Pollarded Dryads, and the Secret to Eternal Youth

How many limbs would you sacrifice for eternal youth? None? not even a few fingers, some little toes? Very wise, this only works with trees, but I bet some out there would be prepared to donate a digit or two…

I am pondering some of our local Westcountry creatures – the ones you don’t usually see. The rhyne mermaids, ditch dragons, hedge trolls – more investigation is needed. However, one collection of creatures that I am sure are out there are the Pollarded Dryads.

Dryads of course are tree spirits. And willows, like all trees, must have their dryads – wild and natural, growing where they will. Except in Somerset they do this to the willows:

sketch: Pollarded willows
sketch: Pollarded willows

These are pollarded willows: keep cutting the branches off and the trees continually shoot up long thin straight woody stems, exactly what you need for willow weaving that was once a huge industry here, and is having a bit of revival. If you draw with charcoal, it’s probably also what you are drawing with. But has anyone ever thought of the poor dryads of these trees, continually having their limbs chopped off and continually sprouting countless more?

Sketch: Pollarded dryads
Sketch: Pollarded dryads

Now here is the interesting bit: it is a curious fact that if you constantly cut off the branches of a tree, the growth that comes back is young, vigorous growth like that of a young sapling. For ever. Yes the tree could become diseased and die, but it will never become old. A coppiced tree (like pollarding, but cut at ground level) can live for hundreds of years, with continually youthful growth. Now, is that worth giving up a limb or two?

Sketch: Pollarded dryad admires her reflection
Sketch: Pollarded dryad admires her reflection



  1. Mgon ā™„

    Interesting… and educational!
    That last drawing is quite fun. The little fists! šŸ˜€

    1. Thanks, and yes, those little fists I only just thought of as I was doing it – needs more detail. Am trying to work out if I can carry off the concept in a way that is still an attractive painting that someone would want to own!

  2. Wow fascinating and the drawings are fabulous. What a strange thing to think about šŸ˜€

    1. Thanks Rosie. Yes, comes of being a gardener and a nerd, as well as an artist šŸ˜€

  3. […] « Previous / Next » By Nancy Farmer / January 29, 2015 / A Westcountry Bestiary, Drawing, Mermaids / Leave a comment […]

  4. […] Al the same, I am quite confused about whether I should have stopped. Perhaps I will paint a second one, quite differently. The length of time it took me to work out the figure and her reflection merits a re-use alone! For the story of this creature – a many-armed tree dryad – look at my post on Pollarded Dryads and the Secret of Eternal Youth. […]

Tell me what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s