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Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

This afternoon I wandered down to the Nashua River to walk along the trails in the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge. My first destination was a large swamp white oak growing near the parking lot just east of the Harvard/Lancaster town line. I’ve seen the tree in past visits, and even noticed the small sign next to it identifying it as swamp white oak ( Quercus bicolor ), but it was only today that I noticed “state record tree” next to the artist’s depiction of the species.

Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - sign.jpg
I don’t know when or how the tree’s height was last measured, but I figured it behooved me to measure the tree as accurately as I can. Here are some pictures of the tree, followed by its measurements (which have been properly discounted to compensate for the slight overshot of my Nikon ProStaff 440).

Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - top to bottom.jpg
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - side to side.jpg
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - sunlit.jpg
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - dusk.jpg
Height: 68.5’
CBH: 154.5” (12.9’)
Average spread: 77.9’
Total big tree points: 242.5

As I was scoping out the tree before measuring, a woman who was leaving in her car told me that the tree was roughly 200 years old. I asked her what else she knew about it, but that was about the extent of her knowledge of the tree. I explained to her my interests and asked if she knew of any other big trees in Oxbow NWR. She claimed that there is a state champion hickory tree growing by the Nashua River, and gave me general directions toward it. After parting with this nice woman and setting off down the trail I encountered a fellow with binoculars around his neck. You know, one of those naturalist types. I asked him if he knew of a big hickory tree, and his vague directions were consistent with what I had been going on. Both of the people that knew of the big hickory mentioned that there was a sign identifying the species, similar to what is next to the swamp white oak.

A leisurely stroll through some large silver maples that inhabit the river floodplain eventually brought me to an old, shaggy hickory tree next to the trail. Sure enough, there’s a little sign identifying it as shagbark hickory ( Carya ovata ). The tree certainly seems like a mature individual, but after taking some preliminary measurements I started looking deeper into the woods for other old shagbark hickories. A few paces through nearly knee-high poison ivy and I was standing next to a tree 10 feet taller and 10 inches girthier than its trailside conspecific. If there is a champion shagbark hickory in these woods, I imagine it might well be this one. Here are a couple pictures of it, followed by its stats.

Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - base.jpg
Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - burl.jpg
Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - looking up.jpg
Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - top.jpg
Height: 83.4’
CBH: 93” (7.8’)
Average spread: 52.6’
Big tree points: 189.6

I am curious to know how these two trees compare to others of their kind in Massachusetts. Do folks know what the current status of the Massachusetts state champion swamp white oak and shagbark hickory is? Could one or both of these trees in Oxbow NWR hold the title of state champion?

by a_blooming_botanist
Fri May 20, 2016 9:20 pm
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State champ shagbark hickory and northern catalpa contender

Today was a productive day of tree hunting/measuring. I left my house intending to visit the reigning state champion shagbark hickory tree, but also had the secondary goal of measuring a large northern catalpa that grows near me. To keep with the sequence of events, I’ll show you the catalpa that lives in Harvard that I believe has a very real chance of earning the title of state champion.

Harvard Catalpa speciosa - from afar.jpg
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - base.jpg
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - base closeup.jpg
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - trunk and low branch.jpg
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - from lawn.jpg
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - rooted branch.jpg
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - tangled branches lawnside.jpg
Height: 86.1’
CBH: 165” (13.8’)
Average spread: 69.8’
Big tree points: 268.6

I would have used my rangefinder and clinometer to measure all four spokes of the crown, but one limb grows clear across the road into neighboring trees and I couldn’t see its end. So, I measured two spokes parallel to the hillslope (and road) with my high-tech toys, and used a tape measure for the spokes perpendicular to the slope. I think I was able to keep the effects of slack in the tape and difference in elevation to a minimum, so I feel good about all four spoke measurements. Before I stretched my tape measure into a stranger’s front yard I rang the doorbell and asked for permission to measure their beautiful, old catalpa tree. The woman who answered the door seemed flattered that I was so taken in with her tree, and kindly granted me permission to walk on her lawn. The tree has a very low branch that extends out over the grass, touches the ground, and then extends upward again. It has clearly taken root, and the owners of the property can no longer mow in that area.

Part of the reason that I measured this northern catalpa tree in Harvard is because the town of Westford boasts THREE state champion trees: black oak ( Quercus velutina ), shagbark hickory ( Carya ovata ), and northern catalpa ( Catalpa speciosa ). Today I drove by the enormous black oak that shades the town library, but measuring it will have to wait for another day.

On to the shagbark hickory. This tree is to be found in Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, which is managed by the Westford Conservation Trust. Here’s a map showing exactly where the tree is (taken from

Prospect Hill, Westford, MA - BIG SHAGBARK HICKORY.jpg

Neither finding the tree nor ascertaining its identity is a challenge. This sign makes it clear what you’re looking at.

Westford Carya ovata state champ - sign.jpg
Step back and take a look at the rest of this beast.

Westford Carya ovata state champ - boulder and tree.jpg
Westford Carya ovata state champ - pillar.jpg
Westford Carya ovata state champ - lower third.jpg
Westford Carya ovata state champ - looking up.jpg
Westford Carya ovata state champ - silhouette.jpg
Westford Carya ovata state champ - looking up from road.jpg
Height: 89.8’
CBH: 146” (12.2’)
Average spread: 85.1’
Big tree points: 257.1

Once again, I had difficulty employing the traditional spoke method because of obscuring foliage (and maybe because I’m new at it). My solution was to stand underneath the tips of the spokes and shoot level at the edge of the trunk. This meant standing in the middle of the road at one point, but it seemed to get the job done.

With one state champion shagbark hickory and one massive northern catalpa measured, I decided to end my day of tree measuring by visiting a tree that I planted when I was five. I remember when I could jump over it with enough of a running start. Now I wouldn’t consider trying. It’s 26 years old and 34.4 feet tall. I got it on Arbor Day back when I attended preschool in Westford. Say hello to my Colorado blue spruce ( Picea pungens ).

My Colorado blue spruce.jpg
by a_blooming_botanist
Sun May 22, 2016 9:43 pm
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Re: State champ shagbark hickory and northern catalpa conten


I can understand how the tree’s height may have been inadvertently exaggerated and how the full extent of the crown spread may not have been accounted for, but an increase of nine inches of girth in fifteen years does seem like a lot for such an old hickory. I wouldn’t be surprised if those 137” were measured 4.5’ from the highest ground point, which is a good 1.5 - 2’ higher than the lowest point.

Using the photos that I had taken yesterday, some of which included my walking stick for scale, I have pieced together exactly where my measuring tape was.

Westford Carya ovata state champ - CBH.jpg
This next photo should make clear where I called breast height. The red circle on the ground marks where I called mid-slope, and the red circle on the trunk marks where the claw of my tape measure took hold of the bark. The orange dashed line marks where my tape measure was.

Westford Carya ovata state champ - CBH 22 May 2016.jpg
This photo shows where someone might have measured the circumference in 2001 at 137” relative to where I measured 146” on 5/22/16. My walking stick is standing nearly vertically, and the red star on it marks 4.5’ above the ground. The bottom of my stick is shown with a black horizontal line, and three increments of 2” are marked with green horizontal lines. If the last person to have measured this tree measured 4.5’ above the highest ground point, their tape would have been just below or on the bottom edge of the sign that’s nailed to the tree (the blue markings).

Westford Carya ovata state champ - CBH 2001 in blue.jpg
When I’m in Westford next time I’ll try to remember to visit this tree to wrap my tape around the trunk just below the sign and compare that number to 137” to get a better idea of what 15 years of radial growth on this shagbark hickory looks like.

by a_blooming_botanist
Mon May 23, 2016 7:21 pm
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Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees


It’s funny that you mention Great Meadows NWR – I was there on the 19th (the day before I measured the state champ SWO in Oxbow NWR). I walked around a bit, but didn’t measure many trees. It was more of a reconnaissance mission. It might have been this swamp white oak growing east of Weir Hill by the Sudbury River that inspired me to visit the one I know that grows by the Nashua in Harvard.

Great Meadows NWR - SWO 1.jpg
Great Meadows NWR - SWO 2.jpg
Great Meadows NWR - SWO 3.jpg
Here’s a little bit of the history of Weir Hill in Sudbury, MA.

Great Meadows NWR - Weir Hill history.jpg
I didn’t notice any trees of comparable size to the current champ, but now that I know what it takes to depose it I will be on the lookout for some competition. I did, however, find a litter of weasels.

Great Meadows NWR - weasels.jpg
by a_blooming_botanist
Thu May 26, 2016 11:05 am
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Bolton Flats Wildlife Management Area

I suppose I should have started a new topic for the swamp white oak that I reported on the other day since it isn’t actually in Oxbow NWR. Having found an even bigger SWO in the Lancaster portion of Bolton Flats WMA today, it seems appropriate to start a new thread for this site.

Walking down the tractor road the other day I noticed the silhouette of a large tree several paces back in the woods, but I could barely see enough of it in detail to identify it to species or see if it was still living. Because the undergrowth foliage is so dense I had to spend a little while today trying to find a place from which to shoot the height. The best I could do was to find a spot on the tractor road where I could shoot the top sprig as well as the top of my walking stick leaning against the trunk as a distinctive reference point. As this swamp white oak is forest-grown, it stands a good 14.3 feet above its cornfield compadre.

Here are the best photos I could get, followed by the stats:

Bolton Flats SWO - attempt at full shot.jpg
Bolton Flats SWO - top.jpg
Bolton Flats SWO - middle.jpg
Bolton Flats SWO - bottom.jpg
Bolton Flats SWO - trunk 1.jpg
Bolton Flats SWO - trunk 2.jpg

Height: 77.5’
CBH: 181.1” (15.1’)
Average crown spread: 78.5’
Big tree points: 278.2

by a_blooming_botanist
Wed Jun 15, 2016 9:19 pm
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Punkatasset Conservation Land and Estabrook Woods, Concord

Yesterday and today I spent the afternoon hours exploring Punkatasset Hill and the surrounding woods in Concord. This glacial drumlin is geologically significant as one of the town’s highest points, as well as historically noteworthy for having been the rallying point of the Minutemen before they marched to the Old North Bridge to confront the British troops. Henry David Thoreau was known to saunter in these parts, too, but the human history of this place wasn’t what had originally attracted me. I suspected there might be some big trees here, and I was right.

As luck would have it, the first white pine that seemed ripe for measurement was an immediate inductee into the 130’ club. With so many tall, leafy black birches mixed in with the white pines it was hard to find a window through which to see the highest needles swaying in the wind, so I shot it from three different spots and took the average, which came out to 131.4’ (130.5', 131.6', and 132.2'). The girth is a cool 100.4”. Here are a few pictures of it:

131.4-foot pine - base.jpg
131.4-foot pine - looking up.jpg
131.4-foot pine - full.jpg
I continued measuring white pines that seemed to tower over everything else in their vicinity, but none of them quite reached 130. Content with having found one legitimate 130’ white pine, I called it a day and headed home.

Today I woke up hungry for more white pines, so I hopped in the car and went back to Punkatasset Hill for another few hours of tree hunting. With a better idea of where the pines reach superb heights in these woods, I made my way back to the base of the northern slope of the hill to visit yesterday’s find. As I was doing so, another magnificent white pine standing some 75 feet away whispered to me, asking to be measured. I obliged the tree, only to find that this one is a foot taller than its neighbor. With a girth of 102.6” and a height of 132.4', this one outdoes the other in both dimensions. Take a look at it:

132.4-foot pine - base.jpg
132.4-foot pine - looking up.jpg
132.4-foot pine - base - nearly full.jpg
There may be another few undiscovered 130-foot pines in these woods, but finding them will likely have to wait until the deciduous trees drop their leaves. That would also be a good time to search these woods for a 100-foot black birch.

It seems fitting that on July 4th weekend the 130’ white pine club would accept two new members that reside in a town steeped in the history of the American Revolution. Happy Independence Day, folks!

by a_blooming_botanist
Sun Jul 03, 2016 10:39 pm
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Re: Remeasure, 124.83' White Pine, Carlisle, MA


nice to hear from you again. I've been a bit busy the last few months so I haven't been posting either but I continue to read everything and I'm hoping to start posting again soon. Maybe we can get together with Jared and do some measuring together in eastern Mass. We obviously go to many of the same locations. Estabrook Woods in Concord is a good example as I'm there quite frequently. This year we started doing tick drags at work and I chose Estabrook Woods as one of our three sites because I know it well. As Jared's measurements prove, the site has some good trees. If you guys are interested I'd like to show you the 144' white pine in Lincoln and maybe we could measure the other tall trees around it too.



I'd love to see that 144-footer that you found in Lincoln! I've been trying so hard these past few months to find something in eastern Mass that can top that, but it ain't easy! I think it'd be fun to get some of those western Mass tree-measuring folk out to join us, too. We might have to bribe them with ice cream, but I bet we can get them to come out east.


Just today I took a stroll through the Carlisle pines to see what all the chatter is about. There are some nice, old pines in there, and that ancient hemlock is a god among trees! The tallest white pine that I measured today was 124.8 feet tall with a CBH of 116.5 inches (9.7 feet) -- must be the same one you measured about two months ago. Does this tree look familiar to you?

124.8-foot Carlisle pine - base.jpg
124.8-foot Carlisle pine - top.jpg

by a_blooming_botanist
Sun Sep 18, 2016 10:46 pm
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Re: Introduction

Hello, Bo! Welcome to the Native Tree Society!

I am a fellow easterner (of Massachusetts) with an interest in old and big trees. I had a chance to visit the Carlisle Pines last month. That hemlock that you measured is quite a tree, huh? It's a shame that the hemlock wooly adelgid has gotten the best of it. Just next to that old tree is the tallest of the Carlisle Pines at 124.8 feet tall (see picture below). There are other old pine trees in there, but none as tall (that I or others have measured). As far as wider pines in those woods, I did measure one with a circumference of 10.88 feet working towards 120 feet tall. My search was by no means exhaustive, so if you do find some other nice, big ones in there, please report on them!

Carlisle State Forest - big hemlock and tall pine.jpg
I use this website to share my big tree finds and to read about what other folks are finding in other parts of the country and world. I've even met the humans behind some of the usernames you see on this site, as Bob Leverett kindly introduced me to the tall trees of Mohawk Trail State Forest and others in their fan club. The more time I spend out in western MA the more it becomes clear how rare old and tall trees and forests are in the eastern portion of the state. I've spent some time tree hunting in Concord, specifically at Punkatasset Hill. I found some white pines over 130' tall, though not as "girthy" as the Carlisle Pines. I've heard that Estabrook Woods has some good, old trees. It may not be old growth, but it is nicely-maturing second growth. If/when you do come across some trees that meet your criteria for being interesting, do share pictures and a story with us!

Happy tree hunting!

Harvard, MA
by a_blooming_botanist
Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:32 pm
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Tall pitch pine in Blomfelt Conservation Land of Harvard, MA

Hello, ENTs!

Last Sunday and again today I spent a few hours in the woods of northern Harvard, specifically the Blomfelt conservation land. This piece of land lies just west of an old Shaker settlement, and includes the southern portion of a small hill with wetlands and a pond flanking it. The town’s brief description and hand-drawn map mentions there being “big pines” here. Naturally, I had to investigate.

Setting off from my car I had high hopes for this place. Entering the woods I walked through a dense stand of ~110’ white pines, crossed a small wooden bridge, and slowly began climbing the southeastern slope of the hill. Here other tree species, like birches, oaks, maples, pitch pines, and the occasional aspen, make an appearance with white pines. As I reached the crest of the hill I realized that I wasn’t going to find any white pines that we ENTs would consider truly big (for eastern MA, at least), so I turned back and, with what little daylight I had left last Sunday, I decided to focus on the pitch pines.

Growing right next to the trail on the lower half of the hill I found a small cluster of pitch pines that are fiercely competing for light with their cousins, the whites. The first one that I measured was 101.75’ with a CBH of 4.41’. This was the first pitch pine I’ve ever measured over 100’, and, coincidentally, it has almost the exact same dimensions as one that Doug Bidlack measured in Lincoln some two years ago. Here it is:

101.75 ft pitch pine - base.jpg
101.75 ft pitch pine - looking up.jpg
I returned today to see if I could find an even taller Pinus rigida . To the best of my knowledge, the tallest pitch pine measured by an ENT in MA is one in Springfield that stands a mighty 102’ tall, so that’s the number to beat. Well, the second tree that I measured today beat that record, coming in at 104.6’ tall with a CBH of 4.0’.

104.6 ft pitch pine - base.jpg
104.6 ft pitch pine - looking up.jpg
Just to be sure that I had gotten the tallest one, I measured the leaning pitch pine next to the height champ at 100.3’ by 48.9” CBH.

100.3 ft pitch pine - leaner.jpg
So there you have it, folks. I’d say that 104.6-footer is probably the tallest pitch pine in Harvard, MA. I have a feeling it could even be the tallest measured pitch pine in the state, at least until Bob or someone else takes it upon themself to find a taller one. :)

by a_blooming_botanist
Sat Nov 19, 2016 6:40 pm
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Re: Tall pitch pine in Blomfelt Conservation Land of Harvard

Ho ho ho, ENTs!

This Christmas Santa brought me a very special new toy, an LTI TruPulse 200X. He told me he was very pleased with the tree measuring I have done thus far with my Nikon ProStaff 440 and that he would like for me to be equipped with the most accurate rangefinder on the market on all of my future tree hunting excursions. ☺

Taking advantage of the clear skies and mild temperatures today, I brought my new rangefinder, named Spiffy, to re-measure the tallest known pitch pine in the state. I began by wrapping neon orange ribbon around the trunk 4.5’ above mid-slope. I then walked away from the tree to locations where I could get a clear shot at the top sprig as well as the orange ribbon. With Spiffy mounted on a tripod approximately where I had shot from last time I measured the tree at 104’ 7” tall. This is almost exactly what I had calculated previously using my ProStaff 440 and iPhone clinometer app! Excellent confirmation!

What’s more exciting is that even after confirming my previous measurement using my new equipment I continued to comb the crown for a higher sprig. Santa’s second present to me this year was just that: a fascicle of three needles 105’ above mid-slope! Update your spreadsheets, everyone!

Happy holidays and merry tree hunting, folks.

by a_blooming_botanist
Sun Dec 25, 2016 7:03 pm
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New MA state champion yellow birch

Welcome to 2017, all ye Native Tree folk!

For all the talk about how 2016 was such a bad year, there was at least one positive event that deserves recognition: the discovery of the new Massachusetts state champion yellow birch.

In doing what we do best (i.e., wandering around old second growth and old growth stands), Ray Asselin, Arnie Paye, and I found ourselves in Monroe State Forest in early December. Our mission was, and continues to be, to evaluate the area’s potential old growth stands. There are surely some nice, large individuals scattered about, but it was this big yellow birch that stopped us all in our tracks.

MA champion yellow birch.jpg
MA champ yellow birch - looking up.jpg
MA champ yellow birch - backside.jpg
I’ve never seen a yellow birch with such old, weathered bark and with such a prominent root flare. There are other yellow birches in this forest that display advanced age characteristics, but our new champion does so on another level.

I took preliminary measurements of the tree on our first visit, and subsequently I have taken the time to measure the tree as accurately as I can. The final set of measurements that Ray and I came up with is:

Height: 86.8’
CBH: 12.78’
Average crown spread (of 10 spokes): 57.4’

Big tree points: 254.2

May 2017 bring many tree discoveries for all of you!


P.S. For another account of this discovery with additional photos, check out Ray’s blog at
by a_blooming_botanist
Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:57 pm
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150-ft white pine in eastern MA

Good news, everyone! Eastern Massachusetts now has a member of the 150’ white pine club!

Today I had the pleasure of meeting up with Doug Bidlack to measure some of the tall pines in Lincoln that he had reported on back in 2014. As these trees are growing on private property, we first stopped at the owner’s house to request permission to walk in their woods. Three years ago they gave Doug an enthusiastic “yes”, and when we eventually made contact today the response wasn’t much different. They were happy to let us do our big tree thing.

Now, for the trees. We expected to measure heights in the upper 130s to mid 140s. With great attention to detail we measured six white pines that appeared to be among the tallest of the group. Here is what we found:

8.09’ x 138’7”
9.04’ x 139’3”
8.55’ x 141’1”
8.75’ x 143’10”
9.3’ x 146’
7.99’ x 151’

That’s right, folks. We found a legit 150-footer, and it wasn’t even the one that we first thought was the tallest. These trees are deceptively tall.

Here are some pictures of the 151’ white pine:

Lincoln 151 white pine - base.jpg
Lincoln 151 white pine - looking up near base.jpg
Lincoln 151 white pine - looking up from hillside.jpg
Lincoln 151 white pine - full tree.jpg
by a_blooming_botanist
Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:52 pm
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Re: Atlantic white-cedars in eastern MA

Yesterday Doug and Ellen Bidlack hosted an Atlantic white cedar hunt in southeastern Massachusetts, to which Andrew Joslin, his friend Asa, and I were cordially invited. We met in the morning, piled our bodies and gear into my car, and set off for Copicut Woods in Fall River.

I parked the car on Yellow Hill Road and we walked a short way into the woods to a nice stand of Atlantic white cedar ( Chamaecyparis thyoides ) in a swamp populated by red maple, pitch and white pines, yellow birch, and tupelo. With a sense of where the big cedar trees are, the Bidlacks led us to some spectacular trees. As a team we measured six of the largest. Here are their dimensions, from shortest to tallest:

6.61’ x 59’3”
6.04’ x 62’1”
6.67’ x 62’10”
6.36’ x 64’10”
5.84’ x 65’8”
6.71’ x 66’5” x 16’8.75” (average crown spread)

It just so happened that one individual was both the tallest and girthiest, so we measured its crown spread to be able to put it in the running for state champion. With the measurements from today this tree has 150.9 big tree points (80.52 + 66.42 + 4). It must be that once a tree has reached the threshold of 150 big tree points it begins to talk. This tree was making noises at us. Here are a few photos of this fine tree:

6.71 x 66.42 AWC - base.jpg
6.71 x 66.42 AWC - top.jpg
6.71 x 66.42 AWC - looking up.jpg
As we were returning to the car we stopped to admire a small patch of mountain laurel ( Kalmia latifolia ). Let me specify that it is the patch that is small, not the plants themselves. This is the biggest mountain laurel I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure! We measured the tallest stem at 0.76’ CBH x 19’1” tall! Below is the 19-ft mountain laurel, with red arrows pointing to the top and bottom of the plant.

0.76 x 19.1 Mtn laurel.jpg
After this successful tree hunt we returned to the car and took a lunch break on our way to the second site of the day, Acushnet Cedar Swamp. This property is over 1,000 acres, and if you don’t know where you’re going you can find yourself wandering aimlessly through thickets of brier. That’s kind of what we ended up doing. ☺ With the sun nearing the horizon, we returned to the car without having seen a single cedar tree! Fortuitously, we encountered a local on our way out and got the skinny on how to get to the Atlantic white cedars. You can expect a report on the trees of the Acushnet Cedar Swamp in the near future!

by a_blooming_botanist
Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:52 pm
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Re: Atlantic white-cedars in eastern MA

Today I went on a little solo reconnaissance mission to scope out the Atlantic white cedars in the Westborough cedar swamp. At the confluence of several streams and at the headwaters of the Sudbury River, this wetland area covers over 1,600 acres. There are only scattered patches of cedar trees these days, however, making the task of sizing up these conifers a little less daunting.

I first visited the southern edge of the swamp, where I know there to be Atlantic white cedars. I parked my car in the back of St. Luke’s cemetery and walked a short way down a dirt road running along the edge of a field to where a path cuts into the woods. Upon entering the woods I could see the first and most accessible stand of target trees. The tallest of the group stood out to me, so I made my way across the frozen wetland to measure it. Not far from the tallest of the bunch was the girthiest, so I measured the two up properly and took some pictures of them. Here they are:

3.66’ CBH x 69’5”
3.66 x 69 ft AWC.jpg
4.31’ CBH x 60’10”
4.31 x 60 ft AWC.jpg
After getting a sense of how big the trees in this stand are, I walked back to the dirt road and continued walking east to another path cut into the woods. This path leads deep into the wetlands, reaching as far as the kettlehole pond in the center, Cedar Swamp Pond. The trail is only passible in winter when the ground is frozen, and, despite the bitter cold today, the ice was not thick enough to support my weight. So I surveyed the trees that I could from the safety of the swamp edge. These trees are between 60 and 65’ tall, with circumferences in the 3 to 4’ range.

With the little remaining daylight, I stopped at one other stand of Atlantic white cedars growing in the northwest corner of the swamp. To access these trees I parked in the parking lot of the Westborough Senior Center and walked southeast across the playground and ball fields. Here again, the trail leading into the swamp is most manageable when the ground is frozen solid. Before I was able to get up close to the cedars I encountered a portion of the trail inundated with relatively deep water and a thin sheet of ice on top. So, I sized up the cedar trees as best I could from where I was. Once again, these trees are cruising at roughly 60 – 65’ with circumferences comparable to those in the southern portion of the swamp. One tree in this stand that I had the opportunity to measure last month was 3.88' CBH x 59'8".

Here’s a picture of this northwestern stand:
Westborough Cedar Swamp - NW stand.jpg
by a_blooming_botanist
Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:38 pm
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Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Greetings, NTSers!

Yesterday Doug Bidlack, Andrew Joslin, and I met for a day of tree hunting in Northborough. After we each finished our eggs benedict, coffee, and orange juice at Britney’s Cafe, we set sail in my car for Edmund Hill Woods.

We started into the woods from the parking lot in the southeastern corner of the property and walked along the main trail in the direction of the glacial drumlin known as Edmund Hill. There are some good sized oaks, hickories, maples, and white pines in the forest between Rice Avenue and the hill, but our mission was to measure up a large cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) first noticed and measured by Andrew in 2010. We passed several cucumber magnolias on our way to see their king, with each successive tree that we passed being a little bit bigger than the one before. Finally, we were in the presence of a towering, old, leafless magnolia.

Edmund Hill Cucumber Magnolia - base + Andrew.jpg
Edmund Hill Cucumber Magnolia - full.jpg
Edmund Hill Cucumber Magnolia - looking up.jpg
First, Doug and I each employed a different method for finding CBH. Doug’s method, relying on divine revelation and/or black magic, produced a slightly different circumference measurement, which I’ll let him explain. I, on the other hand, took the midpoint between 4.5’ above up-slope and 4.5’ above down-slope, resulting in a circumference at breast height measurement of 8.22’. We each placed a tack in the tree where we considered 4.5’ above mid-slope to be and got to work measuring the height. When all was said and done, I had measured the tree at 121’7” and Doug had it at 121’3”. Considering that our placement of breast height differed by 2.75”, we were quite satisfied with having measured to within two inches of one another. We then measured the crown spread twice. Doug brought along reflective driveway markers to set up under the drip line, while I employed the more traditional spoke method. From eleven spoke measurements I calculated an average crown spread of 49.9’, whereas Doug’s “asterisk” method calculated an average crown spread of 45.7’.

After basking in the glory of this amazing angiosperm, we turned our focus to a nearby white pine that Andrew and Doug had last measured in 2010 at 125.2’ by Doug and 126’ by Andrew. In the seven intervening years this pine tree has put on about seven vertical feet, clocking in at 132’3” with a CBH of 9.55’. Here are a few pictures of Edmund Hill’s first recognized 130’ white pine:

Edmund Hill 132 white pine - base + Andrew and Doug.jpg
Edmund Hill 132 white pine - full.jpg
Edmund Hill 132 white pine - top.jpg
Having accomplished what we had set out to do, we then made our way back to my car so that I could show the guys the two other 130’+ white pine sites that I’ve found in Northborough. We first went to the Yellick conservation area, which follows Stirrup Brook as it flows into the Assabet River. Here I showed Doug and Andrew some of the tall trees that I’ve measured, which you can see in the photos below.

133.8 white pine - full.jpg
112.5 bigtooth aspen - looking up.jpg
4.87 x 133 white pine - full.jpg
4.87 x 133 white pine - base.jpg

To finish the day, we hopped across Route 20 to another piece of conservation land that flanks the town’s high school. This is where I measured the tallest white pine that I’ve found in Northborough (so far) at 9.49’ CBH x 136.5’. Here she is:

136.5 white pine - full.jpg
136.5 white pine - looking up.jpg
by a_blooming_botanist
Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:45 pm
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Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

I want to make it clear that my initial comment on Doug’s methods wasn’t meant disparagingly; Doug is one of the most competent tree measurers I know.

He and I have discussed the methods that we use in measuring trees and he has planted a healthy seed of doubt in my mind regarding some of our techniques. For instance, in measuring crown spread there seems to be an almost innate bias toward measuring the longest limbs. If, however, our average crown spread measurement is to be a true average it must include both the longest and the shortest limb extensions. There are many apt analogies to use; Doug first described this to me using the example of temperature. Within a given period of time, let’s say a year, temperatures will fluctuate. There will be daily highs, lows, and average temperatures over the course of the year. If one were to ask the question “what was the average temperature over the course of this one year?” then it would be appropriate to calculate the average of all the daily averages. The way many people, including myself, tend to measure crown spread is comparable to calculating the average of daily high temperatures and reporting that as the yearly average. It seems that a conscious effort must be made to measure the tree in a way that does not favor the longest branches at the expense of including the short ones.

There is also the matter of the placement of mid-slope, which theoretically represents where the seed sprouted. I wonder, if angiosperms and gymnosperms exhibit different responses to gravity in their compression wood, is it fair to assume that the seed always sprouted exactly halfway between down-slope and up-slope? Wouldn’t an angiosperm growing on a slope have a central pith slightly downhill from center, and a gymnosperm slightly uphill?

by a_blooming_botanist
Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:29 pm
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Re: A Meaningful Dedication


No worries! I didn’t realize you were thinking of this forum when you asked me if I wanted to be the one to share the news. You tell the story nicely.


As Ray and Tony were preparing for the video shoot, Bob and I were examining some of the tall, middle-aged and older trees at the base of the old growth boulder field area on Mount Todd. A graceful black birch at the very base of the slope caught Bob’s attention and prompted him to point it out to me. “The top’s way up there,” he told me. I had to spend a little while scrambling up, down, and around the boulder field to finally catch a glimpse of the top, but when I did it came out to an even 107’ tall! After returning to the base of the tree from my slopeside vantage point, I measured its CBH at 6.02’ and collected GPS coordinates. Into the database it goes! Have a look:

6.02 CBH x 107 black birch MTSF - base1.jpg
6.02 CBH x 107 black birch MTSF - bole1.jpg 6.02 CBH x 107 black birch MTSF - looking up1.jpg
Below you'll see a couple additional photos of the 150.5-foot D'Amato pine that offer views from underneath the tree.

Tony D'Amato pine - base1.jpg
Tony D'Amato pine - looking up1.jpg
by a_blooming_botanist
Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:16 pm
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Codman North conservation area in Lincoln

This report has been months in the making, as I first discovered and began measuring trees in the Codman North conservation area in July of last year. My interest was turned on to this site not by anyone else’s recommendation, but by my own search of Google satellite imagery. Initially, I was trying to locate the stand of “super pines” in Lincoln that Doug Bidlack had reported on, but whose exact location was undisclosed. I could have simply contacted Doug, but I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could locate the pines or find some other good trees in the process. As I was scanning the landscape of Lincoln from the comfort of my laptop, I came upon a good stand of what I recognized as hemlock trees. Hemlocks have a very distinct, cauliflower-like appearance when seen from above. Here’s what my first glimpse of the trees was:
Satellite view of Codman hemlocks.jpg
In April of this year, with my trusty unit Spiffy (LTI TruPulse 200X) I began measuring and documenting the superb hemlocks and other trees that grow on this property. The trail system here is quite limited; one well-worn main trail is accompanied by an infrequently used secondary trail that appears to be a dead-end. The main trail, popular with local cyclists, runs along the base of a steep, north-facing slope that leads down to a swamp thick with winterberry, red maple, and even some small blackgum trees. The slope itself is dominated by eastern hemlocks, with scattered red oaks and red maples. Black oaks can be found at the top of the slope, but only white and red oaks are found elsewhere on the site. White pine are present throughout, but not as a major component of the canopy. One of the features of this site that I am intrigued by is the abundant pit-and-mound microtopography. This site appears to have existed in a wooded state for a substantial amount of time given the number of large, living trees as well as the amount of course woody debris and evidence of large trees having fallen in the past. I wouldn’t call this old growth, but it is certainly a nicely maturing forest that is developing characteristics of age and producing some large trees.

I’m sure you’d like to know how big some of these trees are, so here are the measurements I’ve taken so far (listed as CBH x height) with photos of some of the exceptional individuals:

Tsuga canadensis
8.28’ x 128.3’
7.98’ x 125.6’
7.37’ x 125.3’
8.48’ x 123.4’
8.83’ x 123.3’
9.88’ x 120.4’
7.4’ x 120.1’
7.98’ x 119.6’
9.17’ x 119.2’
10.82’ x 119’
9.31’ x 118.3’
9.41’ x 118.1’
7.6’ x 116.6’
6.47’ x 115.1’
10.15’ x 114.8’
7.1’ x 113.4’
7.92’ x 113.2’
5.96’ x 111.1’
7’ x 111’
7.91’ x 110.4’
12.01’ x 109.1’
8.28' x 128.3' hemlock - base.jpg
8.28' x 128.3' hemlock - full.jpg
8.28' x 128.3' hemlock - top.jpg

12.01' x 109.1' hemlock - base.jpg
12.01' x 109.1' hemlock - full.jpg

Pinus strobus
9.73’ x 128.3’
7.57’ x 121.7’
7.53’ x 120.3’
7.61’ x 112.7’
9.73' x 128.3' white pine - full.jpg

Quercus rubra
11.3’ x 112.4’
4.84’ x 102.8’
9.85’ x 102.2’
9.95’ x 101.2’
8.82’ x 100.6’
8.22’ x 96.9’
10.52’ x 91.8’
11.3' x 112.4' red oak - base.jpg
11.3' x 112.4' red oak - full.jpg
11.3' x 112.4' red oak - top.jpg

Quercus alba
8.13’ x 98.4’
9.21’ x 92.1’
10.93’ x 88.9’
10.93' x 88.9' white oak - base.jpg
10.93' x 88.9' white oak - full.jpg
10.93' x 88.9' white oak - top.jpg

Quercus velutina
7.17’ x 88’
6.9’ x 87.1’
8.75’ x 81.6’

Fraxinus americana
5.82’ x 99.3’
3.68’ x 99.2’

Carya glabra
4.34’ x 107.9’
3.88’ x 89.9’

Juglans cinerea
4.32’ x 96.3’

Acer rubrum
4.82’ x 101.4’
4.97’ x 98.2’
5.2’ x 96.9’

Ulmus americana
6.35’ x 100.3’
6.35' x 100.3' American elm - base.jpg
6.35' x 100.3' American elm - top.jpg

Betula lenta
5.24’ x 107.2’
5.24' x 107.2' black birch - base.jpg
5.24' x 107.2' black birch - full.jpg
5.24' x 107.2' black birch - top.jpg
Ilex verticillata
0.57’ x 21.7’

Part of the reason that I have waited until now to share my data with the rest of you is that I have wanted to more adequately represent all species that are present on the site. I still would like to measure the few sugar maples that are present, as well as a few more of the oaks. I’ll have more data once the leaves fall and I can more easily spot the tops of those hardwoods.

by a_blooming_botanist
Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:49 pm
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