFPs), also known as non-wood forest products (NWFPs), minor forest produce, special, minor, alternative and secondary forest products, are useful substances, materials and/or commodities obtained from forests which do not require harvesting (logging) trees. They include game animals, fur-bearers, nuts, seeds, berries, mushrooms, oils, foliage, pollarding, medicinal plants, peat, mast, fuelwood, fish, spices, and forage.Research on NTFPs has focused on their ability to be produced as commodities for rural incomes and markets, as an expression of traditional knowledge or as a livelihood option for rural household needs, and as a key component of sustainable forest management and conservation strategies. All research promotes forest products as valuable commodities and tools that can promote the conservation of forests.

Outline of sustainable agriculture

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sustainable agriculture:

Sustainable agriculture – applied science that integrates three main goals, environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. These goals have been defined by a variety of philosophies, policies and practices, from the vision of farmers and consumers. Perspectives and approaches are very diverse, the following topics intend to help understanding what sustainable agriculture is.

Paulownia tomentosa

Paulownia tomentosa (common names princesstree, foxglove-tree, or kiri) is a deciduous tree in the family Paulowniaceae, native to central and western China. It is an extremely fast-growing tree, and is a persistent exotic invasive in North America.

Platanus × acerifolia

Platanus × acerifolia, the London plane, London planetree, or hybrid plane, is a tree in the genus Platanus. It is often known by the synonym Platanus × hispanica. It is usually thought to be a hybrid of Platanus orientalis (oriental plane) and Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore). Some authorities think that it may be a cultivar of P. orientalis.


Pruning is a horticultural and silvicultural practice involving the selective removal of certain parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or redirecting growth), improving or sustaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for transplanting, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits.

The practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants. In general, the smaller the branch that is cut, the easier it is for a woody plant to compartmentalize the wound and thus limit the potential for pathogen intrusion and decay. It is therefore preferable to make any necessary formative structural pruning cuts to young plants, rather than removing large, poorly placed branches from mature plants.

Specialized pruning practices may be applied to certain plants, such as roses, fruit trees, and grapevines. It is important when pruning that the tree’s limbs are kept intact, as this is what helps the tree stay upright. Different pruning techniques may be deployed on herbaceous plants than those used on perennial woody plants. Hedges, by design, are usually (but not exclusively) maintained by hedge trimming, rather than by pruning.

In nature, meteorological conditions such as wind, ice and snow, and salinity can cause plants to self-prune. This natural shedding is called abscission.

Ramification (botany)

In botany, ramification is the divergence of the stem and limbs of a plant into smaller ones, i.e. trunk into branches, branches into increasingly smaller branches, etc. Gardeners stimulate the process of ramification through pruning, thereby making trees, shrubs and other plants bushier and denser.

Short internodes (the section of stem between nodes, i.e. areas where leaves are produced) help increase ramification in those plants that form branches at these nodes. Long internodes (which may be the result of over-watering, the over-use of fertilizer, or a seasonal "growth spurt") decrease a gardener's ability to induce ramification in a plant.

A high degree of ramification is essential for the creation of topiary as it enables the topiary artist to carve a bush or hedge into a shape with an even surface. Ramification is also essential to practitioners of the art of bonsai as it helps recreate the form and habit of a full-size tree in a small tree grown in a container.

The pruning practices of coppicing and pollarding induce ramification by removing most of a tree's mass above the root. Fruit tree pruning increases the yield of orchards by inducing ramification and thereby creating many vigorous, fruitful branches in the place of a few less-fruitful ones.

Shredding (tree-pruning technique)

Shredding is a traditional European method of tree pruning by which all side branches are removed repeatedly leaving the main trunk and top growth. In the Middle Ages the practice was common throughout Europe, but it is now rare, found mainly in central and Eastern Europe.

The purpose of shredding is to allow harvest of firewood and animal fodder while preserving a tall main trunk which may be harvested for timber at a later date.

It was formerly practiced in Britain although Oliver Rackham notes that "The medieval practice of shredding – cropping the side-branches of a tree leaving a tuft at the top – vanished from Britain long ago. Only at Haresfield (Gloucestershire) have I seen a few ancient ashes that may once have been shredded".Another name for cutting side branches off trees, used mainly in Northern England, is snagging.Other similar woodland management techniques include pollarding and coppicing.

Ulmus × hollandica 'Major'

Ulmus × hollandica 'Major' is a distinctive cultivar that in England came to be known specifically as the Dutch Elm, although all naturally occurring Field Elm Ulmus minor × Wych Elm U. glabra hybrids are loosely termed 'Dutch elm' (U. × hollandica). It is also known by the cultivar name 'Hollandica'. Helen Bancroft considered 'Major' either an F2 hybrid or a backcrossing with one of its parents.According to Richens the tree was a native of Picardy and northern France, where it was known from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries as ypereau or ypreau. 'Major' was said to have been introduced to England from the Netherlands in the late seventeenth century as a fashion-elm associated with William and Mary, the name 'Dutch Elm' having been coined by Queen Mary's resident botanist Dr Leonard Plukenet.The epithet 'Major' was first adopted by Smith in Sowerby's English Botany 36: t. 2542, published in 1814, identifying the tree as Ulmus major. Krüssmann formally recognized the tree as the cultivar U. × hollandica 'Major' in 1962.Richens (1983) states that Elwes and Henry in their account of Dutch Elm (1913) "confused Dutch Elm with English". He gives no evidence but can only have been referring to Henry's statement that "in many districts ['Major'] is the commonest tree in hedgerows". Richens was writing seventy years after Henry, after a Dutch elm disease epidemic, two world wars, and decades of urbanisation and road-widening. Henry's statement was not necessarily a case of misidentification – or an exaggeration. Elwes and Henry's account of Dutch Elm remains a pioneering one.

Ecology and

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