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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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