Saturday, November 23, 2013

Whomping Willow

The Whomping Willow in Harry Potter was an example of "pollard" tree management.  Pollard willow trees were also a favorite subject of Vincent Van Gogh.

Road with Pollard Willows and Man with Broom, 1881

Not just ornamental

I am moving in that direction with some of the specimens on my property.  Advantages are:
-I can produce large numbers of  poles and sticks with diameters between 0.25" and 1.25".  A gardener can never have enough sticks and poles.  This is also the optimum size for feeding rocket stoves.
-I can harvest them with loppers and hand snippers.  Fast, quiet and efficient.
-I can harvest them without bending over or climbing a ladder.  I am not getting any younger.
-Willow, one of the most amenable group of species for this management technique, produces excellent pyrotechnic charcoal.
-Willow are the premier genus to use as riparian buffers.  Riparian buffer trap nutrients (sequester them, to use the jargon) that would otherwise degrade rivers and other surface water.
-Mature pollard trees are pivotal for biodiversity.  Pollard produces many more crevices, pockets, hollows and other structure that can capture organic material and shelter plant and bugs and provide nesting sites.
-A pollard tree retains juvenility and even short-lived species can live hundreds of years.

I was about half done trimming this pollard willow when I saw something that made this blog worthy.
This particular willow tree was acquired as a cutting from a tree in Burchfield Park growing beside Peppermint Creek in Ingham county.  It is nothing special.  It was planted in the ditch that drains the south two-thirds of my property.  My thinking is that if I spend a penny on fertilizer I don't want it to leave my property uncontested.  This tree is near the the southwest corner of my property, so the leave from this tree blow back onto my property, given our prevailing winds.
Can you see it now?

How about now?

This is about 95% done.  I will use a little hand nipper to trim up the little whiskers.
Saw included in picture to provide scale.  All branches removed with loppers.

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