Farewell to Poplar Drive
We’re excited to share that much of the wood from the Eastern Cottonwoods of Poplar Drive will find a new purpose! After Treeworks of Vermont removes and chips the tops of the trees, Vermont Tree Goods will harvest the large trunks and trailer them to their lumberyard in Bristol, Vermont. Tree Goods handcrafts natural-edged wood furniture. This winter, they will saw the logs into thick, wide boards (slabs) and round cross-sections of the trunks (cookies), then make tables from this wood. Several of these tables will be used here at the Farm, as a way to honor and remember these trees and the natural cycle of life that we are all a part of. If you’d like your own table made from this wood, please contact Vermont Tree Goods. A local Shelburne artisan will also be turning a few chunks into bowls.
We’ve been moved by the outpouring of love for these old trees, and the memories they hold for you. For many, Shelburne Farms is a kind of home, a native landscape that people return to regularly year after year as their families grow. We love being a place where you can, in fact, watch a tree grow up and experience its life cycle. It’s a unique role that protected farm and forests like ours can play in people’s lives. We are honored to hold this place in trust for all of you who enjoy its fields, forests, pastures, and programs.
The work on Poplar Drive is scheduled to begin later in November.
The enormous cottonwood trees along what is known as “Poplar Drive,” are aging, weak, and, increasingly, unsafe. This October, after the property closes for the season, the Farm is going to take them down.
Native Eastern Cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) are one of the largest North American hardwood trees, and one of the fastest growing. Because of these qualities, they’re commonly planted as shade trees in new recreational areas. Their wood, however, is largely useless – it’s too light, soft, and weak for most lumber applications. Eastern cottonwoods typically live 70 to 100 years.
Therein lies the problem. These Farm trees are beyond their normal lifespan. Many are already dead, and the remainder are in rapid decline. Because of their weak wood and enormous height, any dead branches can fall at any time. The trees have been pruned over the last decade to prolong the life of the allée, but it is now too far gone.
So we are taking action, knowing that the removal of the trees will be a big change for all of us who love the Farm.
The trees will be cut down soon, and new trees – the same genus and species – will be planted in their place, according to our Landscape Stewardship Plan. Over time, the shade canopy will be restored.
Curiously, for such a prominent feature of the Farm’s landscape, these trees are of mysterious origin. Patricia O’Donnell of Heritage Landscapes, who developed the Farm’s Landscape Plan, believes that given their size, these trees may predate the estate of Shelburne Farms (begun in 1886). She thinks they may have lined the entry drive to an earlier farm. On archival topographical and property maps of the area, however, the trees don’t show up. And while there may be a record of them in our Archives, recent digging has yet to turn any up.
As we prepare to take down these trees, we honor their life and beauty, with a brief pictorial history of them on the Farm.