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New from WNY, looking for ways to be involved!

Hello, fellow tree hunters! It turns out I've been one of you for most of my 23 years this far, but I was entirely unaware of it until clicking the "We Are Tree Hunters" link on the website. I've had very little luck thus far finding other human being who share the same sense of rapture meeting and interacting with trees, especially the superlative ones (superlative to me, anyhow, though maybe I'll find that record basswood in Zoar valley this summer). I'll start rhapsodizing about some thick stand of hemlocks I've just met and my girlfriend just laughs... and she's easily hugged more trees than anyone else I know. So it may sound a little odd, but signing up here is incredibly exciting to me!

Not that I shy from "odd." I grew up in Fredonia, NY, right by the shore of lake Erie. I was a mostly solitary kid who marched in a Halloween parade at age 11 dressed as an entomologist... and the insect collection I had built by that point was actually pretty meticulous. As I did then, I still do have an intense love of learning the knowledge that we've accumulated in scientific systems of thought, and binomials I thought I forgot come back to me at chance encounters. I haven't identified with any particular religion in a long time, but in those moments when scientific knowledge intersects with active, visceral experience of the being of nature, there's a certain sensation of learning that I can't very well describe without resorting to the sort of adjectives usually associated with spiritual experiences.

As a result, I think I've fallen in love with our northeastern forest ecosystems. I mean that only mostly metaphorically. I chose to become a bit of a wanderer after highschool (having soured on most institutional education for a while) and I've seen more "impressive" ecosystems, sure; the redwood giants in the west, cloud forests of the andes, whatever. They were cool. But novelty isn't nearly as satisfying as depth of experience. In the humbler forests of my home region, I can feel the layers , and the more I learn about their objective substance, the deeper subjective experience seems to get. And trees seem to tie it all together, as if each exemplary tree is some nexus of everything that's amazing about the biological community.

So I've been searching for ways to get involved in research on our forests. I have no credentials, I'm young, and I can barely afford to gas up my car most of the time (I get by on a small woodcraft business at the moment). But I want to contribute to the available knowledge and I want to experience as much of the region's biodiversity as possible. I've decided to pursue a relevant degree (still working out the details) but of course that does mean paying my dues as an undergrad. I'm sure that will present options for being involved in such research, but especially as I likely won't begin that until spring 2015 I'm very curious as to what I can do to be more involved now.

Spring is almost here, and soon I'll be spending a lot of time roaming my favorite woods. If I learn the basic tree measurement methods, is there somewhere I can contribute data where it might at some point be useful? I doubt I'll turn up any surprise giants, but surely the more data points available, the better certain things can be investigated? Are there any specific research actions going on in the WNY area, or groups who do outings for this kind of thing, or anything else of that sort? I'd be happy to contribute even if just by carrying equipment around or counting tree numbers in a given stand, whatever. I keep an ear out for this kind of thing but the internet can be messy. I'm just terribly excited to have found such a group.

Since I've already shared quite a few (probably too many) words, I'll just add this photo of a thick beautiful hemlock laden by last week's big surprise snowstorm, taken during probably my last good ski of the season (I hope "upload attachment" is the right way to do this). Happy tree-hunting to everyone!
by Erik Danielsen
Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:57 pm
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Re: New from WNY, looking for ways to be involved!

PAwildernessadvocate, I haven't been there in a while but have really enjoyed my experiences there, starting with a camping trip with my dad when I was maybe 10 or 11. I remember visiting some fascinating swamps, and our campsite was in a forest near a large body of water that had some sort of wooden bridge or boardwalk that led to a trail up a densely vegetated hillside... I remember it felt rather primeval, but I was more interested in netting some large aquatic insects than anything else at the time. I'd love to head back sometime. A couple summers in highschool I'd go camping with my friend and his mom on the Kinzua reservoir, which was always a beautiful area to explore. Took a fun trip from the Kinzua Dam down the Allegheny river with the same friend our senior year, just the two of us in a rickety canoe, hammock camping on little islands that we had expected would have more firewood. There was a massive cottonwood or sycamore on one of those that really surprised both of us while we were out searching for sticks, so that's perhaps my best tree experience in PA so far.

Matt, thanks for the suggestions! I've got a lot to learn and think about and get out there and measure! I'll start keeping an eye on ebay for the equipment and work with what I can measure without in the meantime. I'm curious about what you mentioned regarding open-grown trees. The village of Fredonia is actually one of the older settlements in the region and I think one of the reasons I've remained so attached to it is that it has so many impressive trees compared to other communities I've spent time in. There's an old pamphlet from 2010 in which a local bookstore measured girth for 10 impressive trees along the streets of the town, and I believe the largest was actually a Beech tree at 17'7". I'm not sure about the measuring methods used, however. I'd imagine some re-measuring might be in order! Of course, there are bigger trees in hidden places, like the cottonwood I met at the creek this weekend. "Exemplary Trees of Fredonia" might be a nice project for getting into the swing of things. One of the other trees on the list, a very large maple, was removed this week as it was mostly dead. I'll definitely attempt to get a ring count.

Bart, I'll definitely shoot you a message. I've always wanted to get up to the Niagara Gorge, though I'm also privileged to have Zoar Valley about 5 miles from my current home address. Lots to go see!

And thank you Ed Frank. This site is certainly a lot easier on the eyes (and my outdated computer) than most of the internet tends to be.
by Erik Danielsen
Wed Mar 19, 2014 7:24 pm
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Re: Interesting Article on Vapors from Conifer Forests

It's fascinating how many different factors affect the levels and impacts of atmospheric greenhouse gases. I just hope there are enough negative feedback loops for some of my favorite northern species to hang on through the next century. Reading this news item last week did, however, inspire me to make one of those memebase graphics. Though I don't know if Taxus species emit the right VOCs, and the image doesn't even entirely fit my own take on the politics, I still like it because it's a pun. Even if most of the people who see it on facebook won't get it.
by Erik Danielsen
Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:10 pm
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Re: ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

The soil there supports some large beech, hemlock, white pine, and silver maple, so I figure I probably just haven't found the big oaks yet. Some nearby state land has the biggest red oaks I have ever seen, however. This coming week I hope to do girth measurements and get some good photographs to share here; I don't imagine they're record-sized but they are pretty impressive, looming over a ravine full of planted conifers.
by Erik Danielsen
Fri Mar 28, 2014 3:51 pm
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Rushing Stream Preserve Old Growth- WNY

Today brought some beautiful weather so I got together with a new dendrophile friend from Jamestown (Chris Merchant) and headed up to the Rushing Stream Preserve, way down in a far corner of Forestville, NY. I've actually cycled and driven past the site dozens of times for work, but Chris had the impression that it might be the same site as an entry he found on an old growth list for a small lot in Forestville with no other details except that it was privately owned- and it is, by the Audubon Society, but is open to the public. The information available on Rushing Stream online is sparse and not always very exciting; one old scanned-in brochure I dug up mentioned "possibly the largest cherry tree in the region," and another old description also mentioned "old growth cherry," but a more recent description just mentioned "mature specimens of hemlock, sugar maple, beech, birch..." No mention of Cherry. The current description on the Society's own website doesn't even mention trees at all.

That's a shame, because there are somegreat trees at Rushing Stream. The highlights: several large black cherry including a real multi-stemmed monster, an excellent showing in large old hemlocks, some very old-looking shagbark, and some impressive maples. We made some simple girth measurements and took a lot of photos. Afterwards we visited the well-known grove in Lilydale, which is pretty hard to beat for tree height, but for a sense of primeval intactness Rushing Stream is a hidden gem and I know which I'm more eager to return to as spring progresses. Not sure if the site is primary old growth, but more likely secondary; the complete lack of white pine and red oak suggests that available timber of these two species may have been removed long ago, leaving the hemlocks and other mixed hardwoods to dominate.

Some measurements:
-The big Black Cherry (we took to calling it Bruce) had a large limb preventing a good 4.5' girth measurement, so we measured at 1'9" (it branched pretty low) for a girth of 15'. Then I got on top of the limb to measure 12'2" at 10'. I'll do the figuring on that in a little bit but the really impressive thing about this tree was the combined mass and presence of its multiple stems, with the presence of the two equally large stems now lying on the ground to spur the imagination. Left the impression that total volume was definitely greater than any of the big single-stems at Lilydale.
-The big Sugar Maple had a weird hollow on one side with woody detritus protruding (pictures attached) so it probably shouldn't be regarded as a terribly precise measurement. That said, a respectable 14'11" CBH.
-The other big Maple (neither of us can tell leafless red from silver yet) came in at 14'2" CBH.

Anyways, pictures! Many of them open in a higher resolution if you click on them. First the Black Cherries:

This post is getting a little long and picture-heavy so I'll split into a second.
by Erik Danielsen
Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:21 am
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Re: Rushing Stream Preserve Old Growth- WNY

Yeah, the big sugar maple is on a narrow strip of steep slope between the preserve border and the stream, where there are a number of mature trees surrounded by much smaller growth. That was probably relatively open and managed for hunting before the Audubon society bought the site (1986 I believe), with the smaller growth having popped up since then.

I'm quite sure that was shagbark (there were a few others as single trunks and adjacent maple was obvious in its differences). The base showed that it was three that had sprouted very close together rather than a single trunk that split, sorry if my description was confusing. I'll confirm after leafout but I'm pretty sure on that one. I think I'm going to write the Audubon to see about getting a little more history on the site.

The Lilydale grove really could use some help. It's admirable that the community is so committed to "leaving it alone" and keeping it as "natural" as possible, but the unfortunate fact is that the deer and invasive understory plants are not nearly as considerate. Chris and I were discussing that since the mid-2000s there seems to have been a dropoff in old-growth work being done in our corner of WNY, so we hope to get some stuff going this year. There's this fascinating small patch of old-growth on the sand dunes at Bennet Beach in Angola that's 1 of only two sites in existence where Eastern Hemlock grows on sand dunes that we're particularly concerned about. I hope to visit and do some photodocumenting soon.
by Erik Danielsen
Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:26 pm
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Re: Anyone been to Zoar lately?

No measurements yet (still saving on the side for the instruments) but I thought you might all enjoy a photograph I made at dawn last friday. The view from the point peter lookout oversees the sycamores on valentine flats and the confluence further up. The original stitched panoramic image is equivalent to a 90-megapixel resolution, and hopefully I'll get to print it large someday. If I'm lucky I'll be dropping by the gallery of the giants this afternoon; it's a beautiful time of the year.
by Erik Danielsen
Mon May 12, 2014 1:50 pm
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A visit to the Leolyn Grove at Lilydale

Yesterday my girlfriend and I made a quick trip to Lilydale to look at the trees (a few weeks from now they start charging for entry). It was a pretty casual visit but I thought I'd share a few photos and girths. The sheer number of very large, tall forest-grown old-growth specimens that can be accessed easily even by those with disabilities that keep them out of the woods is pretty remarkable. Among the exceptional canopy of the grove you can find a few maple species, cucumber magnolia, red oak, beech, a lot of impressive black cherry, and the real stars of the woods are the towering hemlocks and white pines. Many of the ancient stumps and downed logs are also quite impressive. I'm stitching together a panoramic shot of a nice hemlock that came in at 11'3" CBH that I'll post soon as well.
by Erik Danielsen
Thu Jun 05, 2014 1:19 am
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Well, the uploader kept on magically losing the images but here they are at last:
by Erik Danielsen
Sat Jun 14, 2014 6:16 pm
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Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Forest Hill Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Fredonia. It contains an interesting and diverse set of very large trees, many of which are likely older than the village. The plot was purchased to complement the smaller adjacent Pioneer Cemetery in 1854, and was described as "primeval forest." As that was only 50 years or so after the first settlers arrived, one can assume that it was indeed primary forest, with perhaps the largest timber (white pine is absent from the site) and hemlock for the tanneries having been removed in the interim. The purchasers were (to our fortune) clear about their desire to maintain the forest atmosphere. To quote a historian on rootsweb:

"The first secretary of the Cemetery Board, Lucius Hurlbut, a local engineer and surveyor, visited “some of the more modern cemeteries” and mapped out Sections A, B, and C based on what he had learned from his tour. Those sections are north of the office just off Lambert Avenue. Very deliberately, according to the new style, the graves sites and surrounding paths were laid out in a circle and two free-form shapes adapted to the contours of the ground. (fig. 5) Although a few large trees had to be removed to make way for the drives and the walks, most of the “primeval forest” was kept to provide what C.S. Pervical’s dedicatory Ode of 1855 called “the plesant woodland bowers.”

The original nine have grown to forty acres, but the design has remained true to the initial concept: a parklike burial ground with cur ving drives and walks meandering by the overarching trees. But the cemetery is more than just itself. Along with the adjacent cemetery, which represents the earlier tradition, we have two perfect models of the changing concepts about public space here preserved for us in our two central burial grounds, Pioneer and Forest Hill cemeteries."

The original plot has the largest and oldest trees, as one might expect. Part of the old portion is missing old trees but is well-planted with red maple that probably dates back to the original landscaping work, most of it 7-10' cbh. Of course there are plenty of younger trees as well. "Newer" sections of the cemetery include more shrubby magnolias, arborvitae etc. along with younger maple and nonnative conifers, and the newest plot, still largely unused, is home to a section of weeping willow that's relatively overgrown.

Due to the close spacing, quantity and diversity of the trees no one species really dominates or stands out, though the most impressive is, unsurprisingly, the single massive tuliptree. The nearby oaks are next. I am hesitantly calling three of them red oak and one black oak, though some of the traits seem intermediate and there could be some hybridization involved. Acorns might help sort it out. Three massive red maples and one sugar maple with really wild-looking bark adjoin several large hemlocks, all rather thick though not especially tall (one has a broken crown). My favorite tree at the site is the smaller of two very impressive Cucumber Magnolias, and there's one nice shagbark near the oaks. Outside the original plot area large multitrunk silver maple, a nice freeman maple (I think), several tall norway spruce and a nice douglas fir. Many smaller ornamental conifers produce an "understory" structure of sorts and do create a "forest" feel. There's one lonely Larix sp. in with the old trees, not sure if it's native tamarack or a planted species.

I recorded girths for most of the notable specimens, as follows:

Tuliptree 16'2" cbh
Black Oak 14'8" cbh
Red Oak 15' cbh
13'8" cbh
14'6" cbh
Red Maple 12'5" cbh
11'11" cbh
Sugar Maple 11'8" cbh
Hemlock 12'6" cbh
10'8" cbh
Freeman Maple 11'5" cbh
Silver Maple (multistem) 14'4" cbh
Cucumber Magnolia 11'5" cbh
11'1" cbh
Weeping Willow 15'7" cbh
Larix sp. 8'10" cbh
Norway Spruce 11'3" cbh (doublestem)
9'4" cbh
8'5" cbh
Douglas Fir 9'6" cbh
Shagbark Hickory 9'7" cbh

Seems to me that girth indexes might be more useful to compare "open" sites like cemetaries and parks than height indexes, so for this site RGI5- 181.8 RGI10- 160.7. Not too shabby if you ask me. Some pictures next post.
by Erik Danielsen
Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:50 pm
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Re: A visit to the Leolyn Grove at Lilydale

Yeah, it sure is quite an oak! There are some younger, thinner ones that are fairly tall but that's the last of the old ones. I've been finding little clusters of red oak of similar-seeming age (though usually not so tall) throughout the region and I hope to put together a little report on them, comparing their growth and forms through the lens of their different site conditions, once I get my rangefinder and can fill out the data.

Perhaps when you come through in august I could meet you at the grove to see how some experienced tree-measurers go about it?

by Erik Danielsen
Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:50 am
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Bennett Beach Park, Evans NY

Bennett beach is a pretty special little site. It has the distinction of being one of only two or three sites where old-growth eastern hemlock grows on sand dunes (or so I hear, but we'll get to that), a distinction it shares with Marcy Woods, which is almost directly across the lake in southern Ontario. Marcy Woods (as documented by Krishner in a ENTS special publication last decade) is a site in an entirely different class from Bennett beach. Bennett's two small remnant patches of accessible old growth are right on the dune ridge, fully exposed to the lake. It is not a site that produces exceptionally large trees, and so it might not impress the casual visitor, but there is no question that an isolated ecosystem composed of red oak, red and sugar maples, beech, hemlock, tulip and black cherry with a rich woodland understory flora would not reestablish itself on such a dunetop after significant human disturbance. The neighboring section of dune, dominated by black willow, cottonwood and scattered young red oak shows this clearly enough. The local parks system is to be given credit in recognizing this small section as ecologically-valuable "primary dune forest" in their park maintenance planning.
Entering the larger patch (to the south of the creek bridge) you are immediately met with a stately specimen of the dominant producer of big old trees here, red oak. The biggest trees here all grow on the sheltered southeastern side of the dune, with some moderate-sized trees in the middle and not much to speak of on the lake-facing side. A range of ages can be observed, though some of the middling central-dune trees display aging signs like balding bark, twisting and sinuous trunks, and high (relatively) ragged crowns. It'd be interesting to do some coring to determine how much of this is due to genuine age and how much due to the demands of living on a sand dune directly in the path of some pretty serious weather. Size may be a poor indicator on a site like this.

The full set of collected girths for this patch:
-Red Oak- 10'4" cbh
10'3" cbh
7'10" cbh (the larger stem of a pair fused at the base)
-Sugar Maple- 10'1" circumference above kink
7'1" cbh
-Black Cherry- 8'7" cbh
8'7" cbh
7'8" cbh
-Eastern Hemlock- 6'3" cbh
6'1" cbh
5'4" cbh
-American Beech- 5'11" cbh
5' 8" cbh

Back across the creek there's a grassy field between the bridge and the smaller old-growth patch. One end of the field follows the old dune's contour, and three large open-grown maples sit on the sheltered side of the ridge. A squat 12'1" cbh sugar maple in that setting is no great surprise, but the 9'3" red maple was a pleasant find and its reasonably columnar trunk makes me wonder whether these maples are planted or were present as younger trees when the primary forest on this section of the dune was thinned for parkland, left for shade.

Finally you reach the small patch, wedged between the creek and a tall wooden privacy fence with "no trespassing" signs all over it. Here we find an almost pure stand of thick, tall red oaks including a couple snags, and a single lonely tuliptree.

Girth set for all but a few of the trees in this patch:
-Red Oak- 11'1" cbh
10'9" cbh
10'7" cbh
10'6" cbh
-Tuliptree- 8'8" cbh

That would seem to be the end of it, and the reputed old-growth hemlocks entirely absent, until you get down to the end of the opaque wooden fence, where it's replaced by chain-link near the water. It's a painful moment, really, when you first peek through that fence and realize that the lion's share of the good stuff is over there.

Satellite imagery confirms that forest to be a dense patch of large-crowned conifers, and there may be a similar stand several properties south of Bennett as well. I do plan to try to contact the landowner. In addition to that, the map tells me I missed an entire forested undeveloped half of the park that happens to be across the street from the parking lot, which appears devoid of conifers but with variable (and some large) deciduous crowns. I'll be sure to check it out sometime soon.
by Erik Danielsen
Sat Jun 28, 2014 11:10 am
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Re: Drawing Trees

Perhaps if there are enough interested we could form a little "nature journaling club" here; I just started one in the last week as well. I've been neglecting my drawing for a long time and it shows. If I might add another resource in the vein of the OP, this PDF is part of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute's Natural History Atlas of my region (close to yours too, Ed) which has been republished online in four parts; the first has a nice section on nature journaling/drawing. The PDF is available here:
by Erik Danielsen
Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:07 pm
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

After returning my malfunctioning nikon 440, I jumped on a deal on a demo unit of a newer Bushnell rangefinder model that displays an accelerometer-based angle reading in degrees in the viewfinder (normally well out of my price range, but in this case barely pricier than the used 440). I'll be working on calibrating and testing it over the next week to figure out how to get the best measurements out of it, or whether indeed it's a good purchase (I have a 15-day return window). I'm a little concerned by the fact that it only displays in whole yards/meters and whole degrees, but with calibrated clickovers and using steep angles where possible I suspect the precision is livable until I can afford to improve my setup.

That said, I was naturally excited to be able to measure things and immediately returned to Forest Hill cemetery. Most of the quick measurements I did suggest that the majority of the trees here are under 100 feet tall, which is probably unsurprising for an open site. I put a little more time into measuring the 11'5" cbh red maple above, which came to 98.7 feet tall, the 9'7" cbh Shagbark Hickory (this vigorous tree is probably the second tallest on the site) at 104 feet (not sure I found the top, though) and the big 16'2" cbh tuliptree at 123.1 feet, all of course by ENTS sine method. I'll consider these measurements preliminary until I've got the calibration worked out, but it was very exciting to top 120' with the tulip (a different angle gave me 120.6 feet). At the nearby college woodlot (a small site I'm working on documenting) one of the tulips gave me 116' on a straight-up shot (definitely not the top) and is in the company of numerous other tall forest-grown trees, so I'm expecting to get some height at that site. This rangefinder doesn't seem great for brush penetration so it'll take some work.
by Erik Danielsen
Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:28 pm
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Re: New dbh champ for SESE

I support your decision; it's clearly something to be decided by the discoverer on a case-by-case basis. Again, pros and cons.
by Erik Danielsen
Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:16 pm
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Arkwright Falls Gorge

The topography of the extreme southwest tip of NY state is perhaps at its best in the deep, narrow gorges that carve through the Allegheny Plateau descending towards Lake Erie. One of these gorges, Zoar Valley, is of course well known here as an exemplary big-tree/old-growth site, but there are several others that provide a similar sense of wildness that are worthy of some future attention. I recently came across a report that referenced the mid-2000s "Lake Erie Gorges Study" in stating that two of them, the Twentymile Creek Gorge and Chautauqua Gorge, also contain some acreage of trees "attaining 150 feet in height and older than 150 years," though to a lesser extent than Zoar. I look forward to investigating this brief snippet of information in the future, but for now I'd like to share a bit of my favorite gorge in the region: Canadaway Creek gorge in Arkwright, NY.

This gorge is smaller than any of the three gorges discussed above, and the main access is through a small rectangle of county forest land that extends from near the peak of a nearby hill to the bottom of the gorge about 250 feet below. Most of this elevation is lost in the last few hundred feet of approach (by the crow flies, at least) though most visitors spread that over a few switchbacks. The gorge is quite narrow and fairly deep. The main draw is a nice-sized waterfall and swimming hole a couple hundred feet upstream of the county land boundary, and fortunately the landowners are welcoming to respectful visitors (the other type of visitor has been an increasing problem of late, sadly). I tend to skip that spot entirely in favor of the even narrower and less accessible gorge formed by a tributary that enters the main gorge by way of a dramatic slot waterfall. It's not possible to climb around this waterfall as of this spring (and barely so before) so almost no one visits the tributary gorge.

In the tributary gorge the stream twists around numerous turns, and the knife-edge ridges this forms above are beautiful narrow paths of lush moss and modest hemlocks. There are numerous small terraces distributed on the slopes, the largest ones being just a few feet above creek and no wider or longer than a hundred feet or so. The general slope of the topography exceeds 45 degrees pretty consistently and the flora tucked into this nook in the earth can be very lush. Pink ladyslipper blooms on the slopes (a rarity here), thick moss carpeting everything, and there's more thimbleberry on the terraces than I've seen anywhere else.

The trees, of course, are what we're here for. The slopes and terraces host a patchwork of two main forest types: Hemlock-dominated portions with lots of gnarled yellow birch and beech, and mixed hardwood portions dominated by tuliptree and northern red oak with sugar maple being the main member of the subcanopy below those. Occurring intermittently are basswood, black cherry, cottonwood, white pine, red maple, and some other oaks. There are species I'm missing here. Light competition in the narrow gorge produces some trees of significant height relative to girth on the terraces and the impracticality of logging the steep slope forests has left some possibly quite old trees of interest, though exceptional size is probably precluded by such precarious perches.

As this site is on the way to several of the places I work, I'll be documenting it bit by bit over time. In this post I'd like to highlight some initial measurements from one of the terraces and a few old-seeming slope tulips. This first terrace is a narrow strip of land perhaps 20 feet wide suspended about 15 feet above the creek. It's not flat so much as just less steep than the rest of the slope. On this small terrace I measured 4 trees that struck me as pretty tall for their modest girths. The only one I'm confident of finding the peak of is the tuliptree, the rest could have higher points that were obscured by leaves. All were impressively branchless very far up their trunks.

Tuliptree 126.9', 70"cbh
Northern Red Oak 112.27', 63" cbh
Sugar Maple 104.1', 47" cbh
American Basswood 99.73', 54"cbh

A little bit downstream on a very steep section of slope forest cling two old-looking tuliptrees. Balding and weathering of base bark is impressive on both of these and the crowns are high and compact with fewer, thicker limbs present there. Neither is especially tall for a tulip, and they'd probably have toppled long ago if they were. The lower one on the slope is also pretty sinuous, probably related both to light competition and creeping down the slope over time. There are also large red oaks in this section but I did not measure those at this time. Not confident on absolute tops, finding windows through the hemlock midstory here was difficult.

Lower Tuliptree 88.33', 86" cbh
Higher Tuliptree 99.21', 97" cbh


With any luck I'll be able to arrange to do some coring here this fall; I'm very curious about some of the slope trees present. I'm grateful to the inspiration this group has given me to get out and get involved with things- I'm now doing a bit of work informally with some people from SUNY Fredonia's bio department, who have the corer, including profiling their on-campus woodlot (a gem of a forest for its size and location) and this weekend collecting height and girth data in the old-growth section of their College Lodge property, uphill in Brocton. An aggressive logging plan for the property was halted by campus and community feedback last summer, and out of that was born an ongoing biological inventory including this weekend's "bioblitz" with experts across a wide range of taxa participating. Since I have no credentials really, I'll be wearing the ENTS as my primary affiliation if you all don't mind. I will of course be citing ENTS methodology when I submit that data, and there'll certainly be a report to make here!
by Erik Danielsen
Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:26 am
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Re: Arkwright Falls Gorge

An NTS-eBook certainly would be pretty neat, and probably more accessible to a wide range of readers than the sometimes-wandering forum threads. I find the "ENTS Special Publication" PDFs already on the site inspiring in the depth of information they provide and the diligent effort they represent. They would constitute an excellent goalpost to aim for for us general members in compiling site reports for this hypothetical eBook.

I think that sampling and digesting a site one bite at a time can make a lot of sense. There's so much to get to; I just caught another couple hours of measuring at Bennett Beach and I keep plugging away at Rushing Stream and Arkwright; more Zoar and Lilydale planned for later in August, two sites owned by SUNY Fredonia in conjunction with the bio department, and then those other two gorges... the trees sure can keep a person busy!
by Erik Danielsen
Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:03 pm
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Re: Old Trees in Wyoming

Coring scraggly junipers sounds like an exciting challenge! I can relate to your love of those old, gnarled trees. Over in WNY I'm in the vicinity of the thin crescent-shaped native range of the Northern Whitecedar, Thuja occidentalis, a cousin to the junipers though much closer to the giant western redcedars. They're perhaps our closest eastern parallel to all those ancient western mountain trees (along with some cliff-hanging eastern redcedars, another juniper), reaching great age in stunted forms in harsh growing conditions. I don't think any other "genre" of trees is so fascinating as such weathered old forms, especially those members within Cupressaceae (the pines don't excite me as much for whatever reason). I'm going to be doing some (less challenging) coring in some of the northern hardwood forests over here this fall, but I'm not sure that will be so exciting. I'll look forward to your reports!
by Erik Danielsen
Thu Jul 31, 2014 4:20 pm
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Re: NTS Does It Again - New Colorado Height Champion

It's been such a pleasure to follow along as all these fantastic trees come out of the San Juans. I just want to say a thank-you from someone who was stuck back east for the work all of you have put into finding and sharing these, and it's exciting to hear that if the connections Bob is talking about play out, tree-lovers everywhere who don't read this forum might be sharing in that gratitude soon enough.

Matt, posts like this one from the last week have completely changed my perspective on blue spruce. As an ornamental yard tree here in the east, it's a garish presence. Like those purple-hued norway maples, it only ever disrupts the aesthetic of the landscape, and either remains squat or grows into a ragged spindle. I have never been able to bring myself to like them. But in their true context, growing to their true potential, these are gorgeous. I hope to see them someday. Congratulations on documenting the tallest yet!
by Erik Danielsen
Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:36 pm
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Re: great oak, Basking Ridge, NJ revisited

That sure is one great big benevolent octopus of an oak! Glad you had good luck with the weather, sounds like some places over that way have been getting pretty heavy rain recently.
by Erik Danielsen
Sat Aug 16, 2014 12:23 pm
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SUNY Fredonia College Lodge/Herbert J. Mackie Forest Camp

The SUNY Fredonia College Lodge (formerly the Herbert J. Mackie College Camp) has had an exciting year. In late spring (shortly after the end of the semester) someone happened to notice that FSA, the corporation in charge of both dining and facilities services on campus as well as ownership of the lodge property, had quietly approved of a “management plan” to be applied to the lodge forest. Investigation revealed this plan to call for dramatic thinnings, extensive skid road networks, and selective use of herbicides to suppress beech sprouting and “undesirable” herbaceous plants in the understory. Conversion to profitable timber management was indicated as the chief priority, along with the usual lip service to improving biodiversity and improving “stagnant” growth.

Among faculty, students/alumni, and community members like myself, the college lodge has long been a place to enjoy a relatively wild-feeling, barely-managed forest setting. It's got a reputation with the region's biologists as one of our biodiversity hotspots, with its mosaic of different forest types and wetlands, and while various other sites may have even more elusive species few are as accessible as the lodge. With the region's RTPI heritage the lodge's status as a top-class birding site is even more widely recognized. Use by the public has been declining as FSA has become more expensive and difficult to work with in renting the place (I attended a summer camp there several years as a child; I'm not aware that any are still held there today), but the place remains dear to the community's heart.

As one might expect, there was an outpouring of opposition to the proposed management plan. Letters to the editor were published, meetings were held, old photos of signage establishing the site's historic status as a “preserve” were dug out, and in the end FSA handled the feedback gracefully. The existing management plan was shelved for the time being, and a yearlong biodiversity inventory was arranged to be conducted by the RTPI. Further they pointed out that they do lose a significant amount of money on maintaining the lodge property every year, and do so anyways out of service to the community. Use by the community had declined, hence the logging plan (which itself still would not fully offset that annual loss). So if the community opposed the plan, FSA challenged, what can the community do to increase usage once again so that FSA can feel that the loss they take is justified?

This has spurred a year of creative involvement by the broader community. Public art classes have been held there, open educational events during Earth Week, faculty have incorporated trips to the lodge into varying curricula, I personally participated in the installation of a few study plots and building the first deer exclosure, and recently a “bioblitz” was held there by the RTPI, bringing in a range of experts to identify as many individual species as possible in a 24-hour period. My rangefinder fresh in hand, I came along to provide height data for the study plots we had installed in the old-growth areas of the lodge forest as well as to begin compiling a height index. Hopefully all this activity is just the beginning; so much more can be done.

Here I must take a moment to discuss the old-growth in question. It's been a little controversial, from one professor reacting to a much gentler management plan discussed a few decades ago by insisting that is was all “virgin!” forest (obviously not the case) to questioning by some parties in the recent conversation as to whether there is old-growth present there at all (certainly the logging plan just called it “overmature”). Fortunately the WNY old-growth survey team gave it a look back in the '90s. To quote a 1996 article they contributed to “Wildflower,” “The camp has fifty to sixty acres of old-growth hemlock northern-hardwoods forest on a hillside overlooking a marsh. The hemlocks were consistently over 200 years old while the dominant hardwoods (red oak, american beech, black cherry) were about 100-115 years old indicating a disturbance, probably logging, in the late 19th century.”

That would seem authoritative, and there clearly are quite a lot of old-growth hemlocks present- but I'm curious as to how they collected this information on the hardwoods (are any members of the survey team present on the boards here?), as the oldest section of forest present (which fits the location they describe) contains many large beech and black cherry specimens, but no red oaks- a lot of impressive red maple is present, however. Further, I think there's reason to suspect that many of these hardwoods do exceed 150 years in age. As a basis for this statement, there's a large Beech near the edge of this section of forest that tipped up and fell across the trail sometime in the last few years. I can't wrap its lower trunk at this point but I'd estimate its CBH in the 8-10' range, not atypical for the beeches in that stand. Two thick sections were removed to open up the trail and these now site alongside the trail. One of these is a section where the trunk splits, and on the cut end of the large of the two resulting trunks the rings were legible enough to get a count of at least 112. This cut would have been at least 40 feet off the ground when the tree was standing. I imagine the base can be expected to be older than this. I'll be back with some sandpaper to see if I can date the lowest cut (about 20 feet up the trunk), but the good news is that there'll also be an opportunity to do some coring with the bio department this year. I do have hopes that we'll establish the hardwoods of this site as older than previously asserted.

On to measurements! First I'll link to the google spreadsheet I made for the two study plots. Each was 30x30m and I ended up measuring well over a hundred trees, most of them not so large, so that we can track changes in growth with changing climate and disease factors. Once I figure out the proper math these might provide some insight into forest structure as well, which I suppose justifies the tedium of measuring a zillion 30-foot hemlocks. These are of course in metric since they're for the department to use, but I intend to put together a similar spreadsheet with both metric and imperial figures for the final heigh/girth indexing. (click tab "sheet 1" at the bottom left. Species are abbreviated in the "tag" column, H for hemlock and so on. Will clarify these if needed)

Since then I've been more selectively measuring to find exemplary specimens. Here's what I've compiled so far (tag numbers are for trees in the study plots):

Eastern Hemlock- measured what I could see tops for. Dozens like these.
115.99' small second trunk exits at breast height. 126.37”c(30”), 99.99”c(67”)
109.27' 88.58”cbh
108.37' 111.81"cbh tag 704
106.88' 107.87”cbh
106.77' 101.18”cbh
105.89' 98.81”cbh
105.36' 90.55"cbh
103.74' 88.19”cbh
103.48' 89.76”cbh
101.57' 83.86”cbh

Red Maple:
104' 76.38”cbh
100.22' 66.93"cbh tag 761
96.1' 94.49"cbh tag 606
95.83' 111.81”cbh

American Beech: often measured to highest point in underside of crown, could not sight actual tops.
96.83' 86.22”cbh
91.8' tag 637
76.81' 99.21"cbh tag 623

Yellow Birch: no large specimens but one large snag is present
81.4' 59.45”cbh

Black Cherry: I've been neglecting these, more impressive specimens are present
107.39' 125.2”cbh
98.93' 88.98"cbh tag 769
95.86' 93.31"cbh tag 612

White Ash: also been neglecting these, ash doesn't excite me like hemlock does
100.2' 67.72”cbh

Outside the old-growth tract there are a variety of younger forest types, many subject to repeated logging and grazing. There are some mixed red pine-larch-norway spruce plantations in which the trees are almost all roughly 90 feet tall and 18” in diameter. I've met a couple mature cucumber magnolias in this section, which I'll have to seek out and measure. I think the black locust in some spots might crack 100', as might some of the vigorous younger beeches. I'll have to keep seeking the oaks referenced in the old article, and there's some basswood that might be tall. Walnut, shagbark, white pine, cottonwood, and other ashes are all listed in the species inventory as well. There's a lot of territory yet to cover at the lodge. Probably no champion trees, but certainly a forest worth appreciating. I'll continue working on this site to fill out the height index, and age data further on.

Finally, some pictures.
by Erik Danielsen
Fri Aug 15, 2014 2:18 pm
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Re: A visit to the Leolyn Grove at Lilydale

Thanks, Larry. Yesterday Tom Howard, his brother Jack and I did successfully meet up to do some tree appreciating and measuring at the grove. I really enjoyed hanging out with some seasoned ents and hearing stories of past meetups, including a visit to this same grove 11 years ago that Tom had taken part in. My own rangefinder is off to the shop for repair under warranty but Tom was fully equipped so we were able to get some exciting numbers. He'll post the full set after he's done with his trip but in the meantime I'll share some photos and a couple measurement highlights. Sadly, one of the big questions Tom had was "where'd all the white pine go?" There are really just 2 or 3 big whites left in the grove, along with a couple snags. Tom recalls a dense stand of them leaving quite an impression when he visited a decade ago. Any insight here into what might be the cause of such a significant decline?
by Erik Danielsen
Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:54 pm
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Re: We are Tree Hunters

It seems to me that "online interest group" would be more aligned with current web terminology. I'll admit that as someone who entered the internet in the mid-2000s the word "cyberspace" immediately jumped out at me when I first visited the website. I'm not sure it's still in the lexicon of those entering the internet now.
by Erik Danielsen
Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:50 pm
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Re: Anyone been to Zoar lately?

Another zoar update from a recent quick hike:

Visited the first few terraces upstream from the confluence. The first on the south side had plenty of good trees still standing, but one very large black walnut down. I note that one of the photos from before of Kershner standing at the base of a very tall tuliptree on the very edge of the terrace may depict a scene that no longer exists; it appears as though erosion has removed a large chunk of the upstream end of this terrace and there's a big logjam in the middle of the river that's mostly made of long tulip logs. None appeared to be especially girthy but it's probable that we've lost some big trees in the last decade.

Speaking of losing big trees, on the "kinfe-edge ridge terrace" a little further up and across the stream, it seemed that many if not most of the girthy old beech trees have fallen. Beech bark disease is highly apparent throughout the areas of zoar I've visited, though many trees up on the rim at least seem unafflicted. A big tulip on this terrace (picture below) was the most impressive tree I saw on this visit, which I wrapped at 11.25' cbh. That number actually surprised me, as the presence and mass of this tree were imposing.

This hike was also a bit time-restricted so I didn't really wrap any other trees (and the rangefinder was out of commission) but the most interesting part of the hike for me was the knife-edge ridge itself. Present were stunted trees of some familiar species and some new to me. Red oak, white pine, and red pine peppered a slope dominated by dwarf chinkapin and chestnut oak, neither of which were familiar to me. The rim forest at the top of the ridge also had nice normally-growing chestnut oaks and black birch (also unfamiliar to me) mixed into a typical hemlock-northern hardwoods community. The stunted ridge forest was really fascinating and I plan to inventory the tree species present and document some of the other interesting flora there. I'm curious how old some of the stunted trees might actually be.
by Erik Danielsen
Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:50 pm
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Re: Trees without any data

I see. A max height list with state-only information is in fact something I've found myself wishing for; it'd make a nice reference. For example, now I know roughly what height range would be considered noteworthy for that particular species, which will help focus my measuring since I know what to look for.
by Erik Danielsen
Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:59 pm
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