I made a meme using Adobe Firefly in Photoshop to express how I’ve been feeling lately:

I tried to get it to do a willow, but it didn’t quite nail the form. Though it’s not so far off either. Good enough for government work.

Everywhere I go, I’m looking through hedgespace-colored glasses, my brain somehow just on auto-pilot seeking out especially trees that were recently – or not so recently – cut, and which have started to grow back. Few people here are coppicing intentionally, that I have been able to find. But there is some pollarding of hedges, and some general pruning. Plus all the red dogwoods, my brain/eye is drawn right to those. So I took the liberty of taking a bunch of cuttings and am trying to boost them up on the property and nearby.

I’ve been thinking a lot too about this line from Obi Wan Kenobi in whichever Star Wars movie it is where they rescue Captain Kirk. This one:

Kenobi says to Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Different people seem to have different takes on what this means, most people hand-waving it out to something something force ghosts. None of those explanations feel as right to me as the one I’ve come up with that links it to coppicing

For the purposes of illustration, I’ll just grab one of the Wikipedia images here of a coppiced stool re-sprouting a year after coppicing:

Coppicing (and pollarding) really does feel like magic. It just grows back. Like, wtf? And I’ve been left wondering also, while we’re talking about Obi Wan, is this also what happened to Gandalf? Like when he went from Grey to White in the pit in the Mines of Moria fighting the Balrog? He too got coppiced, cut down to the base, returning to the Life Force underneath, and re-sprouting in a multiplied form…

I’m no expert but I’ve read that there is at least one tree which has been coppiced continually in Great Britain for 1,000 years. Coppicing can in some cases greatly extend the life of compatible trees. This and about a billion other reasons make this practice extremely interesting to me right now.

Consider also the related case of clonal colonies, such as the Pando tree:

A clonal colony or genet is a group of genetically identical individuals, such as plants, fungi, or bacteria, that have grown in a given location, all originating vegetatively, not sexually, from a single ancestor. In plants, an individual in such a population is referred to as a ramet. In fungi, “individuals” typically refers to the visible fruiting bodies or mushrooms that develop from a common mycelium which, although spread over a large area, is otherwise hidden in the soil. Clonal colonies are common in many plant species. […] Above ground, these plants most often appear to be distinct individuals, but underground they remain interconnected and are all clones of the same plant.

And, re: Pando, the super-tree:

A male clonal organism, Pando has an estimated 47,000 stems (ramets) that appear as individual trees, but are connected by a root system that spans 106 acres. Pando is the largest tree by weight and landmass and, is the largest known aspen clone. Pando was identified as a single living organism because each of its stems possesses identical genetic markers.[2] The massive interconnected root system coordinates energy production, defense and regeneration across its expanse.

See also: suckers, for another related phenomenon.

What’s so amazing to me about all this beyond all the ecological stuff is the green woodworking side, where you can participate in not only the life cycle of the plant (and perpetuate it through propagating and coppicing), but you also get to play with usable harvests that become functional objects through transformations you apply to them. And it becomes something like what they call an ‘industry’ in archaeology, but with wood materials, processes, products, instead of stone.

I’m also really curious about arborsculpture, which I learned about last night. This is one of the best article/interviews I found on that topic of employing tree’s natural grafting capacities to basically “grow” furniture. Amazing. Here’s the wiki page for tree shaping, which has some great starter photos. A couple videos below shed some more light on this topic: