Pollarded Trees
Image by Teresa Golden

On Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley, Episode 101: Pollarding

Episode 101: Pollarding

William Bryant Logan re-joins the Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley podcast in a fascinating discussion about pollarding, a pruning practice. Bill is the author of Sprout Lands, Oak, Air, and Dirt, the last of which was made into an award-winning documentary. He is also on the faculty of the New York Botanical Garden. He has spent the last three decades working in trees. He is a certified arborist, and founder and president of Urban Arborists, Inc. 

In earlier times, regions could not prosper without its inhabitants knowing how to cut their trees so they would sprout again. Pruning the trees didn’t destroy them. Rather it created healthier, more sustainable and diverse woodlands.

Pollarding is a pruning system involving the removal of the upper branches of a tree, which promotes the growth of a dense head of foliage and branches. The practice was a common practice in Europe since medieval times, and takes place today in urban areas worldwide, primarily to maintain trees at a determined height or to place new shoots out of the reach of grazing animals.

Traditionally, people pollarded trees 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 fencing and boat construction. Nowadays, the practice is typically used for ornamental trees.

Pollarding tends to help 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. Older pollards often become hollow, so it can be difficult to determine age accurately. Pollards tend to grow slowly, with denser growth-rings in the years immediately after cutting.

Learn more about this practice in New York State on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas

Guest: Bill Logan

Photo by: Teresa Golden

Production Support: Linda Aydlett, Deven Connelly, Teresa Golden, Xandra Powers, and Annie Scibienski


(books authored by Bill Logan):

  • Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
  • Oak: The Frame of Civilization
  • Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees
  • Air: The Restless Shaper of the World
  • The Tool Book


Xandra Powers
Community Horticulture Coordinator
518-828-3346 x106

Last updated January 3, 2024