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Welch Branch, GSMNP

Welch Branch is a small stream that feeds Forney Creek, one of several large watersheds on the north shore of Fontana Lake that lack road access. Originally, the National Park Service agreed to build a road on the north shore to provide families access to gravesites that was lost with the flooding of Fontana Lake. However, after building the first of many tunnels necessary to complete the task, the Park Service re-evaluated the expense of that action. A more recent effort to have the road built ended with a cash settlement to Swain County, NC that will maintain the North Shore as one of the largest roadless areas in eastern North America.

On March 20th, Will Blozan, Michael Davie and I visited Welch Branch with high anticipation and quickly hiked through the abandoned tunnel at the end of the North Shore Road and several miles of pine and oak forests to get to the site. The drainage had first been noted as an excellent growth site by Jess Riddle using NC LiDAR data. Mike made a trip there in early March, but forgot his clinometer. Shooting straight up into trees he had readings over 180 ft.

On reaching Welch Branch, we left the Bear Creek trail and continued on a maintained foot path that goes up to an old homesite and cemetary on Welch Branch. Forney Creek was not heavily settled, but was heavily logged by the Norwood Lumber Company between 1909 and 1920, and slash fires were particularly intense in the upper watershed. The human history of the area is such that I didn’t note any areas of old-growth on the trip.

Past the homesite, we climbed steeply into the uppermost of three coves with extremely tall tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera). All of the tributaries of Welch Branch flow southeast. Jumpup Ridge forms a steep, high western ridge to the site. Predictably the best growing sites at Welch Branch have east and northeast aspects.

In the uppermost cove, we located and measured six tulip trees over 170’ tall and one over 180’. Two large red oaks, both passing the 11.5’ x 145’ threshold were measured. Many poplars in this and other coves were over 160’ tall and were not intensively measured. With the use of LiDAR 170’ is the new threshold for a “tall” tulip tree in the Smokies.

The central cove, as indicated by LiDAR, turned out to be the real treasure trove of tallness. We located, measured and waypointed 20 poplars over 170’ tall in this cove – all twenty of those poplars fit inside of an eight acre polygon, making this spot one of the highest canopies, if not the highest canopy, of its size discovered by ENTS. In this area Will located a new height record northern red oak (Quercus rubra), a pretty tree 156.3’ tall and around 12’ gbh. The cream on top of the pie was a poplar going at least 186’ tall and up to 187.4’ on one measurement that is currently the second tallest known tulip tree in eastern North America, though it will probably slip in the rankings fairly soon.

We finished up the day with a final cove and mopped up two more 170’s for a total of 28 trees over 170’ (51.8 M) in this one small watershed. ENTS has discovered no other site with some many trees over 170’ in such a small area. While an upcoming post by Mr. Blozan will overshadow this discovery, Welch Branch appears to be one of the top five second-growth tulip tree sites in North Carolina and is truly mind-blowing in its tree growth. Though the site has great productivity for tulip tree, it is so dominated by the species that a Rucker 10 or even a Rucker 5 is not warranted. Tracking this site as it matures will be very interesting. In 10 years it is possible that the tallest tulip tree will be located in Welch Branch.

Species DBH (inches) Height (ft) Tag
Liriondendron tulipifera 35.59 187.4 WB20
Liriondendron tulipifera 33.66 183.9 WB21
Liriondendron tulipifera 34.00 180.7 WB3
Liriondendron tulipifera Twin 179.2 WB16
Liriondendron tulipifera 29.84 178.3 WB22
Liriondendron tulipifera 31.69 177.8 WB31
Liriondendron tulipifera 26.46 177.4 WB6
Liriondendron tulipifera 31.10 177.3 WB12
Liriondendron tulipifera Twin 176.4 WB24
Liriondendron tulipifera 29.65 176.1 WB19
Liriondendron tulipifera 35.08 175.6 WB1
Liriondendron tulipifera 25.55 174 WB18
Liriondendron tulipifera 29.96 173.5 WB14
Liriondendron tulipifera 25.67 173.1 WB30
Liriondendron tulipifera 28.74 172.8 WB28
Liriondendron tulipifera 23.35 172.6 WB13
Liriondendron tulipifera 32.87 172.3 WB8
Liriondendron tulipifera 34.30 172.3 WB9
Liriondendron tulipifera 35.35 172.3 WB11
Liriondendron tulipifera 35.20 172.1 WB15
Liriondendron tulipifera 35.20 171.6 WB4
Liriondendron tulipifera 33.15 171.5 WB23
Liriondendron tulipifera 24.25 171.5 WB27
Liriondendron tulipifera Twin 171.4 WB25
Liriondendron tulipifera Twin 170.8 WB5
Liriondendron tulipifera 31.81 170.3 WB10
Liriondendron tulipifera 29.76 170.2 WB17
Liriondendron tulipifera 39.06 170.2 WB29
Liriondendron tulipifera 32.24 169.1 WB26
Quercus rubra 57.1" 156.3
Quercus rubra 47.40 146.8 WB2
Quercus rubra 44.50 145.7 WB7

Will Blozan, Michael Davie and Josh Kelly. Welch_chm.jpg IMG_6276.JPG

***NOTE: Topo map removed due to NPS restrictions pertaining to a recently obtained collection permit***
by Josh Kelly
Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:57 pm
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Fork Ridge Tuliptree- new eastern height record!!!

Fork Ridge Tuliptree climb

All the variables needed for the climb of the tall tuliptree Ian Breckheimer located last May finally came into place. An NPS research permit, good weather, and competent arborists convened last week for the initial ascent and modeling of the super-tree. The expedition members were Josh Kelly, Hugh Irwin, Michael Davie, Mike Riley, Nich Maidment, Aaron Knoblet, Ana Poirier, and I. I should note that this group consisted of a collaborative effort of FIVE tree care companies! Ian Breckheimer and his father Steve, whom found the tree, also joined us later in the day.

The hike in was around four miles (6.7 km). We set up a base camp and decided to go ahead and haul the climbing gear in to the tree, verify the height, and if time permitted, rig it with ropes for the next day of measuring. We decided to access the location of the tree from an adjacent ridge, opting for a descent to the site rather than a potential nasty bushwhack up a steep slope with heavy packs. This added a good bit more hiking but left the unknowns to a minimum. Unfortunately, Ana lost a boot during the first stream crossing and she and Josh stayed back to try to locate it.

All I had to go on was a GPS point that Josh gave me. He was not in the climbing group that went up for the rigging so we entered unknown territory. The slope was ridiculously steep and the effort to stay upright was compounded by the weight of the gear. In a semi-controlled slide we dropped off the ridge and down into a steep, rich cove. The transition from dry ridge top to lush, tall cove forest was abrupt. We scouted ahead and spotted what we thought may be the tree. Nope; farther down we went. We did not know what to expect- except we knew it was a large tree.

Michael Davie and I were leading the group and at the same time we saw “the tree”. This time, it was obvious! It was also a lot bigger than I imagined, especially in the crown. Just to be sure we roughly measured the height. Various expletives echoed in the steep cove as both Mike and I measured the height of the tree to over 190 feet (58 m). Yep, we found it!
Whole tree from upslope HI001.jpg
Tall canopy HI001.jpg
The rest of the group tumbled down and we assessed the tree. I was most worried about rigging it and climbing among the large amount of deadwood present. Josh Kelly had thought the lowest branch was around 85 feet (26 m). Well, the first fork was closer to ~102 feet (31 m); the second at ~115 feet (35 m). Neither was suitable in the slightest for rigging the tree; they were too tight and too large to scramble over even if we could get a line set there. Also, potential pitches between the upper branches were few and far between. I explored with the laser scope and found the only available spot for an ascension rope. It was solidly 160 feet (49 m) above the base. This height is beyond any human capacity to hand-throw and out of the reasonable range of conventional rigging devices such as slingshots.
Canopy gnarlage HI001.jpg
Fortunately, I anticipated this being the case and with the help of my son, Aven, built a pneumatic throw-weight launcher. This device uses compressed air from a bike pump to propel a 12 ounce throw-weight with a thin line attached to it. The bag with thin trailing line is launched into the tree, over a suitable branch, and then a climbing line is attached and pulled through. This allows us to ascend up the rope, not the tree itself. Traditionally, at least in eastern trees, a pole-mounted slingshot is used. But we needed something easier to carry, more predictable and capable of greater range. Our collapsible device had launched the throw-weight and line 300 feet (91 m) vertically in testing. Now it was time for the real test.

I located a spot with a clean shot to the intended branch fork. As most arborists familiar with tall tree climbing know, the first shot is always a “calibration shot” and often results in a deployment tangle nightmare of throwline. I had full intention of a blown shot, so while the others were getting out their cameras to film the “real shot”, I opened the valve. Much to everyone’s surprise the bag sailed cleanly through the intended fork and clear out the other side of the tree! With a bit of finagling with some minor tangles the tree was rigged. A single shot rigged the tallest tree yet climbed in the eastern US!
Whole tree southeast WB001.jpg
We only had 300 feet (91 m) of static rope so we had to anchor one end upslope to allow the other end to reach the ground for climbing. With my rigging fear in the past, we had time to climb the tree and return to camp before dark. I was the only one who went up, and I did an initial inspection and tried to come up with a plan for the next day. Shortly before I ascended Ian and Steve joined us. Ana and Josh also had just arrived after an unsuccessful attempt to find her wayward boot. She hiked in Josh’s way-too-big sandals stuffed with socks and duct-taped to her feet.

The hanging rope illustrated how the tree slightly but significantly leaned and also how offset the top was. I was not sure which top was the tallest but we were definitely rigged on the correct leader. The tree forked into three main tops. All of these were stout and alive with new leaves just emerging.

I ascended the rope and watched the trunk taper a bit and then remain virtually unchanged for over 80 feet (24 m). The bark was thick and indicative of an old tree. The first limb fork was huge since the trunk was still nearly four feet thick. Epiphytic birches were present in the debris of the closely squeezed fork. No rope would ever have fit in there without locking up. Same for the next fork, which was the top of the main trunk. This point was 115.5 feet (35.2 m) above the base and 46.5” (1.18 m) diameter.
Will ascend IB001.jpg
Above the last fork the three main tops spiraled and spread apart. There were virtually no more straight sections as the tops wound their way upwards. Huge pieces of deadwood teetered and shook as I climbed into the crown. I left the ascension rope and switched to a double-rope climbing technique. At 175 feet (53.3 m) I stopped climbing higher and scouted the tops. The lead I had climbed was not the tallest point but within a foot or two. I decided I could reach the tallest point with a pole the next day for the tape drop. I set my line, descended to the other rope and rappelled down to the ground. We also identified and set the midslope position with pins. The tree was ready!

We left the gear hung in the trees and dropped down the cove to check out the stream crossing as a possible better option for the return the next day. It was a far better option, and much quicker.

The next morning was cold but clear and we were relatively unencumbered by heavy gear. Five climbers went up for the volume modeling; Mike, Nich, Ana, Michael and I. I was the primary data recorder while the others traversed the crown and relayed the measurements. I had full intention of doing the 3D crown mapping this day but soon became overwhelmed with the complexity of the tree and the logistics of doing it without a survey laser. It was all but impossible in the amount of time we had.
Five aloft HI001.jpg
Five climbers AK001.jpg
Nich on far lead001.jpg
The focus thus changed to a tape drop and volume modeling of the entire tree. I climbed up near the top and with a 17 foot (5.2 m) pole was able to isolate and measure the highest twig. The highest point was not over anything solid- and originated on a twisted part of the main central lead. With a clinometer I transferred the measurement to the other lead that Mike Riley was on so we could drop the tape from there and have it as close to the trunk as possible. The tape was dropped and Josh was on the ground and “zeroed” it on the midslope tack.
Mike Davie in top001.jpg
Nich at top of main001.jpg
Mike Riley Ana Poirier in top001.jpg
We were anxious to know how tall the tree actually was. The “Boogerman Pine” at 188.9 feet (57.6 m) was the number to beat. The pine has had the reign as the tallest eastern tree since 1995. Well, the Boogerman has been surpassed. The tape drop of the great tuliptree was 191.9 feet (58.5 m)! This is the first tuliptree ever accurately measured to exceed 190 feet (57.9 m) and it now stands as the tallest native broadleaf tree known in all of temperate North America- surpassing a black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) in Olympic National Park by over 10 feet (3 m)!
We went about the volume modeling for the rest of the day. It actually didn’t take all that long since there were not too many pieces to measure. Not having to monument them in three dimensions really did speed things up.
Will and Mike trunk wraps AK001.jpg
Basal measurements HI001.jpg
Climbing party HI001.jpg
Back at camp, Josh and I were speculating on the volume of the tree. I estimated ~2,600 cubic feet (73.6 m3) when it was thought to be 187 feet (57 m) tall. After the tape drop we both thought it may be closer to 3,000 cubic feet (85 m3). Admittedly, that is a lot of wood for a moderate sized tree. However, some of the hemlocks Jess Riddle and I had modeled for the Tsuga Search Project were surprisingly large for the relatively small basal dimensions. This is because although rather slender, they were very tall trees and had really long, slow-tapered trunks. Ditto on this tree- and our suspicions were correct.

Table 1: Sampled tree lengths, volume and relative distribution
Tree summary
Length (ft ) Length (m) Volume (ft3) Volume (m3) Percent
Main trunk 115.5 (35.1) 2,015.8 (57.1) 70.9%
Segments 438.32 (133.6) 791.3 (22.4) 27.8%
Branches 573 (174.7) 37.1 (1.1) 1.3%
Tree totals 1126.82 (343.5) 2,844.2 (80.6)

At 2,844 cubic feet (80.6 m3) this is not a small tree. It is likely larger than most other “big ones” of much shorter height. The large size of this moderate tree has us rethinking the size of some of the other big tuliptrees we know of but have heretofore not thought seriously about. Since they are short or have a short main trunk with a large crown we have regarded them as being smaller than a larger trunked tree. Curiously, the main trunk volume of this tree rivals the volume of some of the modeled giants with considerably larger diameters but shorter trunks. This, coupled with the relatively small crown of this tree still having nearly 800 cubic feet of wood has got our attention!

In addition to the climb, tape drop, and volume modeling completed by the climbers, Hugh, Ian and Josh worked on a .2 hectare (.5 acre) circular plot of the woody stems surrounding the target tree. The exceptional growing potential of the site is further demonstrated by the results of the plot which included the heights of the surrounding trees. Including the target tree, there are nine Liriodendron in the plot, all over 31” dbh. Two of the trees adjacent to the target tree are over 170’ tall (see table 2) – both tuliptree. There has been some discussion about this, but this plot certainly has eye popping above ground biomass. Whether old-growth stands such as this have higher biomass than second growth stands is a worthy topic of future research.

Table 2: Dominant and Co-dominant Trees in plot
Species DBH Height (feet)
Liriodendron tulipifera 49.15 (114.7 cm) 172.7 (52.6 m)
Liriodendron tulipifera 48.2 (122.4 cm) 172 (52.4 m)
Liriodendron tulipifera 54 (137.2 cm) N/A
Liriodendron tulipifera 41.7 (105.9 cm) 157.4 (48 m)
Liriodendron tulipifera 47.8 (121.4 cm) 167.5 (51.1 m)
Liriodendron tulipifera 42.8 (108.7 cm) N/A
Liriodendron tulipifera 55.5 (141 cm) 149.1 (45.5 m)
Liriodendron tulipifera 31.7 (80.5 cm) N/A
Liriodendron tulipifera 67.8 (172.2 cm) 191.9 (target tree 58.5 m)
Betula lenta 23.3 (59.2 cm) N/A
Tsuga canadensis 31.1 (79 cm) N/A
Fraxinus americana 34.2 (86.9 cm) 140+ (42.7 m)

It appears the crown volume of these trees is considerable and adds up to some serious volume. The “Greenbrier Giant” in Tennessee comes to mind immediately. This is a fat, stumpy tree but it has an immense crown. Another big tree in Deep Creek that we took some time to measure may fall into this category. This giant is 21’1” CBH (6.4 m) and 179 feet (54.6 m) tall. It has a rather short trunk but what a crown! This tree could very well rival the huge 4,013 cubic foot (113.6 m3) Sag Branch Tuliptree that has the current reign as the largest tuliptree known.
Giant tree JK001.jpg
These superlative titles of height and volume may soon pass to trees yet to be discovered within a new study just initiated by ENTS. This three year study of superlative tuliptree in the Smokies (NC side only) is a permitted study. Locations of the trees cannot be given on publically accessible sites such as the ENTS BBS. However, all ENTS are encouraged to participate in this project and assist in the field efforts.

Thus, the climb of the Fork Ridge Tuliptree is the beginning of a new understanding of the species. It is also the tip of the iceberg- as it is quite likely that we have not found the tallest one yet. LiDAR strongly suggests taller trees may out there. They are remote and it will take some serious effort to document them all.

The National Park Service plans to submit a press release next week about this tree and the work of ENTS. This should get some great exposure for the park and the resources it protects, as well as the important work we ENTS are doing in the eastern forests.

Submitted by Will Blozan (with special thanks to Ian and Josh) on behalf of the ENTS LiDAR and NPS Tuliptree study crew
by Will Blozan
Fri Apr 29, 2011 11:00 pm
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Green Lakes State Park 4/24/2011


On this date (Easter Sunday) Jack Howard and I went to Green Lakes State Park to measure the tall trees of the Tuliptree Cathedral southwest of Round Lake. We also confirmed that the height of the tall White Pine at the south end of Green Lake is 120 ft. as measured 4/30/2010. Trees in the Tuliptree Cathedral were last measured with laser rangefinder by Bob Leverett on 5/4/2002. On 4/24/2011 I used the Nikon 550 Laser Rangefinder, which has trouble seeing through clutter near the bases of trees and through the dense lofty canopies of these towering trees, but I still got a large number of good heights. Some of these heights may be underestimated due to the difficulty of determining and hitting the exact high points of these broad crowned trees. The Tuliptrees here are the tallest trees yet measured in central NY and the tallest trees I’ve ever measured with the laser rangefinder; they are most likely the tallest Tuliptrees anywhere for so far north; Green Lakes is close to the northern limit of the species.

Trees measured 4/24/2011:
Height in feet first followed by dbh (when measured):

Tuliptree 135
Tuliptree 133 these 2 near Hemlock cored 11/17/2001 to 330 years old
Tuliptree 141 40” dbh balding bark toward view toward Round Lake
Tuliptree 138 slender tree cored by Bruce Kershner 5/4/2002 to 160 years old
Tuliptree 133
Tuliptree 141
Tuliptree 145 32.9” dbh near small Hemlock
Tuliptree 147 37.1” dbh near Hemlock tallest tree measured in central NY, possibly same tree that Bob Leverett measured 2002 as tallest at 144.7
Tuliptree 138 39.6” dbh next to above
Tuliptree 139 big tree across trail
Tuliptree 147 in hollow when seen from trail also tallest measured
Tuliptree 126 slender near bridge over stream

Bitternut Hickory 139 19” dbh next to tall Tuliptree, 135.6 ft. in 2002, at 139 ft. this tree could be tallest Bitternut Hickory in NY State.
Bitternut Hickory 130 slender
Bitternut Hickory 125

Sugar Maple 117
Sugar Maple 116 slender balding bark
Sugar Maple 105 average tall tree in forest across stream

Hemlock 108
Hemlock 131 45.3” dbh Onondaga County champion, possibly tallest Hemlock in NY State, possibly oldest tree in Onondaga County, est. over 450 years old (est. from 392 rings on smaller long dead stump, and est. age of 330 years on smaller Hemlock cored 11/17/2001 by Fred Breglia)
Hemlock 130 38.1” dbh next to champion just above
Hemlock 106 28.4” dbh next to biggest Sugar Maple
Hemlock 120 slender
Hemlock 113+ tree cored 11/17/2001 between 2 taller Tuliptrees, could not hit top but 113 ft. is well below highest point, tree measured 116 ft. 2002

Basswood 111 across trail upslope
Basswood (?) 118 35.3” dbh across trail upslope, bark not quite like Basswood but branch pattern looks like Basswood
Basswood 106 near biggest Sugar Maple

Due to clutter conditions I was not able to get heights on the following in Tuliptree Cathedral:

Tuliptree 42.9” dbh near edge of stand – big and old
Tuliptree 48.8” dbh possibly largest Tuliptree in stand, log lodged against trunk

Sugar Maple 51.6” dbh, biggest in stand, one of largest in central NY, spiral grain, shaggy bark, leaning trunk, possibly 300-350 years old – Bob Leverett measured the tree to 117 ft. tall in 2002

Trees measured outside Tuliptree Cathedral:

Group of tall Tuliptrees on steep slope above southwest shore of Round Lake:
3 trees measured – 111, 109, 125

Group of Tuliptrees above northwest shore of Round Lake at trail break – tallest 116, 115

Basswood on trail between Round Lake and Green Lake – 101 ft.

A beautiful place with spring wildflowers starting to bloom, 2 meromictic lakes with unusual green-blue color; Round Lake was still as a mirror with the old growth forest on its shores reflected in the water, like a forest in an inverted sky.

Tom Howard
by tomhoward
Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:43 am
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Fork Ridge red spruce LiDAR hunt


I took the opportunity as a trip leader at the Smoky Mountain Wildflower Pilgrimage in early May to ground-truth some tall LiDAR hits in the spruce zone of Fork Ridge. Fork Ridge (yes, the same system as the tallest tuliptree) is a gently sloping southeast running ridge covered in some of the finest red spruce ( Picea rubens ) forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
9- ancient, massive spruce.jpg
Josh Kelly sent me some waypoints and I uploaded them to my GPS. All seven of the hits were above 140' (42.7 m) which is significant for the elevations being sampled; ~5,000' (1,500 m). There were only three options for what the hits could be; tall spruce, moderately tall hemlock ( Tsuga canadensis ), or erroneous readings from leaning trees. We found all three.

Hit #1 was a 143' (43.6 m) return in old-growth red spruce forest. The stand was steep, dense and tall so finding the tree took some time. The search paid off with a 151.2 footer (46.1 m)- the third spruce ever documented over 150'. Diameter was a respectable 35.2" (89.3 cm).
2- 151.2 foot spruce base.jpg
3- 151.2 foot spruce crown.jpg
Hit #2 was a 141 foot return which turned out to be a 148.1' (45.1 m) spruce with a large trunk 37" (94.0 cm) diameter. This was the same tree I measured to 147' (44.8 m) back in 1996-7.
4- 148.1 foot spruce.jpg
Hit #3 was a 148' return which was actually a respectable hemlock. Dead from HWA.

Hit #4 was a 154' return which we were really excited about. Damn, downslope-leaning ancient hemlock. Dead from HWA.

Hit #5 was a 144' return at the base of a narrow ravine. A towering spruce resided there and stood 152.6' (46.5 m) tall on a large base 38" (96.4 cm) diameter. The tree had just died and would have been the third tallest specimen ever documented.
7- 152.6 foot spruce dead.jpg
Hit #6 was nearby and turned out to be a leaning spruce with an interesting multi-topped crown. LiDAR suggested 143' (43.6 m) but it was actually 136.6' (41.6 m).
8- 136.6 foot spruce leaning downslope.jpg
Hit #7 was hoped to be the crowning tree of the day. A 157' LiDAR hit in dense spruce forest instead yielded a large leaning hemlock over a steep slope. Yep, you guessed it- dead from HWA.

On the way out I stopped to count the rings on a freshly cut fallen spruce log. It was solidly over 400 years and not very close to the base. Back in the late 1990's I also ring counted a 380 year log about 50' from the base. This is a really old spruce forest and I have no doubt a 500 year tree could be found here.
Ring slice.jpg
We have ground-truthed LiDAR hits in hardwood forest and this was the first spruce zone foray. The LiDAR data do tend to underestimate height so this, coupled with the rather coarse 20' (6 m)sampled grid left a high possibility of the heights being significantly low for narrow-topped spruce. This also suggested that the LiDAR would commonly miss tall trees with a narrow top not near a sampled point. This is definitely the case- as we found adjacent trees not recorded by LiDAR that were taller than 140' (42.7 m). Basically, the current LiDAR data are insufficinet to accurately assess individual spruce heights but they do give a good indication of where the tall trees are. This fact alone is immeasurably helpful as red spruce forests are one of the nastiest to traverse. Of all the eastern forests types red spruce is one of the least sampled and remains the last frontier for superlative specimens. Nearly every trip into the red spruce zone yields new records for the species. We are at the tip of the iceberg so to speak for this species.

Thanks to Hugh Erwin for his help with measuring in the difficult terrain!

by Will Blozan
Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:27 am
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Tallest Known Sugar Pine Confirmed By Ascending The Giants

On 6/1 I met up with a a few news reporters and Ascending the Giants climbers Brian French and Will Koomjian in Canyonville to document what I claim is the tallest known sugar pine in Umpqua National Forest. This tree was long thought dead by the outside world and forgotten about after it was girdled sometime in the early 1990s.

Mario Vaden and I measured the tree in January 2011 at 255 feet handheld Impulse200LR laser. In Fall 2011 I re-measured the tree with assistance from Laser Technology Inc. Western Sales Manager Steve Colburn. This time the measurement was tripod mounted and I used a leap frog prism pole survey to the tree's base. Result 255.12 feet.

On 6/1 Brian and Will climb this towering sugar pine and dropped a tape down fromt he top-most leader. Result 255.44 feet. The crown is very broad with a central leader that is not visible until you get very far back. For this reason I was not able to hit the very tip of the highest leader, but I came close.

See attached pictures showing Brian French, the 1st ascender to the top.

Michael Taylor

by M.W.Taylor
Sun Jun 03, 2012 5:25 pm
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Restrictions on Logging in Tongass Are Restored

Restrictions on Logging Are Restored
Published: March 7, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal district judge has reinstated a Clinton-era regulation that prevented logging on old stands of hemlock, cedar and spruce trees in large stretches of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

The judge, John W. Sedwick, ruled that a Bush administration decision to reverse course and allow tree-cutting was made for reasons that he called “implausible, contrary to the evidence in the record” and in conflict with judicial precedents.

The State of Alaska had intervened in support of the federal government, arguing that closing off areas open to logging would cost jobs. But in his ruling, handed down late Friday, Judge Sedwick said evidence presented in the case showed that logging in southeastern Alaska has been declining in any case.

At 16.8 million acres, the Tongass is the largest component of the national forest system. It was the center of a battle in the 1990s between the timber industry and environmental groups and has a strong emotional pull for environmentalists as a remnant of the primeval immensity of the North American wilderness. (continued)

by edfrank
Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:49 pm
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Re: U.S. Forest Service tries new stand on old-growth trees

I've always heard that the USFS is a paramilitary organization- so like the military, they like "big victories" and for foresters that means huge timber sales- maybe they get medals to pin on their chests for each huge sale. It's amazing that they didn't realize from the beginning that they could do small sales, forever, and make everyone happy, instead of selling 70 million board feet all at once then have no sales for several decades. The big sale would certainly draw opposition, the small sales hardly ever do.
by Joe
Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:09 am
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Re: U.S. Forest Service tries new stand on old-growth trees

I never agree on the cuting of old growth. There is just so little of it left compared to what it used to be. And besides, this is just a short term solution to their unemployment problem, What will they do when the trees are cut and sold? It will probably be back to unemployment. The trees will take centuries to re-grow.
by James Parton
Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:14 am
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Nice white ash found

18'1" CBH Aprox 120' tall

Saw this white ash tree in the woods as I drove by recently. As I left the woods a hunter stoped me and after I told him what I was doing he told me there was a tree twice as big in thoes same woods. Cant wait to go back and find it!

Location: Wood off of New rd, Clementon NJ
by John Harvey
Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:49 pm
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Re: North Syracuse Oak Groves Fall 2012

I dropped in on the Wizard of OZ grove for ~ 45 minutes near sundown this fall and got a few pictures:





by Rand
Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:27 pm
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Re: Son of a Beech!

The pictures from Mohegan Lake
by RyanLeClair
Tue Dec 25, 2012 11:02 pm
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The Manahatta Project

Anybody ever hear of this study?

Eric Sanderson theoretically reconstructed the natural environments of Manhattan Island the way it was in 1609 from an old Revolutionary War military map.

Sanderson estimates there were 55 natural communities on the island. Most of Manhattan was covered with an open woodland of giant hardwood trees. A chestnut-oak assemblage grew on the higher drier hills; an oak-tulip woodlands grew on the more mesic sites. Maple-hemlock-beech grew adjacent to rivers and creeks. Pitch pine-scrub oak grew on the sandy soils.

Times Square was a beaver pond surrounded by red maples. The New York City municipal building now rests over a kettlehole pond created by retreating glaciers. Harlem was a grassy plain and salt marsh. Greenwich Village and Wall Street were productive Indian hunting grounds.
by samson'sseed
Tue May 28, 2013 8:20 am
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Tulip Tree co-champion & Sycamore

I wanted to share these photos I just took recently.

The first photo is of a Tulip Tree - I have been looking at this magnificent tree for years, and I pass it along my bicycle route which follows Old Main Street in South Windsor, CT.
I recently came across the Connecticut's Notable Trees web site, and to my surprise this Tulip Tree is listed as a Connecticut co-champion:

The tree was last measured in 2002, and I suspect it has grown over the 138 feet that was measured 11 years ago. I am standing next to it -I am 6'2".
Gatonska Tulip co_champion June 2013.jpg

The next photo is of me standing next to a majestic sycamore, also on Old Main Street, but in East Hartford (apologies for the terrible photo quality).
Gatonska sycamore June 2013.jpg
by michael gatonska
Sat Jun 22, 2013 5:05 pm
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Bryant matches Hearts Content


Yesterday, Ray Asselin and I went to Bryant Homestead at Cummington, MA. Ray had not been there before and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So after a pancake breakfast at nearby he Look restaurant, off we went.

Ray is a very good photographer and I look forward to seeing Bryant through the lens of his camera, but beyond showing Ray the forest and taking a few shots myself, I had a specific mission. I was after #19and opened up the canopy in a few spots, which provided me with added visibility. As a result, I was I was successful in teasing out a few more feet on three hard to see pines. And yesterday, we bagged another. Here is a look at the list of 150s as of the end of yesterday. The heights of the Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson trees are updates. The height of the Bryant Pine is courtesy of John Eichholz and Dale Luthringer last October.


The count is now 19 and that ties the old growth Pennsylvania icon Hearts Content. Many researchers have visited the PA site and stats from there have helped shaped our understanding of old growth white pine stands. But Hearts Content is in the twilight of its pine life. It is succeeding to other species. Bryant is much earlier in the transition zone and offers us an opportunity to follow the successional path starting at an earlier stage.

Here are a few images from yesterday. Some of you may recognize individual trees that I've photographed before. The first 3 images emphasize the unusual one sees in Bryant.

Red maple


Yellow birch epicormic sprouting



Here are three more conventional shots




And lastly, a shot that typifies what one sees and carries away from a trip along Bryant's Pine Loop, namely the abundance of big, soaring trunks. Large pines are more concentrated in Bryant than in other iconic pine stands such as those in Mohawk Trail State Forest. Bryant's closest competitor is Ice Glen. I plan to take the Rucker Girth Index seriously after the the end of this growing season. For the Bryant pines, I would guess that it is around 11.6 feet. We'll see. It is slightly more than that in Mohawk, but the big stems in Mohawk are more dispersed. In Bryant, you encounter one after another. It is a WOW experience.


I will close with comments characteristic of my viewpoint about what one sees traveling across Massachusetts. Most of our woodlands, quite frankly, are boring. Our forests are perpetually over-cut. The result is that one sees spindly little stems often pack together. High grading is the rule on so-called managed lands. We can see larger, more inspiring trees, but they exist primarily along property boundaries, waterways, in city parks, yards, and in a few of our state forests. But the woodlands most residents experience are overwhelmingly second-rate. People are accustomed to them as the norm. Sites like Bryant remind us of what forests can become. We can be thankful to the Trustees of Reservations for recognizing and protecting Bryant Woods for us to enjoy.

by dbhguru
Fri May 24, 2013 8:09 am
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Moro Creek Bottoms Natural Area, AR


Moro Creek Bottoms is most widely known as the birthplace of Bear Bryant, the Alabama football coach, but the forests have also garnered substantial attention. The Arkansas Natural Heritage program established an 81 acre state natural area in the Moro Creek floodplain, and The Nature Conservancy helps manage an additional 92 acres. The unusually maturity of the tract’s hardwood forest served as the impetus for creating those reserves, and the site appears in Mary Byrd Davis’ compendium of eastern old-growth sites. The site has also received academic interest for its old-growth potential, but a study by Lockhart and others (2010) concluded that the site was not old-growth based on the dominance of early successional tree species. Though, they did still identify the site as significant and unusually old forest for the region.

Moro Creek is one of the larger drainages in the Arkansas section of the West Gulf Coastal Plain, and much of the watershed is managed for timber. In fact, only a narrow strip separates the natural area from higher ground and pine plantations to the east. However, on the other sides, private landowners have maintained stands of mature bottomland hardwoods similar enough in structure and composition to the preserve that the boundaries are unidentifiable from a distance.

Lockhart et al’s sampling, conducted in 1989 before a storm flattened parts of the stand, indicated sweetgum is by far the most dominant species and forms the overstory with a mixture of oak species while hornbeam dominates the understory. Twenty-five years later, the stand looked much the same to me, though the relative dominance of different oak species may have changed. A few green ash grow in the canopy gaps from the storm, but hornbeams have spread to fill the gaps for the most part.

Overall, the composition of the stand reminds me more of Congaree National Park than any other place I have seen west of the Mississippi, though some differences are conspicuous. Unlike eastern floodplains, pignut hickory and white oak are common and grow right next to cypress filled sloughs. Paw paw, one of the two most common understory trees in Congaree, is absent from Moro Creek. Hornbeam, paw paw’s companion in Congaree, more than makes up for the other species absence though; hornbeam may be more abundant in the natural area than any other site I have visited. The forests are structurally similar too, but the trees are smaller at Moro Creek than in many parts of Congaree. Still, the forest seems to predate the main wave of logging in the region, and three foot diameter trees are common. If thousands of acres were preserved on Moro Creek, parts might look quite similar to Congaree.




The white oaks and black gums really stood out to me as impressive. I don’t often see forest grown white oaks that large, and I haven’t seen so many tall black gums at a single site. While most of the species reach greater heights in southeastern floodplains, the swamp chestnut oaks are still significantly tall; I believe Congaree is the only site with taller known swamp chestnut oaks. I was also glad to be able to measure the Carolina ash since I had never measured the species before and it was growing near its northwestern range limit.



Overall, the site provides a unique glimpse at what forests may have once looked like along many streams in the region, even if the view is incomplete. The size of the trees gives the forest a different atmosphere and makes the distinction from younger forests not merely academic. Especially when emerging into the forest of big hardwoods and cypress after traversing a half mile of young pine plantations, one can feel like the forest is from a different time.

by Jess Riddle
Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:21 pm
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Re: Visit to Fork Ridge Tulip Poplar and nearby LIDAR hits

Awesome trip report, Patrick!! Thanks for the extensive work in sharing the experience with us...almost like being there! I've been on lots of Smokies crosscountry treks myself, so I know the pain and despair that Rhododendron maximum brings and the feeling of profoundly isolated paradise when you reach those flower-filled open groves.

Coincidentally, I'm in the Smokies now. My hat's off to all who have worked so hard to keep the hemlocks on life support. The Cosby area still has magnificent ancient hemlock groves as a result. There are many other fine trees here, too, and floral wonderlands. Creeping phlox, P. Stolonifera, is the species in the image you posted. Funny how both digital and film photography seldom reproduce shades of blue and purple. This species varies from white to pink, lavender and purple, but is never true blue.

Keep up the good work.

Dan Miles
by Ranger Dan
Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:57 pm
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Re: Visit to Fork Ridge Tulip Poplar and nearby LIDAR hits


I'm looking forward to seeing your route. I doubt the tree in your photo is the same tree. The 17' x 185 individual has a major branch at 57' up the bole and as I mentioned is not particularly well formed. It may be just perspective, but the crown on your 19' x 170' tree seems much more impressive, and I think it is probably a newly documented individual. This photo shows what the Ursa Cage 185 footer looks like in June.

by Josh Kelly
Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:58 am
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Revisting the Tallest White Oak

Doug and Ellen Bidlack were passing through town so Will and I joined them for a pleasant hike (crazy bushwhack) up to the tallest accurately measured white oak tree. At the elevation of the tree, fog was setting in. We could sight the top but couldn't get a reading on the tallest twig. I measured a slightly lower branch to 144.6' and got to 145.2' on the tallest branch. Will was able to get 146.4' with his Trupulse. The actual top appears to be at or about 148' but the fog did not cooperate so that is unconfirmed. It was measured by Mr. Blozan at 147.1' a decade ago.

On the way back, we spotted some nice black birches at 110.2' and 114.0'.
by bbeduhn
Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:23 pm
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Re: Revisting the Tallest White Oak


I have more numbers and a couple pictures to share of this trip. I wish we would have had more time as it's always fun to measure trees with other NTS.

Will put a tape around the white oak and told me it was 110.6cm. I'm sure this is dbh so this converts to 11.4' or 137" in girth. In addition, I took 4 crown spread measurements with Ellen's help. I got 55.5', 69.0', 58.5' and 45.0'. The mean comes out to 57.0' which is also what it comes to if you average the min and the max.

Total points comes to 57/4 (14.25) + 136.8" + 146.4' = 297 points. However, as you mentioned, you and Will probably did not get the highest point.

Here's a picture with you and Ellen with the tall white oak. Somehow Will managed to escape.

Here's a picture showing why it was so tough for you guys to hit the highest point.

by DougBidlack
Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:40 pm
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Sosbee Cove, Chattahoochee NF, GA

On Sunday, March 25th after spending about 5 hours at the old growth of Cooper Creek, I headed towards Sosbee Cove for a quick stop on my way home. On the way two nice trees caught my eye on the side of USFS road 33.

First- a double trunked hemlock. It was located down a steep slope from the dirt road along the banks of Cooper Creek.

From the road, this is what I saw:
Twin Hemlocks_whole trees.jpg

A quick scramble down the hill led me to this:
Twin Hemlock_base.jpg
Twim Hemlocks and me.jpg

Sadly, most of the lower and middle branches were dead and leafless (needle-less?) from adelgids. I saw many adelgids all over the hemlocks in this area, though all the trees did seems to have some green needles and some looked rather healthy. It's probably just a matter of time until these trees fall victim like those in NC, however.

The next thing that caught my eye was the cinnamon-red bark of a tall double trunked 4'5" x 104.1' Virginia Pine in the campground area along Cooper Creek. By total points, this would qualify as a state champion, but I know that Jess Riddle and Will Blozan have found some bigger Pinus virginiana along Warwoman Rd in Clayton, GA and in Cliff Creek as well.

Pinus virginiana_USFS 33.jpg

Now on to Sosbee Cove. This spot is perched just below hwy 180 near Vogel State Park and Blairsville, GA. It's a little over 3,000' elevation and faces due north. Classic cool, moist cove forest with the most rich herb layer I have ever seen. You CANNOT take a step without crushing dozens of wildflowers! Simply stunning. Here resides 2 current GA state champion trees (Tuliptree and Yellow Buckeye) and 1 former champ (Northern Red Oak). My main goal was to find Georgia's first documented 170 foot Tuliptree. A previous (short) trip had resulted in a 164' specimen. With only an hour or so to spend, I knew I'd be hard pressed to do a thorough searching.

First, the data:

Prunus serotina 10'4" x 104.2'
Prunus serotina 107.0'
Liriodendron tulipifera 141.8'
Liriodendron tulipifera 142.8'
Liriodendron tulipifera 144.4'
Liriodendron tulipifera 153.2'
Liriodendron tulipifera 160.9'*
Liriodendron tulipifera 163.4'*
Liriodendron tulipifera 164.3'*
Liriodendron tulipifera 11'5.5" x 164.6'*

*note- all of the 160'+ trees were on the west side of the cove as viewed from the slopeside trail

Well... I didn't break 160', but I did confirm multiple in the mid-160's. More searching is certainly necessary and deserving.

Next, the wildflowers:

wildflowers at Sosbee.jpg
yellow trillium.jpg
trout lily.jpg
unknown wildflower 1.jpg
PALE trillium cuneatum.jpg
Dutchman's breeches.jpg
bloodroot Sosbee.jpg

A big black cherry - 10'4" x 104.2'... notice it's right beside the highway!
Sosbee black cherry.jpg

This is the state co-champion Liriodendron tulipifera . I have visited and measured this tree multiple times. It sits on a slope and the CBH has been quite exaggerated by low tape wraps in the past. I tried very hard to get the midslope on my last measurement.
Right now it stands at 18'4" x 155' x 56' = 391 Total Points
(these pictures were taken last winter):

champ LiTu2_Sosbee.jpg
champ LiTu_Sosbee.jpg

The incredible canopy at Sosbee:

Sosbee canopy_winter.jpg

Yellow Buckeye state champion- a truly magnificent giant! covered in moss and a full 5' in diameter!
Stats: 15'9" x 133.5' x 60' = 338 Total Points
Sosbee champion yellow buckeye.jpg
yellow buckeye budburst.jpg
by eliahd24
Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:06 pm
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Re: Sosbee Cove, Chattahoochee NF, GA

I agree Sosebee cove has trees that are remnants of the virgin forest. Some of them are outside the protected area, down the valley. I first saw the area in 1980, and back then it was obvious that some of the trees were much older than the Forest Service preferred to claim. In the South, them good ol' boy USFS foresters want us to know they think that timber harvestin' is GOOD for the forest and makes trees grow right big real fast! Now, not mentionin' them big ol' holler uns wouldn't do no harm to that important message on the sign, now would it? And besides, who's gonna go an' prove the age on them pumpkin trees anyhow?

Steven, take another look at the leaves on that Claytonia. That's C. caroliniana, Carolina spring beauty. It's the more common of the two spring beauty species in the Southern Appalachians. C. virginiana has much longer, very narrow leaves.
by Ranger Dan
Tue Mar 25, 2014 9:59 am
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Donaldson's Woods (IN)


I recently had the pleasure of visiting Donaldson’s Woods in Indiana. The interesting features are almost too many to count: sinkholes, caves, gorge, old trees, complex crowns, open understory, and a high % of white oaks compared to other forests I’ve visited. In Southwest Ohio I'd have to be in a ravine to find these heights, so the feature that surprised me the most is that with the exception of the walnuts and sycamores, all of these tall trees were on the gently rolling Karst topography and did not require deep ravines.

Rand visited this site in 2008 and put together a great site description and there were many replies that provide even more detail on the history/geology of the site. Here is the link: I’d also like to say thanks again to Rand for his explanation of Indiana LiDAR. The first tree I measured was the 155.9' tuliptree and I walked right up to it using GPS coordinates. I believe this may be the tallest known tree in Indiana. I was also very pleased to find 7 species over 130’.

The walnuts and sycamores are located in the gorge that contains the stream flowing out of Donaldson Cave, which is adjacent to Donaldson’s Woods. Spring Mill State Park and Mitchell Sinkhole Plain are also adjacent to the site. It's also important to note that with the exception of one cave that provides a guided tour, all of the other caves are closed because of white-nose syndrome that kills bats.

tuliptree: 12'10" x 155.9'
tuliptree: 13'9.5" x 152.4'
hickory (unknown ID): 6'7.5" x 138.2'
shagbark hickory: 7'8.5" x 137.5'
shagbark hickory: 6'1" x 124.5'
black walnut: 8'1" x 137.4'
black walnut: 134.8'
American sycamore: 8'6.5" x 134.2'
American sycamore: 133.7'
American sycamore: 9'2" x 131.3'
northern red oak: 8'7" x 132.5'
northern red oak: 13'4" x 130'
white oak: 8' .5" x 131.5'
white oak: 12'6" x 127.6'

typical scene.jpg

DSCN2347 155.9 TT - small.jpg

DSCN2382 155.9 TT - small.jpg

DSCN2349 155.9 TT - small.jpg

138.2 hickory (unknown id) - small.jpg

138.2 hickory bark (unknown id).jpg

137.5 shagbark hickory - small.jpg

134.2 sycamore and 137.4 black walnut - small.jpg

127.6 white oak and 132.5 NRO - small.jpg

131.5 white oak - small.jpg

Donaldson's Cave 1 - small.jpg

Donaldson's Cave 2 - small.jpg

by Matt Markworth
Tue Mar 25, 2014 8:37 pm
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Re: Washington Grove City Park, NY

TP1 - The tallest tree in the grove at 122.2'


TP3 - a prominent tree with balding trunk right along a main trail. Measured to 111.2'

106.3' Black Cherry

WO2 - How I wish I had had time to measure this beautiful tree. Hopefully someone can go back and get a measurement on it

88.4' American Chestnut

Interesting bark pattern on BO1







There is a grove of hemlock trees at the southwest corner of the forest. Unfortunately there was ample evidence of HWA.

Higher quality versions of all the photos are at
by pdbrandt
Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:31 pm
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Old Mans Cave does its best Narnia impression

So after ~4" of fresh snow and the coldest winter in almost twenty years I figured it was high time to visit the Ice in Old Man's cave in the hocking hills. I was not disappointed:









by Rand
Sun Feb 16, 2014 11:17 pm
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Miami Whitewater Forest (OH)

Hi All,

I had two goals on this day, measure ten species and spend more time measuring than looking. Next time, I'll spend more time looking for tall trees.

This Hamilton County park is 4,345 acres and has a little something for everyone, including those that appreciate big trees. . Note that the pine is located in a disturbed area that includes Boxelder, Honeylocust and Eastern Red Cedar.



American Beech small file.jpg
White Oak 1 small file.jpg

- Matt
by Matt Markworth
Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:32 pm
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