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Raven Nature Trail near Woodruff

The last week of July I took my family to the 1.5 mile long Raven Nature Trail loop, which is on the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest just south of Woodruff, Wisconsin. It was a gorgeous day, and I had an urge to dust off the TruPulse 200 while enjoying the fine weather. A quick internet search for trails near where we were staying soon noted the Raven Nature Trail, with tall pine and hemlock mentioned. A short drive to this trail, and we weren't disappointed!


This stand of timber is typical of the more mesic morainal forests of this area, with northern hardwoods common in the hills, eastern hemlocks dominating the waterfront and swamp fringe areas, black spruce-tamarack pocket wetlands, and eastern white pine and red pine towering over all others. The hardwood forests also had a considerable fraction of northern red oak, suggesting a fire-disturbed past. Most of this stand was mature timber, with the hardwoods seeming to be about 80-100 years old. The pine were likely older than that, probably 100-150 years old, and many of the older hemlock probably exceeded 200 years. The white and red pine were probably remnants of individuals to young/small to harvest in the big cuts of the late 1800s, thus they are somewhat larger than many other mature pine stands in the area.


Most of the pine are near the trailhead and paved parking lot, but decent individuals can be found all along the 1.5 mile long trail. I did not measure many trees other than white pine, but decently tall (for northern Wisconsin) eastern hemlock, northern red oak, and sugar maple can be found.

Species....................DBH (in.).........CBH (ft.)........Height (ft.)
Eastern white pine.......28.5...............7.5..............101.0
Eastern white pine.......31.6...............8.3..............113.0
Eastern white pine.......22.1...............5.8..............121.0
Eastern white pine.......34.8...............9.1..............120.0
Eastern white pine.......38.1..............10.0..............124.0
Sugar maple..............21.3................5.6...............80.0
Eastern hemlock.........27.3................7.1...............91.0
Eastern hemlock.........19.8................5.2...............89.0
Eastern white pine.......32.6...............8.5...............98.0--hilltop
Eastern white pine.......36.3...............9.5..............112.0--hilltop
Northern red oak.........21.3...............5.6...............75.0--hilltop
Red pine...................18.8...............4.9...............88.0
Eastern white pine....... 29.2...............7.6.............116.5
Red pine...................18.6...............4.9............. 107.5
Eastern white pine........29.6...............7.7..............120+

This is a target rich environment for eastern white pine! Unfortunately, with my 3 young kids on the trail as well I couldn't linger long. If I get a chance, I'll try to go back during a winter visit, as hardwood leaf-off should also help find the big pines. The biggest of the eastern white pines at this site are probably 35 to 40 inches DBH, with heights between 120 and 130 ft. It may be possible to find some taller individuals in the moister, richer kettles and other protected valleys in this moraine (similar to what you can find at Cathedral Pines in the Nicolet National Forest). Given the relative youth of these trees, plus some signs of storm damage (many tops without distinct leaders), I'm not expecting to see 150 footers here--at least not yet.

Here's some more photographs taken along this trail:




Note the tight inner rings on this hemlock prior to its release...

by DonCBragg
Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:09 pm
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Sine method paper just released as a USFS research note

Sine method paper just released as a USFS research note


Please follow this link to find our paper, just published, on the sine method:

As a US Forest Service publication, it is part of the public domain, and hence can be posted or distributed as needed. I'm pretty happy with how this little paper turned out, although I still think it would have been best served as part of the original manuscript in a scientific journal somewhere. Anyhow, this really is only about half the original paper--the other half of the material I intend to transform into a different submission, probably to the Journal of Forestry, emphasizing the implications of the accuracy/reliability of the different techniques. I'm not sure when I'll be able to have a draft version of this new paper ready to route to y'all--perhaps by later this spring, if Bob doesn't keep me too busy…

Don C. Bragg, Ph.D.
Research Forester
USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station


by DonCBragg
Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:17 pm
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Fallen national champion shortleaf pine

It is with some sadness that I must report the national champion shortleaf pine from Ashley County, Arkansas, has been broken off in a recent windstorm at about 40 feet in a recent windstorm. It has one very small live branch remaining green, but I do not expect this tree to survive long in this condition. I have attached a few pictures of this fallen giant--it is clear from the final photo that the combination of redheart (a fungal disease of the heartwood) and a strong wind were too much for this champion. The same windstorm felled a number of other large loblolly and shortleaf pine in the Levi Wilcoxon Demonstration Forest, a small remnant old-growth pine stand.




I believe the landowner is looking to salvage the wood from this and the other trees that fell over, but seems willing to work with my research unit to get the scientific value we can from these trees. So, I'll try to get a number of wood samples and make sure to get ring counts. If they cannot find some mill to buy these very large logs (a distinct possibility), I'm going to encourage them to make them into a display or donate them as a display for a local museum (or just see if they won't leave them on site as coarse woody debris).

I will probably start searching this stand later this fall to see if I can't find a new champion shortleaf!
by DonCBragg
Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:49 am
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Re: Volunteers needed for big tree certification

I'd be willing to help...My first task, though, will be looking for a new national champion shortleaf pine!!
by DonCBragg
Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:11 pm
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Re: Delta National Forest Part I Sweetgum Natural Research A

Joe--sorry for not replying sooner...been real busy last couple of weeks...

The truth is that in a lot of places rutting is considered part of the business, even in the uplands. Many of the areas that will be planted to pine (mostly the uplands) will be ripped & bedded, so some rutting will be addressed then...I think many rutted sites in the bottomlands will flatten out with the high moisture that these sites get, but that is not universal--I've seen areas with ruts that are decades old. When many of these sites get wet, some operations use what are called "flotation" tires on their equipment, which are basically twice as wide as conventional equipment. Others will just stay out of the sites until they dry up enough to hold the equipment with a minimum of rutting...
by DonCBragg
Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:03 pm
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Some international scientific recognition for the NTS

While searching a journal recently for some unrelated research articles, I came across the following studies that had been recently published that may be of interest to NTS:

Larjavaara, M. 2014. The world's tallest trees grow in thermally similar climates. New Phytologist 202:344–349. doi: 10.1111/nph.12656

Tng, D.Y.P., Williamson, G.J., Jordan, G.J. and Bowman, D.M.J.S. 2012. Giant eucalypts – globally unique fire-adapted rain-forest trees? New Phytologist 196:1001–1014. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04359.x

(I'm not sure if these are open access or behind the journal's paywall; I found these at work, and we have a government subscription, so I can access them regardless).

While I have some issues with some of the materials presented, that is not why I embarked on writing this post. If you dig deep enough into the supplemental materials, you can find where some of their data comes from...In addition to a few of the more conventional big tree websites, key NTS members are mentioned specifically for their work: Roman Dial and Robert Van Pelt. In addition to these specific mentions, a number of their citations come from the NTS website.

I also followed the link for Australia's big tree website, which pretty much lists the same tree measuring instructions as American Forests (, but they do have at the very bottom of this page a link to a "memorandum" from the Native Tree Society on "measurement issues"--it is Will Blozan's 2004 ENTS tree measuring guidelines PDF! Other tall tree information came from Forestry Tasmania's work with their tall eucalypts--they've been searching for tall trees via a combination of on-the-ground spotting and LiDAR surveys; I couldn't find details for sure, but I believe they use the sine method as their laser measurement tool (see this link for the reference:

So, even if we're not seeing much progress with some of the mainstream forest and forestry groups, more and more people are recognizing the value of proper tree measurement! This really goes to show that the NTS mission of collecting accurate tree dimensional data has great utility, and is a mission we must continue with...
by DonCBragg
Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:11 pm
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Revisit the champion pumpkin ash at Big Oak Tree State Park

Big Oak Tree State Park (BOTSP) is located in the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain near the community of East Prairie, Missouri. This state park, which now covers nearly 1,029 acres, was established in 1938 to protect a remnant 80-acre stand of old bottomland hardwood timber, including the iconic “big oak” for which the park was named (this tree died in 1952) (MDNR 2015). BOTSP has been long known for producing champion trees—the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) touts this aspect in its interpretation materials and website.

2015_BOTSP_01.JPG I had visited BOTSP several times in the past and formally reported on this site in 2005 (Bragg 2005). I was certainly impressed with this stand of timber, and measured a number of the identified champion trees. Not surprisingly, I noted a number of departures between the sine heights I was taking, and the ones reported on BOTSP interpretative signs and in their literature. Prominently, the current American Forests national champion pumpkin ash ( Fraxinus profunda ) is listed at 188 inches in circumference with a crown spread of 77 feet and a height of 150 feet. In my initial report, I expressed doubt about the height, which at that time I had measured with my Impulse to 102.8 feet (the crown spread and circumference seemed pretty good). With the leaves on and the rather cumbersome Impulse, I was not able to get many different perspectives on this champion pumpkin ash (the sign along the elevated boardwalk trail, by the way, gives this tree’s height as 133 feet). Bob Leverett visited BOTSP the next March, and reported a slightly taller 110.7 feet for this pumpkin ash (Leverett 2006).

Recently, American Forests has enlisted Native Tree Society members to help improve the quality of their big tree measurements through the National Cadre program. One of the roles of those of us in the National Cadre is to help validate current champions, especially those with potentially dubious height measurements. Because I live in the general area, and travel past BOTSP periodically, I volunteered to revisit this national champion pumpkin ash to provide a definite set of size measurements for the national register of champion trees. On June 15, 2015, I had my opportunity, and spent a couple hours at BOTSP to remeasure the champion pumpkin ash and check on several other large trees along the trails of this park.

Unfortunately, over the last decade there have been several major ice and wind storms that have passed through the area and heavily damaged timber at BOTSP. It has been some years since I had visited the park, and when I returned I was saddened to see that the huge cow oak ( Quercus michauxii ) and one of the bigger bur oaks ( Quercus macrocarpa ) were now dead. The stand was much more open than I remembered it; the tell-tale effects of severe ice damage loss and some windthrow were apparent (also suggested by the bumper crops of poison ivy now crowding the forest floor!).

2015_BOTSP_02.JPG The pumpkin ash has survived, and seems to have fared well, although I’m sure it had received some damage from the ice storms. The thick foliage and dense poison ivy in places hampered my viewing, but I was able to see the top of this forked tree from numerous angles, and I’m pretty confident I did not miss any particularly tall leaders. From my multiple vantage points, I only managed to get a high point of 104.5 feet—slightly higher than the 102.8 feet I found in 2005, but less than the 110.7 feet Bob Leverett reported in 2006. Without knowing exactly what high point Bob found, and with uncertainty as to how this tree has been affected by the repeated ice storms of the last decade, I will forward to American Forests my 104.5-foot height, as well as the 74-foot average crown spread, and 198-inch circumference I measured. I’m pretty comfortable with both the total height and crown spread measurements; the circumference was challenging to measure due to multiple large poison ivy vines along the bole. This tree is a forked specimen, splitting at about 15 feet above the ground, but I did not see any strong evidence that this is two trees that grew (fused) together over the years—my guess is that there is only one pith at ground line and DBH.



I did not have enough time to measure any of the other known champion trees at BOTSP, but I suspect that a number of the listed heights are also problematic. In addition to the repeated damage this stand has experienced from ice and wind in recent years, the emerald ash borer ( Agrilus planipennis ) has been found in nearby counties in Missouri and Illinois, and this insect pest is spreading through parts of southern Arkansas now, strongly suggesting that it is only a matter of time before this exotic invasive species plagues the pumpkin oaks of BOTSP.

Literature cited

Bragg, D.C. 2005. Big Oak Tree State Park, MO report. Available online at:; last accessed 18 July 2015.

Leverett, R. 2006. Defiance Park, IL and Big Oak Tree SP, Missouri. Available online at:; last accessed 18 July 2015.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). 2015. General information at Big Oak Tree State Park. Available online at:; last accessed 17 July 2015.
by DonCBragg
Sat Jul 18, 2015 9:27 am
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3-Point Derivation of Dominant Tree Height Equations

A 3-Point Derivation of Dominant Tree Height Equations
by Don C. Bragg, In: Fei, Songlin; Lhotka, John M.; Stringer, Jeffrey W.; Gottschalk, Kurt W.; Miller, Gary W., eds. 2011. Proceedings, 17th Central Hardwood Forest Conference; 2010 April 5-7; Lexington, KY; Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-78. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 678 p. CD-ROM. pp. 41-50.


Abstract.—Th is paper describes a new approach for deriving height-diameter (H-D) equations from limited information and a few assumptions about tree height. Only three data points are required to fi t this model, which can be based on virtually any nonlinear function. These points are the height of a tree at diameter at breast height (d.b.h.), the predicted height of a 10-inch d.b.h. tree from an existing H-D model, and the height at species maximum d.b.h., estimated from a linear regression of big trees. Dominant sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L.) from the Arkansas region and yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) from across the southeastern United States were used to estimate height at species maximum d.b.h. A composite of these field-measured heights and site index trees from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) database were used to compare the 3-point equations (fi t to the Chapman-Richards model) with the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) default H-D models. Because of the limited range of diameters in the FIA site trees, the Chapman-Richards equations developed from site trees underpredicted large tree heights for both species. For the sweetgum, the 3-point equation was virtually identical to the FVS default model. However, the 3-point equation noticeably improved dominant height predictions for yellow-poplar.

Available for download as part of the Native Tree Society Special Publication Series: NTS SP #21

by DonCBragg
Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:54 pm
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Re: Publishing The Bulletin of ENTS:Change of Guard

It has been my privilege to serve in this capacity, and I look forward to continuing to help into the future with the Bulletin. I am very willing to help with the transition in any way I can--now all we need is someone to step up to the plate!

Don Bragg
by DonCBragg
Wed Dec 30, 2015 8:12 am
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Bulletin of the ENTS, Volume 10, Issue 1, for 2015



Next Up!?.............................................................................................................................1
Don C. Bragg, Research Forester, USDA Forest Service

New Opportunities for Serious Tree Measurers-The National Cadre.......................................................2
American Forests Champion Trees Measuring Guidelines Handbook.......................................................2

How to Use a Monocular With a Reticle to Measure Trunk Diameter, Limb Segments,
and Trunk Frustrum Volume.....................................................................................................3
Robert T. Leverett (Native Tree Society) and Michael Taylor (Western Native Tree Society)

How Many Big Tree Lists? .......................................................................................................14
Robert T. Leverett, Native Tree Society

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CONTRIBUTORS............................................................................................15
by DonCBragg
Wed Dec 30, 2015 8:02 am
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Tomahawk Lake Hemlocks State Natural Area

Tomahawk Lake Hemlocks State Natural Area (TLHSNA) is one of 673 (as of 2016) areas formally protected by the State of Wisconsin to preserve the disappearing remnants of natural communities. TLHSNA ( covers 244 acres in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest just south of Lake Tomahawk in Oneida County, Wisconsin.
_TLHSNA_01.jpg Typical stand views of Tomahawk Lake Hemlocks State Natural Area in Oneida County, Wisconsin.

This parcel primarily protects a series of moraines and small kettles along the shores of a number of lakes, and is primarily a stand of old-growth eastern hemlock, with lesser amounts of sugar maple, yellow birch, and scattered supercanopy eastern white pine; some sections are dominated by second-growth northern red oak, bigtooth aspen, and sugar maple. Much of the stand has a dense hemlock understory; white-tailed deer browsing of the hemlock seems limited enough to permit natural hemlock regeneration across much of the stand.
_TLHSNA_03.jpg Little Carr Lake, taken from TLHSNA

Parts of the old-growth hemlock were selectively cut in decades past, before the stand received protection, but many large hemlock, eastern white pine, and hardwoods remain. Large quantities of downed dead wood can also be found across the stand, further accentuating the old-growth nature of the property; I would estimate that the old hemlock, pine, and hardwoods in this stand are probably 150-200 years old. Most of northern Wisconsin was heavily lumbered in the late 1800s; this probably meant that this stand was mature timber at the time of the “big cut”, but probably not sufficiently high in volume for lumberjacks to be very interested in the stand (although it is quite possible that selected virgin pines and other trees may have been removed).
_TLHSNA_04.jpg Large hemlock stump from earlier selective cutting in TLHSNA.
_TLHSNA_05.jpg Summer coralroot (thanks Ed and Erik for helping me get this species right!).

Today, the stand is bisected by several paved roads, making access very easy (although diminishing the “wilderness” experience of the stand). The nearby lakes are well-developed with homes and cottages; the McNaughton Correctional Facility also borders part of the property (and probably makes it challenging to visit some of the stand without raising the concern of the guards).
_TLHSNA_06.jpg Large, broken hemlock near large eastern white pine.
_TLHSNA_07.jpg Eastern white pine supercanopy.

I visited this stand on June 28, 2016, with my trusty D-tape and TruPulse in hand. The dense hemlock under- and midstory made getting accurate heights tricky; the measurements below represent only a brief survey of a handful of locations in this stand. I believe most of the sine heights I present are underestimates of both the individual trees measured, as well as the species potentials in the TLHSNA.

Species DBH (inches) Height (feet)
Eastern hemlock 26.9 87.5
Eastern white pine 37.8 125.0
Yellow birch 25.7 ~60 (broken top)
Yellow birch 23.3 ~67 (broken top)
Eastern hemlock 27.4 92.5
Eastern hemlock 31.4 88.0
Sugar maple 20.8 81.0
Eastern hemlock 29.9 81.0
Northern red oak 25.7 85.0
Eastern hemlock 35.7 91.5
Northern red oak 24.7 79 (dead top)
Northern red oak 29.9 75.0
Eastern white pine 31.7 113.0
Bigtooth aspen 19.8 89.5
Northern red oak 18.4 100.0
Northern red oak 27.3 88.5
Eastern hemlock 32.5 80 (low estimate)
Eastern white pine 37.7 110 (low estimate)
Eastern hemlock 30.6 88.0
Eastern white pine 42.2 110 (low estimate)

The eastern white pines are the tallest and girthiest trees on this site, although many of the eastern hemlocks are also pretty wide, too. Most of the conifers on this site still show apical dominance and characteristics of good height growth, suggesting that they are not yet done with height increment. Across much of northern Wisconsin, stands with similar sites and levels of maturity are comparable in height for all species considered; eastern white pine heights of 110 to 130 feet are fairly common, with hemlock and other prominent hardwoods usually between 80 and 100 feet. Frequent wind events and ice/snow breakage during the winter help to constrain heights.
_TLHSNA_08.jpg 42.2 inch DBH eastern white pine.

TLHSNA is a good site for northern Wisconsin, and this preliminary survey justifies future visits to improve upon the size measurements (perhaps next during the winter, to help with visibility).
by DonCBragg
Tue Jun 28, 2016 4:50 pm
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Two Lakes Oak-Pine Forest State Natural Area

Two Lakes Oak-Pine Forest State Natural Area (TWOSNA) is one of 673 (as of 2016) areas formally protected by the State of Wisconsin to preserve the disappearing remnants of natural communities. TWOSNA ( covers 112 acres in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest just south of Lake Tomahawk in Oneida County, Wisconsin, just down the road from Tomahawk Lake Hemlocks State Natural Area. This parcel primarily protects a series of moraines and small kettles along the shores of Big Carr Lake.

_TWOSNA_01.jpg Red pine dominated parts of TWOSNA in Oneida County, Wisconsin.

This stand is less productive than some northern hardwood dominated locations, with stony, sandy soils along the lake frontage and deeper, more mesic ground moraines (still very stony) further from the lake. This stand of pine-dominated timber is mature second-growth, and probably originated following lumbering (and possibly slash burning after lumbering). The supercanopy of red pine (predominantly) and eastern white pine is common along the lakeshores of northern Wisconsin, but somewhat less common further inland. It is likely that the pines seeded in following lumbering and fire, probably from remnant trees along the shore of Big Carr Lake. Sugar maple and northern red oak are the most common hardwoods. Barring major disturbances, this stand is likely to transition to a northern hardwood stand dominated by sugar maple, although a fair amount of eastern white pine has managed to seed under the current overstory. The shallow, rocky soils (with large boulders) make the stand susceptible to windthrow.

_TWOSNA_04.jpg Some of the very recent windthrow I found during my June 2016 visit to TWOSNA.

Indeed, a severe thunderstorm just days before my June 28, 2016, visit felled a number of overstory trees of all species across parts of this stand. Tip-up mounds are common across the stand, providing further evidence of the main gap-forming process in this stand.

I visited this stand on June 28, with a D-tape and TruPulse. The first part of the stand I passed through was definitely of lower site quality, with red pines dominated a fairly low overstory. I measured a single tamarack along one of the nearby wetlands; this species and black spruce dominate these wet areas. As I pushed further east along the lakeshore, the site quality improved (to a low-end Acer-Tsuga-Dryopteris habitat type), and the overall canopy height increased appreciably. In this better site, red pine was still the most dominant pine of the supercanopy, but a fair amount of larger eastern white pine were also present.

Species DBH (inches) Height (feet)
Red pine 24.0 85.5
Red pine 21.9 79.0
Red pine 20.2 79.0
Tamarack 10.9 65.0
Red pine 25.7 85.0
Red pine 25.0 89.0
Red pine 23.5 94.0
Red pine 24.1 102.5
Eastern white pine 30.5 107.0
Eastern white pine 31.2 111.5
Red pine 20.9 105.0
Eastern white pine 27.5 99.5
Red pine 24.9 99.5
Eastern white pine 34.1 110.0
Red pine 25.2 100.0
Eastern white pine 27.8 101.0

The eastern white pines are the tallest and girthiest trees on this site. Red pine is also doing well, with current maximum heights of between 100 and 110 feet. Both pine species seem to have good apical dominance, suggesting they are not yet done with height growth. The frequency of damaging wind may help limit maximum tree height at this site, particularly close to the lakeshore. I did not measure any hardwoods here; northern red oaks and sugar maples probably grew to 80+ feet.

Given the abundance of the hardwood canopy, it would be easier measuring TWOSNA in the late fall or winter, when the leaves have fallen. This site would be worth revisiting to gather more information about the height performance of red pine on these sites.
by DonCBragg
Tue Jun 28, 2016 5:39 pm
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Timberlane Road, Northern Highland-American Legion SF

The Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest (NHALSF) covers over 232,000 acres in northern Wisconsin. Established in 1925 and primarily assembled from tax-delinquent and unwanted (usually cutover and/or burned; sometimes briefly farmed) lands, the NHALSF is now a recreational paradise, with dense, primarily second-growth forests surrounding many lakes, streams, and other wetland habitats. Some timber production is continued on these state lands, including some pine plantations, but most silviculture now focuses on naturally regenerating stands. Natural regeneration of eastern white pine and red pine is a particular priority, with a number of harvests done to encourage these pines. On Friday, July 1, I traveled to a stand of recently treated white and red pine just south of Woodruff in Oneida County, Wisconsin, along Timberlane Road (within a mile of state highway 47).

_NHALSF_01.jpg Part of this eastern white and red pine stand along Wisconsin State Highway 47 near the junction with Timberlane Road near Woodruff.

The majestic white and red pine in this stand, most of which are probably 100+ years old, tower above the shorter northern red oak, sugar maple, and other hardwoods found in this area. This area is ground moraine, with good site quality (probably a decent Acer-Tsuga-Dryopteris habitat type). This stand, which likely covers scores of acres, was recently harvested to clean up some windstorm damage and to improve conditions for natural pine regeneration (a dense hardwood under- and midstory had long since limited pine regeneration). This made taking heights and diameters much easier than many stands. Unfortunately, a pressing dinner engagement meant that I only had a limited time to measure tree heights, for which I focused on the pines.

_NHALSF_02.jpg Eastern white pine dominate this recently thinned stand.

Species DBH (inches) Height (feet)
Eastern white pine 35.0 112.5
Red pine 25.9 95.0
Red pine 23.3 100.0
Eastern white pine 28.2 109.0
Eastern white pine 33.7 111.0
Eastern white pine 30.9 100.0
Eastern white pine 27.1 98.0
Eastern white pine 18.9 108.0
Eastern white pine 28.2 107.0
Eastern white pine 36.6 103.5
Red pine 23.3 99.5
Eastern white pine 36.2 105.0
Eastern white pine 31.5 120.0
Eastern white pine 27.8 111.5

As with other stands I’ve measured on this trip, the eastern white pines are the tallest and girthiest trees on this site. Red pine also does well, with current maximum heights of between 100 and 110 feet. Both pine species seem to have good apical dominance, suggesting they are not yet done with height growth. Given how these trees tower over the rest of the forest in this area, I was somewhat surprised to find so few that were greater than 110 feet tall. This area is periodically struck by damaging wind events, so that probably helps to limit height (somewhat). These trees aren’t “topped out”, so I expect them to continue getting taller. Indeed, finding the 120 feet white pine suggests to me that there are almost certainly others in this stand that are also at least 120 feet tall; some may even reach or slightly exceed 130 feet at this stage. I suspect that, given enough time and few crown-damaging events, these eastern white pines may exceed 150 feet, as seen in other old-growth pine stands in northern Wisconsin. Red pine will probably not get this tall, but may exceed 120 feet (given time). I will definitely look to revisit this area in the future!

_NHALSF_04.jpg Though not as dominant as the eastern white pine, red pine can be locally common.
by DonCBragg
Sat Jul 02, 2016 8:02 pm
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Silver Lake Trail, Pickney State Recreation Area

Even with the struggles of the auto industry, much of southeastern Michigan has grown rapidly over the last few decades, especially the countryside outside of the major urban areas. In the nearly quarter-century I’ve been dating or married to my wife, we’ve watching the rural landscapes near Ann Arbor (where she grew up) change from a mixture of row crops, pasture, and woodlots to subdivisions, strip malls, and other commercial/industrial developments. Fortunately, this area has done some urban planning, including the public acquisitions of many thousands of acres of woodlands. The Pickney State Recreation Area (PSRA) is one of those areas. Located about 10-15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, PSRA covers about 11,000 acres of rolling terrain along some of the moraines of southern Michigan. The State of Michigan began acquiring the lands that became PSRA in the 1940s, and have continued to acquire properties to the current day. The hilly land, heavy forest cover, and small lakes make this area a very popular recreation area.

With a half-day available before a family 4th of July event at my in-laws, I figured I’d take advantage of some free time to scout for some trees along the Silver Lake Trail of PSRA. The 2-mile trail I hiked passed through second-growth timber growing on the low hills near Silver Lake. This trail system is very popular with hikers and mountain bike riders, making for some occasionally hazardous measuring conditions. The fairly dense, hardwood-dominated overstory limited visibility of the tops of most trees, so most of the measurements I took in this reconnaissance were from directly below the crowns, and should be viewed as low-end (under-) estimates of actual tree heights.

_PSRA_01.jpg Many of the larger northern red and black oaks showed signs of growing in much more open conditions years ago, suggestive of the pastoral landscapes that once dominated this area.

The timber in this part of PSRA is mostly under a century old, with scattered older trees (e.g., white oaks) that probably exceed 150 years. The lands Michigan acquired for PSRA were largely farmed, pastured, and otherwise cleared in the 19th and early 20th century, and the sites are not particularly productive, nor are they low-end outwash plains. Pines (eastern white, red, and Scot’s) were planted in many areas, some by private landowners in the early to mid- 20th Century, others by the State of Michigan after land acquisition. Some of the hardwoods were probably planted, too, to help reforest the former ag lands.

_PSRA_02.jpg Remains of an 1850s vintage farmstead acquired by the State of Michigan in the late 1940s.

Today’s forests are an eclectic (if common) mixture of native hardwoods (many early successional ones), planted conifers (and some natives, including eastern redcedar on the hills and tamarack along the small lakes), and a few exotic trees (many understory exotic species as well).

Species DBH (inches) Height (feet)
northern red oak 30.4 90 +
pignut hickory 22.3 91 +
eastern white pine 28.6 91 +
Scots pine 19.1 75 +
black walnut 21.0 95 +
eastern white pine 29.6 107 +
black cherry 18.3 82 +
shagbark hickory 28.5 110.0
white oak 26.1 85 +
white oak 26.6 98 +
black oak 31.2 95 +
black cherry 17.9 100 +
shagbark hickory 22.5 110 +
black cherry 22.3 98 +
northern red oak 25.0 102 +
redbud 6.5 37 +
witch-hazel 2.4 23.5
sassafras 14.4 66.0

Nothing particularly spectacular to report from this trail area, although the woods were pretty and the trail enjoyable to hike (when I wasn’t dodging mountain bikes!). I did not see any tuliptree along this trail. The hickories and some of the oaks clearly dominated the canopy, with heights fairly commonly exceeding 100 feet. There were a number of black cherries greater than 100 feet tall as well; black cherry was a common component of the overstory, although it appears to be declining in many places. The understory of this stand was dominated by red maple and some other tolerant hardwoods; the shade intolerant species are not likely to fare well in the dense shade being cast. The eastern white pines were doing well, and appeared vigorous, with more potential height growth. As this stand continues to mature, it will likely continue to grow in stature, as the canopy dominants will continue to compete with each other for light.

_PSRA_03.jpg One of the older remnant white oaks found scattered in PSRNA.
by DonCBragg
Mon Jul 04, 2016 2:19 pm
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