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Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, PA

Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, PA

On Tuesday April 20, 2010, Carl Harting and I visited three islands that are part of the Allegheny River Island Wilderness in north-central Pennsylvania. Originally the trip had been planned for three people, but at the last moment Dale Luthringer was forced to drop out because of problems with a kidney stone. Perhaps this was all for the better, because while I have had successful trips with either Carl or Dale, each time the two of them are on a trip it seems to rain. Today, whether the result of the missing third or not, it was a beautiful day. I had visited the wilderness on several previous occasions. We planned to visit three major islands Courson Island, King Island, and Baker Island and perhaps some smaller ones if we had time. Carl had not been to any of these islands before.

Courson Island

We stopped and borrowed Dale’s canoe early in the morning, loaded it atop my van, and we were off. Carl drove his vehicle as well, so that we could accomplish the needed logistics. The first goal of the day was Courson Island. This is the fourth of seven islands that make up the wilderness. It is 62 acres in size, 0.9 miles in length, and 0.1 miles in width, and generally paramecium shaped.

Courson Island

The goal for the day was to look for new larger trees than had been previously documented and to try and measure additional species that were not documented on the previous trip. I had visited the island once previously on a trip with Dale Luthringer and Anthony Kelly on September 4, 2007 Because of limited time and the goal of visiting several different islands today, Carl and I decided to put in at a Fish Commission access point named Bonnie Brae immediately upstream of Courson Island. We dropped Carl’s vehicle off at the Tidioute Borough Access and headed north. The river level was down and flowing slowly. The water surface was still and mirror-like. The island was but a short paddle and soon we reached the upstream end of the island. Debris from the winter flooding formed a barrier across the tip of the island and behind it laid a mass of multiflora rose briars. I joked with Carl that we needed to go forth and surmount this insurmountable barrier. Carl has a quiet personality, reminiscent of Clark Kent, and serves as a foil for my flights of hyperbole and rambling as we explore. Just beyond the flood debris barrier is a catalpa tree we found on the first trip. This is the only one we have encountered on any of the islands and seems out of place here. Unfortunately the leaves had not yet opened and I am still unsure if it is a northern or southern catalpa. If native it must be a northern catalpa, but on the other hand southern catalpas are commonly planted as ornamentals. We continued down the main portion of the island. Carl located a slippery elm another addition for the species list. I added a nice black willow, another unmeasured species, near the downstream end of the island. The black willow was a respectable specimen at 8. 4 feet in girth and 74.5 feet I height. We measured a few other tree specimens along the way. Carl pushed the height of the previously measured white ash a couple of more feet. We measured a nice fat butternut not located on the previous trip as well. This tree turned out to be just over 86 feet tall - the tallest yet found on any of the islands.

Butternut and Carl Harting, Courson Island - at 86.02 feet it is the tallest butternut measured on the Allegheny River Islands.

On my first trip to the islands I had become fascinated with the large hawthorn trees growing in the islands. Looking at them last year while on Crull Island with Dale, I became convinced that there were two different species of hawthorn present. They had distinctly different branching patterns, but at the time, and again this spring the leaves and flowers were not yet out. The large specimens we had identified as Dotted Hawthorn (Crataegus punctata), but the other species has yet to be identified. The identification of hawthorn species is a mess with as many as a thousand varieties identified by some sources, and at least a few dozen listed by more conservative accounts.

False Hellebore

Exploration in the early spring is much easier than in the autumn after a season of growth. We found ourselves hiking across open areas of newly opened Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). Intermixed with the native skunk cabbage were masses of False hellebore (Veratrum viride). Scattered here and there were Virginia bluebell flowers (Mertensia virginica) and likely are white-flowering Cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine [Dentaria] concatenate). Invasive plants were pervasive on the island. There were large open areas of matted down invasive fields Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea). Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) was present. We pushed through clumps of multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora), some of these roses reached twenty feet or more as they climbed into the trees. Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) bushes were ever present. On this trip, fortunately for us the 12 – 15 foot high barrier of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) that thwarted much of our travel on the first trip had been knocked down by the winter season and we were able to explore several new areas.

Cluster of large trees in new section, Coutson Island. Carl is standing beside the 136.5 foot tall sycamore.

One of these newly accessible areas was a small semi-island section that intermittently separated from the main portion of the island during periods of high flow. On this occasion a shallow stream a few inches deep was all we needed to cross to see this section. There were some really nice sycamores and silver maple trees here. Carl measured one sycamore to just over 135.5 feet, while I simultaneously found a top in another 43 yards straight up, from a position 7.5 feet above the base of the tree. From the side I achieved a similar result for this tree with a height of 135.8 feet. There were several others in the 130 foot class. These two trees were ten feet taller than any we found on the initial trip two years ago.

Carl’s 123 foot silver maple, Courson island

Immediately adjacent to these trees was a nice silver maple Carl found at 123.2 feet in height. In 2005 Dale documented a silver maple near King Island at 123.3 feet tall making it the tallest known in the northeast at the time. This was a silver maple of almost the same height. However on April 02, 2009 Dale and I found a taller silver maple at 128.9 feet on Thompson Island, a few miles upstream and also part of the Allegheny River Island Wilderness, but this specimen is still an exceptionally tall silver maple. From this point we headed back to the canoe. Since the water flow was relatively still Carl and I opted to paddle back upstream to the van. Ducks and geese swimming in the river fled before us as we paddled. I gave Carl the title of “Duck Frightener.” The original plan was to continue down to McGuire Island and on to the Tidioute takeout. This change saved us some car shuffling quite a bit of time we could devote to King and Baker Islands later that afternoon.

New measurements from April 20, 2010

Rucker Height Index - the black willow at 74.5 and the butternut at 86 fet are the tallest of each species we have found in the Allegheny River Islands system.

King Island


We dropped Carl’s vehicle off at the takeout at the Tionesta Fish Hatchery, and grabbed quick bite to eat at a Subway nearby before heading back on the river. I hoped to find someplace we could put in above Baker Island to save us the long paddle down from West Hickory. This would bypass King Island, but in low water the island can be reached wading across a short and shallow cut-around the west side of the island. So I opted to drive out the dirt road along the west side of the river. Unfortunately the terrain was steep and the only good place to put into the river was from a grassy area posted by the inhabitants. So we ended up putting in at the west Hickory Access anyway. From here we paddled down to King Island. King Island is 36 acres in size and nestled against the western bank of the Allegheny River. In spite of several trips to King Island we had not yet collected enough tree species to generate a R 10 Height Index. The main goal of hitting King Island today was to locate and measure at least a tenth species for the index, and hopefully to replace the relatively short dotted hawthorn on the list with a taller species.

From visiting many islands in the Allegheny River, including not only islands in the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, but on several U. S. Forest Service islands, and private islands, certain assemblages of trees can be expected to be found. The predominant species found on the lower sections of the islands are American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and silver maple (Acer saccharinum). Black willow (Salix nigra) and American basswood (Tilia Americana) are also found in these areas in more limited numbers. These are all species that survive or thrive from the periodic flooding of the river. They often have multiple stems in the lower areas from this flood damage, or in some case continue to grow after they have fallen on their side. Their growth is not limited to these low areas and the largest specimens of each species are often found in higher areas in central portions of the islands. Other species found commonly on all the islands include Dotted hawthorn (Crataegus punctata), hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), butternut (Juglans cinerea), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). Species found on most islands, but not all include Common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), and Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Other species found sporadically included Red oak (Quercus rubra), Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), Black walnut (Juglans nigra), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). White pine (Pinus strobus was found on three islands that had particularly high areas that rarely flooded, and was absent from all the other lower islands. A number other species were only found on a single island or were only found on Hemlock Island, a private island with a large area much higher above the flow level than any of the other islands visited.

Carl and I put into the island about midway down the east side. Here is a large open area fringed by some of the largest trees on the island. These include a large single stem silver maple to 18.1ft CBH x 104.3ft high, a bulbous six stem silver maple at 20.8ft CBH x 103ft tall, several more large silver maples, a couple of beautiful sycamores, and a dotted hawthorn with a girth of 6.1 feet, height of 39.3 feet, and a spread of 43.5 feet.

National champion dotted hawthorn, King Island

I submitted it as the national champion dotted hawthorn in 2007, but it has yet to show up in the American Forests listings. The accounts of my first trip on September 5, 2007 can be found on the ENTS website:

Carl Harting and a 18.1 foot girth, 104.3 foot tall silver maple, King Island.

I wanted to show Carl this pocket of magnificent trees. The trees across most of this island are nice, but not particularly tall. The island can easily be reached by wading during times of low water, so I did not want to spend large amounts of time remeasuring already documented trees. The goal was to add a couple of species to those already documented from the island so that a Rucker Index could be calculated. With the wide variety of species found on these islands I was optimistic we could add several new species to the list. Carl and I made a quick circuit of the island and looked pretty hard, but unfortunately the only new species we managed to add to the list was black locust. A cluster of trees in the 100 foot range was located near the upper end of the island.

This 100.72 foot tall black locust is the tallest we have measured in the Allegheny River Islands

This made ten species for the island, but the last species - the dotted hawthorn – was still only 39.5 feet tall and the resulting RHI10 will be depressed in relation to those of the other major islands. I will need to return again sometime and find another taller species.

Rucker Height Index for King Island

Baker Island

From King Island we pushed off and headed down to Baker Island. Baker Island is one of the larger islands in the wilderness at 67 acres. I had previously visited Baker IslandOn September 5, 2007 on the trip reported above. In addition Dale and I managed to wade to the island in June 2008 to remeasure the tallest sycamore found there. This American sycamore is 147.7 foot tall, 12.1 foot girth making it the tallest American sycamore in PA. (Dale remeasured the tree in October 2009 to a new height of 148.3 feet.)


On the paddle down to the island the stark contrast could be seen from trees on the river shore ad those on the islands themselves.

Eastern bank of the Allegheny River.

Along the shore side of the river the trees consisted of a large percentage of hemlocks. White pines were present. The dominant deciduous tree was red maple. Here and there were scattered bright white flowering Juneberry and black cherry. On the forest floor we had found areas just covered with white flowered trilliums and ferns. All of these species were absent or very uncommon on the islands. A scene of the island shorelines included sycamores, silver maples, maybe some willows and hawthorns. There were open areas of invasive reed canary grass and the remnant stems of Japanese knotweed. There was a completely different character between the two areas.

Again as with the other islands the goal was to add some new tall trees and add some additional species to the data set for the island. We put in at the top end of the island. Almost immediately upon entering the forest Carl came across a white ash. This was a species missing from the island listings. This was not so much the case of not seeing any on previous trip, but simply one of bypassing a modest specimen in anticipation of finding a larger one later. The species simply was not measured. Carl is an excellent at tree measurements, and I believe he is better at tree identification that I, especially when many of them have not yet leafed out. In the open areas covered by reed canary grass mats we commonly found bitternut hickory. These mostly were young specimens with relatively smooth bark. Unopened buds had their distinctive yellow buds. Butternut was also present. Its bark looks similar to the diamond patterns of white ash, but with the ridges appearing as if they were smooshed flat by a butter knife.

Old butternut on Baler Island

We headed down the length of the island adding a new tree here and there. I led us to the location of the tallest sycamore to show Carl. In the immediate area were several other trees noted on previous trips, including a slingshot shaped sycamore, a very nice common hackberry, and a sugar maple. I directed us over to several basswoods along the western side of the island. Baker Island was hit by the major category IV or V tornado that swept through the state in 1985. Dale had a book with a nice photo of the damage to the downstream half of the island from the tornado. It turned out that Carl had given him the book. Near the edge of where the tornado winds had knocked down most of the tree I had previously documented a fat 10.7 foot girth, 68 foot tall basswood which had had its top ripped off by the tornado. On this trip I found that again the tree had lost about half its remaining height to wind damage. The fallen tree top lay on the shore.

Large dotted hawthorn

There was a large spreading hawthorn nearby. I am always impressed by the twisted trunks. In these larger specimens they look as if they are made of a series of thick ropes twisted together to form the trunk. From here we headed down toward the downstream end of the island. There were several fallen trees I had noted on previous trips wanted to photograph. Carl measured a nice slippery elm along the way.

Black willow with fallen trunk

I measured a black willow toward the end of the island at 57.10 feet. This particular black willow had fallen over at some time in the past and branches grew upward the fallen 10 foot trunk lying on the ground to form new trunks.

Sycamore with new trunks formed from former limbs.

Also in the area were a series of fallen sycamores lying on the ground. These also had former branches growing from upward from fallen tree to form new trunks. One thing I had wanted to check out was whether or not these new trunks were growing new root systems or whether they were just feeding off the roots still remaining from the original tree.
The first of several specimens examined did not appear to be regrowing roots; however one fallen tree had two large branches that did seem to be growing new roots from their base. I did not have a shovel to dig them up, but to all appearances these secondary trunks were growing their own root systems. I had previous described these types of trees in my multitrunk and other tree form classification system as “Category 6: Fallen trees”:

Fallen American sycamore with apparent rooting new trunks

As we walked back to the canoe we passed several trees with shaggy bark and very fine branching. After some debate we decided these were simply willows that had not yet leafed out.

Black Willow

In an old meander channel cutting across a portion of the island was a water pond complete with lily pads and many, many turtles. These dove into the water and hid upon out approach, thus earning Carl the additional approbation of “Turtle Scarer”. Walking back to the canoe I could think about the day.

April 20, 2010 measurements from Baker Island

Rucker Height Index for Baker Island

Things had gone very well. The weather had been beautiful. We had accomplished most of the goals I want to complete. We found big trees and small. We had a day with the background filled sound with sounds of flowing water, wind, and waterfowl. We had seen a mature bald eagle flying across the river and geese winging northward. Carl had caught sight of an otter and ducks swam before our canoe as we paddled.

River scene from Baker Island looking upstream

We returned to the canoe and headed downstream to the pull out at Tionesta. We passed No Name Island – the last of the islands making up the wilderness on our way to Tionesta. None of us had visited the island yet, but from the canoe it can be seen that it is a low lying island. The trees are generally short and do not appear to be young in age. We could see sycamore, silver maple, and black willow. It was getting late and we opted not to stop. There is a highway pullout on Route 62 along the eastern bank of the river with a sign dedicated to environmentalist Howard Zahniser. This pull out lies immediately opposite No Name Island and a canoe can be put in there on a future trip to hit this 10 acre island to complete the last of the wilderness islands. The rest of the trip to the pull out was uneventful. We loaded the canoe and returned it to Dale back at Cook Forest.
by edfrank
Mon Apr 26, 2010 10:02 pm
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Elk Creek Gorge, Erie County, PA


On 11/10-11/09 I had an opportunity to explore a couple of sections of the Elk Creek Gorge. Elk Creek is one of the Lake Erie drainage systems in Erie County, PA. I searched two sections of stream, one I’ll call RT98 Upstream (RT98U), at ~23 acres, and the other Gudgeon Upstream (GU), at ~103acres. RT98U is 2.3miles upstream from GU. Little Elk Creek, a nearby drainage I’ve reported on earlier, drains into Elk Creek 0.8miles downstream from RT98U.



Both streams approach 200ft of relief from streambed to the tops of the ravine. This is a very steep ravine valley system similar to the Zoar Valley ravine complex, only smaller in scale. I hadn’t walked either of these sections before, so it was more of a scouting mission than anything else. Access is very limited due to the terrain and most of it is private property.

There are many side drainages that I was not able to explore due to time and lack of equipment. You have to frequently wade the stream to switch sides to proceed up the valley system due to the extremely steep terrain. Since I did not bring waders, I was limited to finding crossings at shin to ankle deep at best. The water is not too warm in November… Regardless, there were still some nice finds on this preliminary trip. CBH is not listed for many trees due to shots taken across the ravine, or of small trees on steep ravine fingers leading into the gorge. Here’s the two-day stat roll:

Species CBH Height Comments (pi=poison ivy)

Am. Basswood ~6(pi) 75.1+
Am. Basswood 5.1 93.1+

A. beech N/A 86.4

Big tooth aspen 7.5 106.4

Bitternut hickory 2.8 69.1+
Bitternut hickory N/A 81.3
Bitternut hickory ~3.5(pi) 102.1+
Bitternut hickory ~6(pi) 111.5

Black birch ~7(pi) 102.1+

Black cherry 6.2 91.9

Black locust N/A 85.1
Black locust N/A 93.4
Black locust 5.6 107.7

Black walnut N/A 83.6
Black walnut N/A 92.9+

Black willow 6.4 93.1+
Black willow 6.3 102.1+ way 876, 41 58.811N x 80 15.765W
Black willow 6.6 102.1+ way 875, 41 58.814N x 80 15.779W, tallest known PA/NE

Butternut N/A 47.8

E. Cottonwood 9.4 130.9 way 874, 41 58.812N x 80 15.779W, tallest known PA

E. hemlock N/A 71.6
E. hemlock N/A 85.2
E. hemlock 5.9 90.6

E. white pine N/A 64.2

N. red oak N/A 56.3
N. red oak 4.5 84.1+

Sugar maple 4 81.1+
Sugar maple ~5(pi) 96.1+
Sugar maple ~10(pi) 99.1+ Baby Elephant Tree (low hanging “trunk” branch)

Sycamore 15.4 97.2 hollow chimney, can walk right into this tree
Sycamore 14.6 100.2 way 871, 41 59.208N x 80 13.919W
Sycamore N/A 112.4
Sycamore N/A 113
Sycamore N/A 116.2
Sycamore N/A 117.6
Sycamore (3x) 120.2
Sycamore ~11.8(pi) 127.4
Sycamore ~7(pi) 129.1+
Sycamore ~6(pi) 131.6
Sycamore ~6(pi) 136 way 873, 41 58.717N x 80 15.761W

Tuliptree 4.8 93.1+
Tuliptree ~5(pi) 111.1+
Tuliptree ~5(pi) 111.5

Vitus sp. 2.5 N/A way 872, 41 58.826N x 80 15.743W

White ash 4.7 87.1+
White ash N/A 108.7

White oak N/A 61.6

Yellow birch 3.6 75.1+

There were some select old relict trees along the base of the drainage. With more exploration, I could probably justify dwarf old growth/primary forests along sections of the extremely steep ravine walls, edges, and fingers. This is where the majority of old white pine, white and N. red oak were located. The following preliminary list shows old growth species with rough visual age estimates on the low end:

Species Age

Sycamore 200
E. white pine 150
White oak 150
N. red oak 150

We were able to document two black willows growing very close together that are currently the tallest documented in PA, most likely the Northeast as well. The best find of the day was the 130ft class cottonwood. This is the first 130ft class cottonwood we’ve been able to document so far in PA, and currently the tallest known for the state.

I have documented other sites along Elk Creek, but this is the first time I gathered enough species between combined sites for a Rucker Index. It currently stands at 117.13, but I think with more searching we should easily get into the 120’s. The Elk Creek Gorge Rucker Index follows:

Species CBH Height Comments

Sycamore N/A(pi) 136
Tuliptree N/A(pi) 132.2
E. cottonwood 9.4 130.9 tallest known PA
N. red oak 8 120.5
Bitternut hickory N/A(pi) 111.5
E. hemlock 5.6 109
White ash N/A 108.7
Black locust 5.6 107.7
Black walnut 6.7 107.6
Cucumbertree 9.5 107.2

This is a very picturesque valley system. Loaded with old lumber history and local lore, old bridge abutments long gone, and teaming with trout and salmon at the right times of the year… an absolutely beautiful place.

by djluthringer
Tue May 18, 2010 9:36 pm
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Re: Champion Pitch Pine!, Bradford, NH


The purpose of the American Forests list is primarily to get people involved with the forests. They are doing this in a number of ways, including tree measurement. If there was a requirement that the trees be measured using a laser range finder, then only a handful of people could participate. Using the clinometer/distance method or the stick method allows almost everyone to participate. Their goal is not accuracy, but participation. Toward that end, their height methodology is more appropriate than is ours.

by edfrank
Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:02 pm
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Forest Cathedral-Back 40


On 12/4/09 I took the opportunity to visit a section of the Forest Cathedral I had never visited before. I thought I’d seen every square inch of the place… but there was an obscure section I had never walked before that was sandwiched between two private properties in the vicinity of Jacks Hollow & Cemetery Roads, which from here on out I’ve dubbed the, ‘Back 40’. I’ve driven past it for years, but never got out from the car to investigate. Needless to say, there were a few respectable trees here.

Hemlocks were the oldest and greatest concentration of trees here, along with some fat Am. Beech. White oak and yellow birch should reach some nice ages here as well. Here’s my visual age estimate on the low end of the tree species in the stand:

Species Visual Age Estimate (on the low end)

E. hemlock 300
White oak 200
Am. Beech 200
Yellow birch 200
Cucumbertree 150
Black cherry 150
N. red oak 150
Red maple 150

The yellow birch noted below is the second largest documented in the park. The fat Am. Beech is now the largest known in the park. I never thought I’d find a living beech in Cook Forest greater than 12ft CBH. This one is a dandy with rot through the center. Sadly, it has beech bark disease and may not be standing for much longer. Here’s the day’s tally:

Species CBH Height Comments

Am. Beech 12.2 110.9 largest in park, tac 883, 41 20.696N x 79 12.009W
Am. Beech 7.9 113.6

Am. Chestnut 9.4 28 snag

Black cherry 9.4 115.1

Cucumbertree 8.3 111.1+

E. hemlock 11.5 103.2
E. hemlock 10.5 108.8
E. hemlock 12.3 111.1+ 12x100
E. hemlock 8.2 113.7
E. hemlock 9.6 117
E. hemlock 9.9 124.2

E. white pine 9.1 128.7 boundary tree ~100 years old

N. red oak 9.8 93.1+
N. red oak 9.3 114.1+
N. red oak 10 120+ tac 885, 41 20.574N x 79 11.884W

Yellow birch 8.4 93.6+ 2nd largest in park, tac 882, 41 20.671N x 79 11.782W

by djluthringer
Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:31 am
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Indian Ghost Pipe ( Monotropa Uniflora )


While hiking the Flat Laurel Creek Trail last Saturday I noticed numerous small pale upright flowers on the forest floor. I recognized them immediatly as Indian Ghost Pipe. They are known by a number of names including Indian Ghost Pipe, Indian Pipe, Ghost Flower, Corpse Plant, Ice Plant, etc. My sister Becky found them unusually beautiful too. One at first glance would confuse them for a fungus but the flower should tell you that is not so. The plants color is usually a ghostly white or pale pink, hence the name but it can be also a darker pink color or in rare cases red or a pale blue.

The plants lack of color is due to it's lack of the green pigment chlorophyll. Due to it's lack of chlorophyll the plant cannot photosynthesize or make it's own food. In fact the method it uses to obtain it's nourishment is quite fascinating. It parasitizes mycorrhizal fungi that in turn get their nourishment from nearby trees. The fungi have some benefit to the trees being able to utilize certain menerals and holding moisture, that is they are mutually symbiotic but the Pipe Plant is truly parasitic, obtaining nutrients directly from the fungi which obtains much of it's food from the trees. It is a fascinating process. I will attach some links to explain it in more detail.

In fact the fungus which the Pipe Plant is obtaining its food has toadstools scattered about in many places along the trail. It is a flat topped reddish fungus. The Pipe Plant itself is amazingly common here too.

James Cameron could have used this plant in his Avatar universe by scaling it up and giving it bioluminescent properties. It would have fit in well on Pandora!

Monotropa Hypopitys is a rarer closely related species. I have not seen this one.

by James Parton
Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:42 pm
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Rangefinder Tip O' the Day: Laser beam divergence effects

I've been digging around trying to find manufacturer specifications on laser rangefinder laser beam divergence. Most laser rangefinder beams are elliptical/rectangular. To the user, this means that orientation of the laser with respect to openings in the forest canopy through which one is shooting through becomes relevant for most rangefinders. From the documentation that I have been able to find, Swarovski and Laser Technology laser beam horizontal and vertical divergence is symmetrical, so orientation of the rangefinder is less important. Optilogic and Bushnell YardagePro rangefinders are vertically oriented while Leica, Zeiss, and Nikon rangefinders are horizontally oriented. If you are using an assymmetrical laser beam and you have trouble shooting through a small opening in dense foliage, try rotating the rangefinder 90 degrees and trying again. Try aligning your rangefinder parallel to the shape of an elongated opening and then 90 degrees to it to see which works better, if at all. It might not make a difference in most cases of irregularly small openings, but in cases of long narrow openings it might save you from running around looking for a bigger opening. When practical for shooting through brush at the base of the trunk, all laser rangefinders are aided by the addition of reflective target surfaces (white paper or prismatic reflectors, not flat mirrors).

In addition to laser beam shape, the laser beam size also varied greatly. I'm listing those that I found here in order of smallest to largest in units of millirad. At 100 yards, 1 millirad is equal to 3.6 inches. I assume symmetric beams are circular and elongated beams are rectangular. The listing of beam divergence is in the format of horizontal x vertical = beam area follows:

Zeiss, 1.6x0.5=0.8
Leica LRF and CRF series, 2.5x0.5=1.25
Optilogic LH series, 1.1x2.8=3.1 (based upon beam footprint given at 100yds, not on divergence stated.)
Swarovski, 2x2=3.14
Nikon 550's and Laser 800S, divergence unknown, beam is about 4.5-5x wider than it is tall, this is the only 870nm laser in the group.
Laser Tech Impulse, 3x3=7.1
Bushnell YardagePro, 2x4=8

It's worth noting that most lasers are comparable 904-905 nm infrared lasers. Wavelength in our application should have negligible effect. Nikon lists beam divergence of the laser diode that is used, but not the final value including it's optics. The value listed by Nikon is clearly larger than what has been observed in the field, so it is not included numerically here. From online comparisons with other rangefinders, it appears that Nikon's beam divergence is definitely larger than Zeiss, Leica, or Swarovski. Perceptions to the contrary are likely due to specific conditions in combination with signal processing or algorithms within the rangefinder and not due to the actual laser beam divergence. I could not find detailed information for Leupold or others but note that Leupold now has the smallest rangefinder on the market. Good shootin'!
by pauljost
Thu Aug 12, 2010 4:48 pm
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Some volunteer workdays on the Ohio River Islands NWR

ENTS: This past spring I volunteered to do a little invasive species destruction for the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. For some background information on the refuge check out the following link:

Actually I was bribed by Patty Morrison the Wildlife Biologist for the Refuge. She promised to show me an unusual assemblage trees if I worked hard. So on the last day in March and a fine spring morning Patty, myself, Dick Esker and Carl Radcliffe met at the visitor center and headed north(upriver) from the visitor center near Williamstown, WV to what they call the Captina Mainland Tract at McKeefrey , Marshall County, WV which is just south of Moundsville, WV. I do not know what bribe was offered to Dick and Carl. There is a Captina Island in the Refuge and the Mainland Tract was acquired with the island. The site had and has some issues. One of the present issues is the amount of invasive species present. I think they have it all but we were going to focus on the one called Phellodendron amurense or the Amur Corktree. This is a species for which I was unfamiliar with. The following picture shows the bright yellow inner bark of a Corktree.

WV does not consider this species as naturalized as of yet but on this site it has taken on an invasive nature.
So we spent most of the day loping, girdling and poisoning.Sometime after a short break the showed me this tree
Photo by Turner Sharp
Pictured Dick Esker, Patty Morrison

It is a Butternut and probably a hybrid. Measurements were CBH 157.6" or 13.1', HT 78.4' and maximum CS 92'
After some more invasive work Patty showed me two more trees and extracted a commitment to come back which we did on April 21 for an additional attack on the Corktrees

This American Elm tree in the following picture appears to be former yard tree for a long gone house.
Photo by Turner Sharp
Pictured Dick Esker

Measurements were CBH 158.6" or 13.2', HT. 96.7', maximum crown spread 88'
The grape vine pictured to left of tree had a Circumference of 19.5" at 4 1/2'

The following tree was once a group of three. The other two are gone as a result of a rehabilitation of a former coal loading facility when the area was bulldozed clean and probably contributed to the invasive species problem.
Photo by Turner Sharp

This Big Tooth Aspen had the following measurements: CBH 95.1" or 7.9', 104.0'. Maximum crown spread 48'
This is the best specimen of this species that I have had the privilege to measure.
The last task of the day was to set out about six of the purple Emerald Ash Borer traps.
Upon parting after a day of labor, Patty mentioned that she knew where a Big Bur Oak was located. She knows what works on an ENT
by tsharp
Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:00 pm
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Drummond Woods

On August 22, Lee Frelich and I visited numerous sites across northern Wisconsin. Our last stop was a site that was described by Forest Stearn in an article in the April 1951 Journal of Ecology, Volume 32 Number 2 entitled "The Composition of the Sugar Maple-Hemlock-Yellow Birch Association in Northern Wisconsin." I had read it many years ago and visited it once at dusk but could not make out much in the twilight. It is far west of my normal travels in the Chequamegon National Forest, so I haven't had a chance to revisit it until now. It was recently declared the Drummond Woods State Natural Area and dedicated to the memory of Forest Stearns, one of the driving forces of Wisconsin's State Natural Area program. It is located on the northwest side of US Highway 63 where the North Country Trail intersects the highway and is at an elevation of approximately 1270-1280 feet above sea level. Approximately one mile north of Drummond in southwestern Bayfield County on US 63, there is a small parking lot and trailhead within site of US 63 on Chequamegon National Forest Road 235 (Old US Highway 63.) This location is approximately 18 miles north of the Uhrenholdt Memorial Forest pines that Lee occasionally visits at US 63 and County Highway OO in Seeley, WI. I have no pictures since I had forgotten my camera and my old camera phone takes poor pictures.

The Drummond Woods was set aside by the Rust-Owen Lumber Company in the 1880's when it's workers requested that some virgin pine forest be saved for their families' recreation in the nearby company-owned mill town of Drummond, WI. Most of the grove stands to this day. It suffered some wind damage in 1941 and by 1951, only three large pine stumps showed signs of early logging. Here is a picture of the nearby area from past, although likely not of the Drummond Woods site:

One tree, called the King Pine, was struck by lightning in 1967 and suffered wind damage in 1977, then died in 1978. It was cut down and estimated to have provided 2500 board feet of lumber from it's 43 inch DBH and 110 foot height. One fourteen foot log scaled 700 board feet. It's rings were counted to 265 years at a height of 7 feet. The rotting stump remains to this day and is marked with a sign along the trail.

As we entered the trail, we were immediately welcomed by a large, topped American Basswood with a girth of 126 inches or 10.5 feet, or 40 inch DBH. It had a minimally tapering column shaped trunk that was topped at about 50 feet and had sprouted back up to around 70' tall.

A large diameter white pine is obvious along the west side of the trail near the top of the hill. It had a 134 inch or 11.2' girth, nearly 43 inch DBH. The height was measured at 118 feet. This is pretty close to the size of the grove's previously documented King Pine.

The largest diameter white pine is visible just east of the trail with beautiful gray bark when sunlit. It stands out among the others with it's 140 inch or 11.7' girth, nearly 45 inch DBH. The height was measured at 119 feet. This tree clearly surpasses the size of the grove's previous King Pine.

Another large white pine is west of the first pine near the bottom of the hill. It was also 119 feet tall but had a girth of 118 inches or 9.8 feet.

Other shorter pines exceeded a height of 100 feet, but none of the hemlock passed 100 feet. It was a nice hike to finish the weekend.
by pauljost
Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:41 am
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Northern Highland American Legion State Forest Pines

The weekend of August 21-22, Lee Frelich and I explored parts of northern Wisconsin. We were invited to visit a grove of pines found by Jim Baker of Mercer, WI and his daughter Becky Boquist. She had emailed Bob Leverett after finding ENTS' web site while searching the internet for information on Wisconsin's biggest white pines to see how the pines that they had found compared to the biggest known. After leaving home, I realized that I had forgotten my camera. My camera phone does not take decent images, so forgive my lack of pictures here.

Saturday morning, I awoke to a loon calling outside my hotel bedroom window. As Lee and I drove into town for breakfast, we passed a giant fiberglass loon statue with a sign declaring Mercer as the loon capital of Wisconsin. After breakfast, Jim and Becky met us at our hotel and led us down roads into Wisconsin's Northern Highland - American Legion State Forest in southeastern Iron County, Wisconsin, just east of Mercer, Wisconsin. We parked on the roadside and hiked down an old logging road to where it ended near a marshy bog. We crossed the alder marsh and bog in our rubber swamp boots and climbed up a small rise in the swamp to an island of old growth maple-yellow birch-hemlock with some paper birch, red pine, and clusters of super-canopy eastern white pine. I should have counted the pines, but didn't! There were probably about 12-15 large white pines in a compact grove of 1-2 acres on the northern half of the 7 acre oblong island while there were numerous smaller pines in another 1-2 acre grove on the southern half of the island.

The biggest pines were in a compact grove in the top center portion of the island in the image below at an elevation of just over 1610 feet. The cluster of larger crown diameter pines casting bigger, darker shadows is relatively easy to make out in this picture from, numerous other sites' imagery of this area was of poorer quality:

They showed us the thickest and most visually impressive one of the bunch which we named the "Jim Baker Pine", after it's discoverer. I measured it's girth to 155 inches or 12.9 feet at 4.5' above the estimated point "where the seed sprouted" considering the surrounding soil that had been uplifted by sprawling root buttresses. That's over 49 inches DBH, or in diameter at breast height. It had a small burl about 4' off the ground so the height measurement did not have to adjusted much as the tape laid just above the top of the burl. The height of this tree was measured at 119 feet.

Here's a picture that Jim Baker took of his daughter and the pine on a previous visit:

It was clearly the thickest of the bunch and quick measurements of the surrounding super-canopy pines showed most to be up to 11 feet in girth and 100-120 feet tall. However, two stood out to me to be a bit taller.

The first one that I singled out was near a non-destructively mounted deer hunter's tree stand on a nearby hemlock tree at the northeast corner of the grove. It had a few hemlocks and pines nearby that forced height measurement from only one direction to the east. It ended up being measured at 131 feet tall with a girth of 134 inches or 11.2 feet.

The other one I noticed on the our amblings through the grove but I couldn't clearly see it's top from any place on the ground. It had the freshest lightning scar of any tree in the grove. If lightning picked it out and it looked to be tall to me before I noticed the scar, I figured it had to be worth measuring. On the way out, I stopped to give it one more try. Finally, finding a hole through the canopy with a view of the crown from the east, I measured it to 134 feet tall with a girth of 136 inches or 11.4 feet.

These trees were a great find. They are the tallest known pines in Iron County where I have struggled to find any pines over 120 feet in the past. With the recent deaths of the largest diameter previously known single-stemmed white pines in state of Wisconsin, this is a close third place girth in ENTS measured living Wisconsin white pines. Second place is held by a 13.0 foot girth (165' tall) white pine in the Menominee Reservation and first is a 13.2 foot girth (154' tall) white pine in the Nicolet National Forest's Cathedral Pines grove.
by pauljost
Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:45 am
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Hewitt Island, Perryopolis, PA

Hewitt Island, Perryopolis, PA


On Saturday August 28, 2010 I drove to southwestern Pennsylvania to meet with Steve Halow to explore a couple of tree sites in the Fayette County. Steve was somewhat of an enigma. He joined the ENTS discussion list on June 28, 2008. He responded to a couple of posts during the next year and a half, and then, without meeting any other ENTS or attending any events, he purchased a NIKON Forestry 550, and began measuring trees. The first site report was posted on March 6, 2010 - Mingo Creek County Park, PA This was soon followed a week later on March 13, 2010 - Friendship Hill National Historic Site The latter was a site I had long been planning on visiting “soon.” We corresponded by email l and set up the late August trip. The first potential site we discussed was in northernmost Washington County – one called Wrights Woods. Unfortunately when Steve went to check on access, he found the site had been recently logged: This day we decided to visit Hewitt Island, a large island in the Youghiogheny River near Perryopolis. Steve scouted out the Perryopolis location from shore, to make sure it was still intact last week. We then planned to go down to Friendship Hill National Historic Site near Point Marion, almost on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border later that afternoon.

Second Island West Side Aa.JPG
View of Hewitt Island from the west bank of the river – photo by Steve Hewitt


The Hewitt Island site was one I found listed in the Fayette County Natural History Inventory (2000) prepared by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
“The Youghiogheny River is noted in this inventory for the riverine habitats that present along its length. In the Pittsburgh Plateau section of the county, the river islands represent some of the most significant habitats in the river. The islands near Perryopolis are just downstream of the Village of Layton and within eyesight of the Layton to Perryopolis bridge. There are about five islands in this complex; two of them are worthy of note. These islands have been noted as the best examples of bottomland forest along the Youghiogheny River (Palmer 1984). In 1996, a spring flood thoroughly washed the uppermost island and part of the lower island (Hewitt Island) and the large mounds of debris deposited are still visible on both islands.”
The Youghiogheny River is a tributary of the Monongahela River, approximately 122 mi long. The river begins in West Virginia, flows through western Maryland, and into Pennsylvania near Ohiopyle. The Youghiogheny River flows generally northward and joins the Monongahela River just south of Pittsburgh. It drains an area of about 850 square miles and lies on the west side of the Allegheny Mountains.

View of Hewitt Island. The river is flowing toward the upper left.

The upstream end of the island is much younger than the downstream portion. The NHI report states "The upstream island is the second largest island and has apparently formed since the 1880 mapping of the river." The report considers them two to be separate islands, however the channel separating the halves is dry during periods of lower flow and they are geologically the same island in terms of river flow dynamics. The NHI report describes the communities present as:

“Communities present include a riverside ice scour community, a water willow-smartweed riverbed community, and on the interior of the uppermost island, a sycamore- (river birch)-box elder floodplain forest). Hewitt Island has a higher elevation section near the center that is not flooded and supports a red oak-mixed hardwoods forest. In total there are four natural community types present on the islands. The upstream island is the second largest island and has apparently formed since the 1880 mapping of the river. It is bisected at its upper end by a powerline right-of-way, which is providing a point of entry and establishment area for invasive exotic species. The forested parts of the island are dominated by sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and box elder (Acer negundo). The edges of the island are cobbly and support a habitat dominated by American waterwillow (Justicia americana)… [ ]
The largest island, Hewitt Island, is adjacent to and downstream of the island described above. This island appears on the 1880 map. The interior of this island has a rise in elevation and has more varied habitats. On the lower elevation portions of the island, exists a Sycamore- (river birch)-box elder floodplain forest... The higher elevation area supports a community that dominated by oaks including white oak (Quercus alba) and red oak (Quercus rubra). The trees are mature with many being about 30 to 91 cm dbh (diameter at breast height). In the middle of the island is a depression possibly caused by excavation for gravel. The depression is covered by a thick cover of summer grape (Vitis aestivalis). [ ]"

I could not find a copy on-line of the 1880 river map, but did locate one from the Fayette County 1872 Atlas: Perry Township, Perryopolis, Youghiougheny River, Virgin Run, Layton Station which appear to show three smaller islands in the place of the upstream portion of the current island pair.


The existence of intermittent channels cutting across islands like this fairly common and simply reflects the dynamic nature of these types of river/island systems. In the islands we have been visiting in the upper Allegheny River most of the large islands are subdivided by these channels or have dry channels running through the islands. During periods of high water and flooding materials from the river bottom are scoured and moved downstream. When the water recedes these materials are redeposited, often materials from farther upstream is redeposited in pretty much the same location as other material was removed because the conditions which led to the initial deposition have reasserted themselves with the receding river level. Islands do tend to migrate slowly upstream over time through this process. It is quite possible that the entire upstream island that was missing from the 1880 map of the river was deposited in a single flood event. This idea is further supported by the relatively uniform appearing age of the oldest trees in the population of the upstream “island.” There was a major flood in this and adjacent river basins in March 14, 1907. There was another major flood in 1936 on the river. A 1907 newspaper account reads:
Pittsburg, Pa., Mar. 14, 1907— The greatest flood in the history of Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Eastern Ohio is being experienced to-night. Thirty-one lives have been lost in the various swollen streams and flooded district, and property damage incalculable has been sustained.
The upper end of the combined island very likely could date from one of these two events. Tree coring could be done to get a better idea of the age of the oldest trees.

History of the Location

For those of you interested, the local area is rich in history. “As early as 1769-1770 George Washington owned over 1600 acres of land upon which the town of Perryopolis lies. Colonel Crawford's part in the purchase of these lands is recorded in Washington's diary dated October 15, 1770. The diary also tells of Washington's trip to this vicinity at a later date. In 1774, the construction of Washington's Mill was begun under the direction of Gilbert Simpson, but due to trouble with the Indians and the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the Mill was not completed until the fall of 1776. It was not until the fall of 1779, that Washington leased the Mill along with 150 acres of land to Colonel Israel Shreve, a hero of the Revolutionary War, for a term of five years. Washington died in 1799, never having conveyed the tracts under the Articles of Agreement to Colonel Shreve, who also died the same year. In 1803 the five tracts of property were conveyed to the heirs of Israel Shreve. The greater part of this historic property passed from the heirs of Israel Shreve to Issac Meason and then to John Rice. The Mill itself passed to Powell Hough, to John Strickler and Jacob Strawn. Strawn's heirs sold it to George Anderson, who repaired it in 1859, and later sold it to Samuel Smith. The Mill today belongs to Perryopolis Parks and Recreation Authority.”

Washington Grist Mill

George Washington's Land Purchases;cc=pitttext;rgn=full%20text;idno=00aft2784m;didno=00aft2784m;view=image;seq=0943;node=00aft2784m%3A44

Washington Grist Mill Park Washington Grist Mill Park showcases industry of earlier times in America. The centerpiece of this seven acre park is the newly reconstructed Washington Grist Mill. George Washington owned considerable land in this area. He commissioned the construction of the grist mill, which was built by Colonel Crawford. Construction began in 1774, but was delayed until 1776 because of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. The foundation was restored using the original stone. Other attractions in the park include: 1)The Distillery - Built in early 1790's, rebuilt with original stones. Operational; 2)The Bake Shop - Built circa 1856 Beehive type oven, operational; 3) Searight Fulling Mill - Built circa 1814 by William Searight. Machinery on site, only free standing fulling mill in USA.

The name Hewitt Island might be from that of Jonathan Hewitt an early settler in the area or for his son Abel Hewitt who had a fulling mill and a saw mill at the mouth of Washington Run just upstream of the island.;cc=pitttext;q1=hewitt;rgn=full%20text;idno=00aft2784m;didno=00aft2784m;view=image;seq=0949


To get to the meeting site I took Layton Road east from Perryopolis and crossed the river on the historic one-lane Layton Bridge. The Layton Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Layton Bridge is a Pratt truss bridge over the Youghiogheny River, originally built for the Washington Run Railroad, construction began 1893 and it was completed in 1899. The last train crossed in 1931. It was converted to automotive use in 1933, and connects Layton, Pennsylvania with Perryopolis, Pennsylvania via a one-lane tunnel, near the suspected location of the eighteenth century Spark's Fort. Also see: Layton Bridge

Trip Report

I met with Steve on the east side of the Youghiogheny River. We parked by the railroad tracks and walked upstream to where we could wade across the river to the island. From the east side access to the islands was through shallow water never more than knee deep.
On the opposite west side of the river the Youghiogheny River Trail, a non-motorized multi-use rail trail that stretches 71 miles (114 km) between McKeesport, PA and Confluence, PA. The river is deeper along the west side and would be much more difficult to wade, however access on the east can easily be had by walking up the railroad tracks.

Best Access East Side1.JPG

We walked to a point just upstream of the upper end of the island. This was the location Steve had scouted previously as a good point to wade across.

The water was shallow and with not much current. The upper “island” as noted above is much younger the older portion of Hewitt Island. There was a pile of debris along the upstream end and much of the understory was choked with Japanese knotweed and multiflora rose. The trees were generally pretty small and none of them showed any signs of age. The tree species present were dominated by sycamore with some silver maple. I found a few descent sized Box Elder, but none really worth measuring, spicebush, and a few other species. I would not call it a sycamore- silver maple forest as the vast majority of the trees present were sycamores, with the other species much fewer in number. We made short forays into the island here and there to explore before retreating to the river for easier walking.

We soon reached the lower “island” or Hewitt Island as it appeared on the older maps. This island was dramatically different in nature. The trees were much older and larger in size. The interior of the island was well above normal flood stage, perhaps up to 25 feet in elevation above e the river, and supported a variety of trees typical of a woodland habitat in its interior and more riverine species around the perimeter of the island.
A short distance after we started exploring the lower island, we came upon a clearing, obviously being used for as a camp site. The first tree we measured was a nice, but not spectacular black gum tree. I wanted to measure this one simply to have the species in the book. On too many trips a species is found early on and not measured in anticipation of finding another larger specimen later. Then when a larger specimen is not located the species ends up not being measured at all. In this case the black gum was 87 feet tall, and turned out to be the tallest we found on the island. Also in the same clearing we measured a decent beech tree, tuliptree, and red maple.

This black gum tree, 87 feet tall, was the first tree we measured on Hewitt Island.

General scene from the first clearing we visited. The beech pictured was 63 feet tall.

From this point on we searched back and forth across the relatively narrow island moving generally downstream. There was a fair amount of underbrush intermixed with open forest floor and patches of clearings. There were many larger oak trees – including red oak, black oak, scarlet oak, and white oak and large tuliptrees. Many of these are in the 8 to ten foot girth range with nice straight boles. The central portion of the island was a typical woodland habitat. Other species were present in lesser numbers on the upper elevation portion of the island. Along the lower terrace near river level the trees were primarily sycamore. Altogether we measured 25 different species of tree. Other species present, but not measured included Spice Bush, Alianthus, and Slippery Elm.

The measurement was difficult because of the at times tightly packed trees and leaves on the canopies. Many of the measurements were made at steep angles or from directly underneath the trees in question. Therefore many of the trees measured are likely taller than the height values we were able to measure. Particular care was taken in measuring the heights of some of the more exceptional trees on the site. I measured a skinny sassafras at 102.5 feet tall and with a girth of just 4.5 feet. It was the tallest of a patch of nice sassafras and the only one of the group that had not been topped by storm damage. There was a nice 7.9 foot girth specimen whose trunk was broken off at about 60 feet while still quite fat. A puff of ranches near the top of the tree reached a height of 74 feet.

Around the edges of a clearing we measured a black cherry 116 feet tall, with a girth of 6.7 feet. On the far side of the clearing Steve measured a tuliptree to 134.5 feet and another to 146.5 feet – the tallest tree we measured on the island. A black oak nearby was measured to be 116 feet tall.

A 125 foot tall scarlet oak on Hewlett Island – the tallest scarlet oak in northeastern United States.

The prize of the day was a Scarlet oak, Quercus coccinea. It was near an obvious trail running the length of the island. Steve measured it to be 125 feet tall using his Nikon Forestry 550, and I measured a similar amount using my Nikon 440, and clinometer. It likely is a bit taller than what we were able to measure. The height value shows this is a new tallest scarlet oak in northeastern United States, besting the 121.5 foot specimen at Cook Forest, PA.


After measuring the scarlet oak, we continued exploring the island and measured additional trees. We measured a fat tuliptree, 135 foot tall, with a 12 foot in girth. Nearby we measured another black oak 96 feet tall, ad 12.1 feet in girth, and a 111 foot tall black cherry.

Ed Frank with the 135 foot tall, 12 foot girth tuliptree.

Second view of the tuliptree

We reached the downstream, northern end of the island and slowly worked out way back. There were not any really big sycamores in terms of girth. The tallest we found was a 126.5 foot tall tree, just 8.1 feet in girth. We added several more species and some additional respectable sized tuliptrees as we worked our way back to the dry channel between the halves of the island.

Unusual bark on a red maple tree .


The Rucker Height Index 10 for the island was a respectable 118.4 feet, the RI20 was 99.25, and the RI5 was 126.2 feet. I am sure if the island was revisited in the late fall or winter without the leaf cover, the RI10 could be pushed to over 120 feet.


Given that there were 25 species and a couple of trees over twelve feet in girth I also calculated Rucker Girth Indexes for the site. RGI5 = 10.84, RGI 10 = 9.675, and RGI20 = 7.40 We have so few sites where girth indexes have been calculated that we cannot make a good comparison between this and other sites.

At the end of the visit, we crossed the Youghiogheny River right at the channel separating the two halves of the island and walked back to our vehicles down the railroad tracks.

General Impressions
There were many larger trees on the island, but none of them looked particularly old. The bark on these trees exhibited none of the shaggyness or balding found on old trees. The tree tops were not twisted and gnarled as you see in old growth trees that have been exposed to weather for hundreds of years. They did not have any of the characteristics of really old trees. I would estimate the island had been logged perhaps in the mid to late 1800’s. That being said there is little true old growth in this region and this example of a mature forest may be one of the better examples to be found. The NHI suggested that the island might be going to be made into a park for the town of Perryopolis. I don’t know if that is true or still planned. The island is being impacted by invasive species. ATVs have trails across parts of the island. It apparently can be reached by ATV from the eastern river bank. There are areas where people have been camping for years and trash is present. Still it is a nice section of woods.

There were differences between these islands and the ones I have been exploring in the Allegheny River. The Allegheny River Islands had many more silver maples and silver maples of much larger size. Other species common on the Allegheny islands that were absent on Hewitt Island included hawthorns, black locust, and basswood . I found only a single specimen of white ash o Hewitt Island, likely here are a few more that we did not note, but this is a fairly common species in the Allegheny River Islands. On the higher and dryer Hemlock Island on the Allegheny River we also found eastern hemlock and white pines, both species missing from Hewitt Island, perhaps due to its more southerly location. Of the species found on Hewitt Island, I believe all of them were also found on the Allegheny River islands. The oaks and tuliptrees were much more prominent on Hewitt Island, but were present in lesser number on the Allegheny River Islands.

I would strongly recommend a return visit to this island after leaf off as I a sure some better heights could be found for many of the trees we have measured. I would guess there is easily a potential t push the RI upward of 125 for the site. I want to thank Steve for scouting the access to this island and participating on this trip. Most of the height measurements were his as I concentrated on measuring girths and getting GPS readings, and checking heights from underneath to say yeah or nay on the values he was obtaining. We obtained GPS coordinates on about 2/3 of the trees we measured and all of the larger ones. If people are going to visit the site I have a KMZ file with the locations plotted on it that will open in Google Earth. There are many more sites in this region that still need to be visited. The second part of the day Steve and I visited areas of Friendship Hill National Historic Site. I will post about that in a separate report.
by edfrank
Mon Aug 30, 2010 6:06 pm
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GSMNP - copy of 1933 Park Brochure

GSMNP - A copy of 1933 Park Brochure is available onlne here:


by edfrank
Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:38 pm
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Cathedral Pines

On September 4, 2010, my wife, my son, and I visited the Cathedral Pines grove in the Nicolet National Forest near Lakewood in northeastern Wisconsin's Oconto County. I intended to remeasure the two tallest known eastern white pine trees in the grove. The area is a virgin grove that was set aside by the Holt and Balcom Logging Company around 1880 when Lucy Rumsey Holt, the wife of W.A. Holt, the company president, asked that the tract be spared so that she could continue to conduct bible study classes with her children there. Pines are now reported in the 200-400 year old range.

The grove is a part of a larger State Natural Area and has a popular hiking trail looping through it. It is the largest dense white pine grove in Wisconsin and is dominated by eastern white pine with many in the range of 9-10 feet in girth and 125-135 feet tall. There are some red pine to 90-100 feet tall and many hemlocks under 100 feet. The forest also contains a significant beech-maple-yellow birch component along with some red oak, aspen, as well as some other trees. The entire approximately 22 acre virgin pine grove is at an elevation of approximately 1340 feet, plus or minus 10 feet. With over 100 nests, a great blue heron rookery's droppings are killing off the taller trees on the highest ground but make for an enhanced experience during visits in May and June before the fledgelings leave the nests in early July. It is a nesting site for ovenbirds, blackburnian, magnolia, and pine warblers, The best time to visit for tall tree hunting is mid-October through the first week of May when the deciduous sub-canopy is not a visual obstacle. On the coldest winter days, visitors are virtually nonexistent while the grove effectively tames light winds so that the bitter temperatures are more tolerable.

I had spent a few days in December of 1999 scouring this grove for it's tallest trees. During that visit, overnight lows approached -30 F with highs around -10 F with fresh unbroken knee-high snow on the ground. With no other visitors, I was able to use GPS, compass, and my footprints in the snow to walk a near perfect grid throughout the entire grove and then the surrounding forest. After finding dozens of trees in the 130-140 foot range, I then started ignoring trees that were under 140'. In the northwestern part of the grove, I found the only two trees whose tops I could reach with laser that exceeded 140 feet in height. One was 145.4 feet tall with a 112 inch girth and other one was 149.6 feet tall with a girth of 127 inches. With a little more searching, I was able to get a height of 150.2' on the bigger one. This proved to be the only tree in Wisconsin that I have measured over 150 feet tall until Lee and I hit 165 feet on a 13 foot girth white pine in the Menominee Tribal Enterprises private reservation forest about 20 miles southwest of the Cathedral Pines. In 1999, I was measuring pine girths at 4.5 feet above the highest contact point with the earth. Unfortunately, on the biggest tree there was some taper, so my incorrectly high point of measure reduced it's girth considerably from what would be expected. Additionally, I misread my original notes. The tree was not 127 inches but was 12' 7", with my notes showing a faint dent where the pencil lead had broken when making the foot mark, '. Soon after, I was tutored by ENTS on ignoring earth upheaved by centuries of root growth and instead examine the immediate surrounding terrain for the expected point from which the seed would have sprouted.

On this trip, I took the direct route to these trees. We headed downhill along the road from the Cathedral Pines trailhead parking lot. When the road hit it's lowest point in the immediate drainage, we headed to the north following the lower limit of the drainage and walked it up right to the trees where the dense underbrush opens up to an open forest floor under a dense hemlock canopy with a white pine supercanopy. We found a dense 100 square foot patch of spotted coralroot orchids that had just finished blooming. I noticed that a trail had been cut to within about 40 yards of the trees that was a short loop extension leading to the groves "Cathedral" area somewhat to the southeast of these trees. The main loop on the hill in the grove had been graveled over. I hope that there is no limestone content in that gravel, but, unfortunately, I am a poor geologist.

This time, using girth measurements to proper ENTS standards, I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers that were obtained. Now, the thicker tree had a height of 154.3 feet and a girth of 158" = 13.2 feet or over 50 inches DBH. This is the largest girth of a single stemmed tree measured by ENTS in Wisconsin that is still living. The height measurement was from the place of the lower previous measurement since the sub-canopy obscures the top from the other place of measurement at this time of the year. This showed a height increase of 4.7 feet over 11 growing seasons. The thinner tree is about 10-15 yards west-northwest of the thicker pine. The thinner tree had a height of 154.8 feet and a girth of 124 inches = 10.3 feet. This is a height increase of 9.4 feet in 11 growing seasons on the younger, thinner tree.

These are the two tallest white pines in Wisconsin outside of the Menominee Indian Reservation. The next time that I return to the Cathedral Pines, I might try to relocate a 7.5 foot growth white pine that had bent over from heavy snow and had a curving trunk length of about 160'. Also, there are some other pines near the two that I measured that are now probably over 140'.

by pauljost
Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:21 pm
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Species ID challenge!

Attaching an image for those WNTS/ENTS botanists needing a challenge...:>}
Provide common and scientific name for the following plant!

DRBroadtripAug4 247.jpg

Cues: Found along the boundary (read longitude) between Yukon/Brit. Columbia and NWT/Alberta. Seems to like pioneering role, lots of light.
by Don
Mon Sep 13, 2010 8:51 pm
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Re: Species ID challenge!


It's a goosefoot, Chenopodium; looks like Chenopodium capitatum, sometimes indicated as Blitum capitatum, giving it a common name of strawberry blite. Native to North America and Europe.

by Steve Galehouse
Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:33 pm
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Winterthur Gardens ENTS foray 9-10-2010

Winterthur Gardens measuring trip 9/10/2010

On September 10th I met up with Scott Wade and George Fieo at Winterthur Gardens in Delaware for the first ENTS foray at the site. Scott had previous work experience at the site but since it was pre-ENTS no measurements were taken.

Winterthur has been on my tree hunting radar for nearly 15 years. Back in the late nineties I was in email communication with someone there concerning a tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) measured to be 187’ tall. This tree was claimed among other things as the tallest tree in the east, etc… Of course, I was into the SINE method of height measuring and since the tree was measured via tape drag and clinometer I was not convinced it was that tall. The late Colby Rucker comments on this tree in his “Great Eastern Trees Past and Present” compilation. This tree was the primary focus of the trip and the first tree we visited.

A had begun my journey to Winterthur from NC at 2:30 in the morning, and arrived (quite groggy) on site by 11:30 am via a flight to Philadelphia. Scott and George arrived shortly thereafter and we inquired about tree locations. The attendant staff was excited and very helpful and hooked us up with the staff arborist who knew of the tall tree’s location. We also learned of the “William Penn Tree” a tree thought to date into the late 1600’s. This was also a tuliptree which will be discussed later.

We walked the trail from the visitor’s center to the grounds of the main mansion. The trail passed through a very impressive tuliptree and black oak (Quercus velutina) grove that we would later return to measure. The vast mansion lawn was dotted with venerable specimens of enormous tuliptree and other species both native and exotic. The “big tree” was obvious. We met up with the arborist who quickly proclaimed it to be the tallest tree on the property. Scott was aware of a climber who crudely tape dropped the tree several years ago and found it to be ~150’ tall. Straight-up laser shots did not reveal a height close to 187’.



While Scott and the arborist talked I scanned the crown and found a solid laser hit to the highest twig. Under perfect conditions the 76.6” dbh (20’1”) tree was measured to 150.7 feet. Keep in mind this was after many, many years of growth from the initial 187’ measurement. This tree illustrates that the tangent method in unqualified hands just does not work. No significant crown damage was observed. Certainly, 150 feet is impressive for an open-grown tree and made us wonder what may lie out there in the acres and acres of old woodlands…

Meanwhile George was scouting other giants and a nearby tuliptree measured 74.1” dbh (19’5” cbh) and 141.6’ tall. I noted a nice American holly (Ilex opaca) and measured it for James Parton; 24” dbh X 67.6’ tall. Gorgeous, stately tree! We passed by many large specimens both native and exotic to proceed to other areas to make best use of our short time.

We proceeded to the Pinetum area to measure the state champion Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). It also was easy to find and was an impressive 63.4” dbh (16’7” cbh) X 105.9’. I noted some fine tiger-tail spruce (Picea torano); the largest was 32.6” dbh X 83.2’ tall. This species is the alternate host for hemlock woolly adelgid in Japan. The pinetum had old specimens of Sawara false-cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera), some of which formed little forests around them from layered branches.


We wanted to focus the bulk of our time in the woodlands. One main goal was “Chandlers Woods”, a preserved forested site since the late 1800’s. On the way to one of the adjacent woodland areas we stopped to admire the huge sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) at “Sycamore Hill”. This large tree is just getting started as a giant and with ample room to grow will likely get very, very large. It is already over 19’ cbh and about 130’ wide.


The first forested tract we surveyed was on the south bank of the small creek running through the property. We immediately took note of very mature woods and large trees. Tuliptree dominated most of the areas at the site but impressive northern red oak (Quercus rubra v. rubra), white oak (Quercus alba), and pignut hickory (Carya glabra) were mixed it. American beech (Fagus sylvatica) was also locally abundant and as you will see later reached impressive heights.

Scott and I had a copy of the Champion Trees of Delaware and routinely consulted the list as we found impressive specimens. Winterthur has a large number of state records and we tried to find them or larger ones. We found it was easier finding larger ones. The first new champ I found was a black birch (Betula lenta) the previous champ was a mere 115 points and one literally hanging over the entrance road was 86.4” cbh X 90’ tall X 44’ spread for 187 points. We scouted the rest of this small tract and found the larger tuliptrees were routinely ~140’. We speculated that a rich, sheltered site would produce some tall trees!

We crossed a field and entered another tract by a barn. I spotted a tall hickory crown from the field and easily found the tree. It was a real pain to measure but was not less than 8’2.5” cbh X 130’ tall. This tree set the benchmark for the species which as it turned out was not the tallest or largest we would find. Scott surveyed along a creek while George and I stayed up on the slope. I measured a huge American beech to 38.5” dbh (10’1” cbh) X 130.7’ tall. Scott exclaimed he had found a tall pignut so we joined him below. With a base sighting through the brush we measured the 8’ cbh tree to 144’! This tree was also a (temporary) new state record for the species with ~250 points (current champ 244 points).


The tall hickory was just the start of the “grove of glory”. A steep ravine on both sides of the small creek harbored the mother lode of towering tuliptree and beech. Straight-up laser shots indicated trees over 150’ grew in this small grove. We excitedly began searching out the tallest trees. The full set of leaves did not help matters but we were able to find solid shots from high up the slope. A skinny beech 27.1” dbh caught my eye and upon finding a window to the top found it to be 138.2 feet tall! This is the tallest beech I have ever measured and among the tallest known to ENTS. Scott and George measured a 157.2’ tuliptree which set a temporary height record for the day.

I proceeded up stream and just before the grove ended in a field I spotted a huge tuliptree. This wishbone-shaped tree soared above the surrounding beeches and lasered out to 162.3’! Not only was it tall but a whopping 67.6” dbh (17’8” cbh). Long spread was 110’- not bad for forest grown! This same grove also had impressive white oak, the largest and tallest being 12’3” cbh X 132.1’ tall. George measured a 122.7‘ sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). Several other beeches exceeded 120’ overtopped by numerous tall tuliptrees.


We lamented the fact that the rest of the ravine was cleared for a field as the topography would have supported some massive trees. We continued up a road into a small forested area that had a large pignut hickory 38.4” (10’1” cbh) X 135’ X 65’. This 272 pointer tree crushes the current state champion by 28 points! This area was one of the few that supported a relatively intact herb layer and a thick layer of duff. Most the Winterthur forests were earthworm-induced wastelands full of bare soil and exotic plants.


We took a break for a quick lunch before exploring Chandlers Woods and looking for the William Penn Tree. An old road bed traversed the site which was rolling hills and small ravines dominated by tuliptree and red oak. This area maintained the tall tulip super-canopy but mixed in were thrifty red oak on the upland areas and a more diverse mix in the lower coves.

Not long after starting up the trail we encountered the massive “William Penn” tuliptree. This beast was by far the largest tree seen (by volume) and had classic old-growth characteristics. It reminded me of the giants back home in NC- and it would be a tree of note even in the Smokies. The untapered stem was 17’5” cbh and rose to a craggy top 156.3’ high. I estimate with limb/branch volume this tree would easily reach 2,000 cubic feet. It may indeed date back far enough to have been alive during the life of William Penn (1644-1718). It is possible this tree was the tree listed as 187’- the girth matches up with the current DE listing.

The Beast.jpg

Up the trail the red oaks were very impressive and held their own with the dominant tuliptrees. Many exceed 120’ tall and we located a number over 130’. We all set our eyes on three separate trees in the same grove and all were close to 140’. Scott nailed the first 140 footer with a tree 7’8.5” cbh X 140.4’. My 28.6” dbh tree reached 140.7’. Unfortunately Scott had to leave at this point but George and I continued down slope into a small cove. Here, red oak was the most impressive species and many towered to over 125’.

We meandered across the gentle slopes and began a hunt for species to fill out the Rucker Index. The site was so dominated by tuliptree and also not very diverse so finding tall representatives proved difficult. However we did pick up a few new species but did not find any taller specimens of species already measured. George found a nice black walnut 18.8” X 103.7’ and white ash 18.5” X 118.2’ while I picked up a scarlet oak 37.3” X 122.6’ and blackgum 32.2” X 121.6’. It turns out the Rucker is composed of an unusual species mix but understates the impressiveness of the average canopy.

We did come across a tree neither of us recognized. It was not a native species and was spreading around like an invasive. I did some internet searching and have settled on Korean Evodia (Evodia daniellii). It is a nice looking tree but may be a nasty invasive as well.


George and I made a point to traverse every forest we could get to. All were unique in some way or another and reflected past disturbance or management. The last area to see was the famous Azalea Gardens near the Visitor Center. This highly manicured woodland was again dominated by towering tuliptree and nice red and black oaks. Black oaks neared 130’ and tuliptree held a continuous 140’+ canopy. A mulched trail wound its way through the knoll and allowed easy access to see the whole stand. It was weird for me to see huge, forest grown trees pruned of all deadwood and the artificial look added a surreal feeling to the garden. What a job that would be though, to prune 140-150’ tuliptrees!

The last tree I measured was the first I spotted in the morning. It was an impressive black oak that looked to be 130-ish. I measured it from a bridge and yep, 130.6’. It was a remnant fork of a double tree over 4.5 feet in diameter.

So, finally the site has been given an ENTS overview. A winter trip would probably yield taller trees and heights of individuals measured in this first round (I gathered GPS coordinates for virtually all trees measured). There is still one tract as yet unexplored, and MANY (exotic) state champs to be measured and submitted. More to see!!!

Rucker 10 index
Tuliptree 162.3
Pignut 144.0
N. red oak 140.7
A. beech 138.2
White oak 132.1
Black oak 130.6
Sweetgum 122.7
Scarlet oak122.6
Blackgum 121.6
White ash 118.2
Rucker 10 133.3

Will Blozan
George Fieo
Scott Wade IMG_5047.jpg
by Will Blozan
Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:25 am
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Reenadinna Yew Wood


In May of 2009 I had the opportunity to visit Ireland. Although not particularly known for trees, yews are an important part of the country's natural and cultural heritage. For any Ent visiting Ireland, you must make visiting Killarney National Park a priority. This location is not only spectacular, but also has what is probably the most important woodlands in the country - some of which may be old growth. Apparently there are small pockets of old growth oak woodland, but these are not easily accessible and I did not have time to visit them. However, I did visit what is probably the best known of the park's woodlands, Reenadinna Yew Wood. I have seen this listed as one of only three remaining yew woodlands in Europe. The wood is on the north side of the Muckross peninsula. The trees grow from the limestone bedrock. This rock is very weathered with numerous deep fissures. There was even a cave I explored which ended up being a tunnel. The rock is covered in moss, so that the the ground layer of almost the entire woodland is pure moss with few other plants. This moss somtimes covers the fissures and the sharp limestone beneath making conditions mildly treacherous in some locations. The north side of the wood ends where limestone cliffs drop off to Lough Leane.

The trees themselves form an almost pure stand of yews. Although the trees vary in size and apparently age, there is little regeneration. This may be in part due to the heavy shade, but probably more importantly from deer browsing. A biologist I met on the site said that the deer actually wedge themselves under the fence that surrounds the site in order to browse on the yews. Despite the browsing pressures the wood is still spectacular. Some of the trees are very large. I have included two images of the largest tree I came across, sorry, no measurements.


by Darian Copiz
Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:22 pm
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Johnson Woods, aka Graber Woodlot, Wayne Co., OH


This morning I visited Johnson Woods state nature preserve near Marshallville, Ohio:

This is a 200 acre old growth preserve with a very mature oak-hickory forest which is gradually transitioning to beech-maple. This woods was once known as the Graber woodlot, and as such was studied and written about by Lucy Braun(there is a discussion of this area in her book "The Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America").

The preserve has very little relief, perhaps a total of 4', and is wet at some times of the year, but there is a slightly elevated boardwalk that allows easy access. The boardwalk snakes through the area of old trees, with many fallen oaks evident, The ODNR website mentions trees 4' to 5' in diameter, but nothing close to the 5' size was visible. The forest consists primarily of white and red oaks, shagbark hickory, beech, white ash, red and sugar maples. Other species present included white elm, pin and swamp white oak. Species not present or at least not obvious were black oak, tulip-tree, walnut, cottonwood, and basswood.

My overall impression was that of a mature forest of limited species composition but with many nice old trees, especially white oaks, but there were no really huge trees present in the areas I saw. The canopy height consistently averaged 105'-110', with a few mature trees breaking above that. Much of the area was not visible from the boardwalk, so there could be trees of larger girth elsewhere in the park, but there were no ravines or coves that would promote really tall tress----I've come to realize here in N Ohio steep dissected topography is needed to to get heights above 130'.

Below are some photos and recorded sizes of a few trees in the preserve. All heights should be considered ''not less than", since the canopy is still pretty full and clean shots were difficult to get.

Northern red oak 114.7' x 11' 4'': '.jpg ' crown.jpg
White oak 115.6' x 11' 10'': '.jpg ' crown.jpg
Shagbark hickory 123.2' x 8' 11'': '.jpg ' crown.jpg
Red maple 116' x 9' 1'': '.jpg ' crown.jpg

by Steve Galehouse
Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:00 pm
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European larch


Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about Norway spruce ( Picea abies ) and European larch ( Larix decidua ). I have written several times about Norway spruce in Europe, and it is now a good time to write about European larches in Europe.

Naturally, European larch is a tree of European mountains. It often forms with Swiss pine ( Pinus cembra ) the highest forest zone, above which there are usually thickets of shrub-like mugo pine ( Pinus mugo ). Here is a photo from the natural range of European larch. The location is Mercantour National Park in southeastern France, in the southwestern Alps, at an altitude of 1730 m (5680 ft) where the larch first appears in the forest composition. The light green crowns are larches, the dark green crowns are European silver firs ( Abies alba ) and Norway spruces.


These forests have been clear-cutted about 100 years ago, then they have regrown naturally. Some stumps 5-6 ft in diameter are evidences that the forests have supported big trees in the past.

In Poland there are some natural low-altitude populations (subsp. polonica ). European larch is also planted as a timber tree at low altitudes, besides Japanese larch ( L. kaempferi ).

In a favorable site, European larch is able to attain pretty good dimensions. I recently visited and measured two of the biggest and tallest European larches in Germany. Both are claimed to be 48 m (157 ft) tall. They grow outside of the natural range in managed forest but are protected, of course.

The first tree is located close to Nüßleshof, between Eisenach and Meiningen in Thüringen. It is said to be 250 years old. In the photo below, the other trees are European beech ( Fagus sylvatica ) and Norway spruce. The beech trunks are very dark because it was raining.


I measured the tree height to be 46.8 m (154 ft) and CBH 469 cm (15.4 ft). However, the claimed 48 m is not necessarily a measuring error: the top is now strongly bent and the highest point is an upper branch. The tree could well have been 48 m in the recent past. In the photo below, the green arrow shows the top and the red arrow the highest point at the moment. The other trees in the photo are Wych elm ( Ulmus glabra ), left foreground, black alder ( Alnus glutinosa ), foreground right from the big larch, European beech and Norway spruce (background).


This is the tallest reliably measured European larch we are aware at the moment.

I took the next photo a few hundred meters from the big larch. It shows a managed Norway spruce forest. DBH's are about 1.5-1.8 ft and heights 130-140 ft. The understory is mainly composed of a carpet of Norway spruce seedlings with some European beech seedlings. Spruce seedling growth stagnates due to low light levels but beech grows vigorously if there is even a small opening in the canopy.


The another big larch is called Brüsenwälder Lärche, planted about in the year 1770 and is located close to Warthe, north from Berlin, Brandenburg, very close to Heilige Hallen reserve, which Jeroen and I visited in May. I was there in September, and measuring was difficult due to very dense beech foliage. In the photo below, the other trees are: to the left from the big larch: Scots pine ( Pinus sylvestris ) and two European beeches; to the right from the larch: Norway spruce, larches in the background and beech. Regeneration is of beech and Sycamore maple ( Acer pseudoplatanus ). The plentiful beech regeneration clearly shows this would slowly turn to beech dominated forest if left alone.


My measurements: Height 46.3 m (152 ft) and CBH (15.7 ft). Again, the claimed 48 m is not necessarily a measuring error: the original top is dead and dry, and the tree has grown two new tops from upper branches. All the three tops are within one meter in height, the tallest being one of the new tops. The original top has almost surely been taller when alive. The next photo shows the old and one of the new tops. The another new top is behind the beech foliage.


It is interesting that although many of the other European conifers (Norway spruce, Scots pine, European silver fir) apparently do not become as tall in US as in Europe, European larch gets very close.

There is a tall European larch in Nohfelden, Rheinland Pfalz, claimed to be 50 m (164 ft), but it is a little bit too far away for me. Maybe I sometimes have something to do in the vicinity of it and can measure it. Other European countries may also have equally tall larches.

The last photo shows no big trees, but I include it here because I thought it could be interesting to American ENTS. It is a black alder ( Alnus glutinosa ) swamp, about ten meters from Brüsenwälder Lärche. This is the wettest forest type in Central Europe, and black alder has the best flooding tolerance among Central European trees. This like swamps are very common in the region.


UPDATE JANUARY 2013: The tallest reliably measured European larch is now 53.8 m (=177 ft) tall:

by KoutaR
Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:16 am
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Araucaria angustifolia


This past January I visited Brazil on vacation with my girlfriend. It was my first time there and one of the things I wanted to see was the Brazilian pine, Araucaria angustifolia . This is not the same species as the better known monkey-puzzle tree ( Auracaria araucana ) which occurs in Chile and Argentina. A. angustifolia occurs primarily in southern Brazil, but also neighboring Argentina and Paraguay. Its range extends as far north as the mountains near Rio de Janeiro, but the heart of its range is the highlands of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. The araucaria forest is a sub-category of the Atlantic Forest biome. This link provides more extensive information about the species:

The location I chose to visit in order to see the species was the "city" of Urubici in the state of Santa Catarina. This municipality, which is more of a town, has the designation of being the coldest area in Brazil, where a minimum temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit has been recorded. Snow can occur between June and August. Although Araucaria angustifolia is listed as endangered on the IUCN red list, in the vicinity of Urubici it is relatively common. I saw many examples of the species, but of course I also wanted to find any exceptionally sized trees. I met with a biologist in Urubici from the Instituto Serrano, a conservation organization which focuses on the southern Brazilian highlands. He told me of a large araucaria not far outside of town. Going to visit it I found the road to be just barely passable with a normal car, although I'm sure locals would just laugh and say it was no problem. We stopped to talk to people along the road, asking for the property of Sr. Catolico and the big araucaria. Most knew of the tree and how to get to it. When we arrived at the property we were fortunate that a caretaker was nearby and offered to guide us to the tree which was located in an open wooded area of the property's pasture. I might as well mention at this point that although I had brought my measuring equipment to Brazil, it just so happened that I did not have it with me when visiting the tree. I felt bad enough about it, so I don't need any scolding. I also had difficulties with the storage media for my camera and lost many of my pictures, but fortunately my girlfriend Cristina was also taking pictures - which are the ones I have provided here.

We came across a large araucaria, but our guide laughed and said it was a son of the big tree. When we did arrive at the big tree my expectations were not dissappointed. As you can see from the pictures, the trunk flare is still prominent at breast height, but I would estimate its diameter to be about 5 feet at 10 feet off the ground. I estimated the height at about 120 feet. The tree was in a small grove of large trees which appeared to be declining. I am also including a picture of one of the dead trees in the grove which was very similar in size to the big tree.

At the end of our visit our guide mentioned that the property might be for sale. He seemed to be hinting that maybe a rich foreigner could purchase it in order to preserve the trees. The trees were exceptional and far larger than any I had seen elsewhere in the vicinity of Urubici. However, the site was fairly disturbed and the trees appeared to be on the decline. There are probably larger and taller araucarias in some less accessible locations in southern Brazil, but these probably occur in only small remnant pockets. Although it is a timber species and there are efforts to restore araucaria forest, most commercial forestry consists of non-native eucalyptus and slash pine plantations. Hopefully the acreage of araucaria forest will increase and remnant stands of uncut trees will be preserved. It is a beautiful tree, and the pine nuts are also delicious. An increased awareness of the species and its benefits may help restore it to greater prominence in the southern Brazilian landscape.

by Darian Copiz
Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:51 pm
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Re: Norway spruces in Buckland


Larix kaempferi can easily be distinguished from L. decidua by the curved cone scales of the former. You find good photos with Google. Cones are the best distinctive feature in the genus Larix . The hybrid of the mentioned species, L. x marschlinsii is also cultivated. Its cone is intermediate between L. kaempferi and L. decidua , the cone scales being only slightly curved.

by KoutaR
Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:00 am
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Belgium: meeting on trees and tall beeches

Saturday 23rd Ovtober there was an international meeting on champion and veteran trees, for tree - specialists and tree - organisations of NW and central Europe. It was held at Wespelaar Arboretum, near Brussels in Belgium. It was organised by Christopher Carnaghan, the international representative of the Tree Register of the British Isles, together with our hosts the organisation of the Wespelaar Arboretum and the Beltrees dendrological project in Belgium. About 40 persons from ten European countries attended the meeting: from Belgium, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland and Switzerland. There were presentations mainly about recording veteran, monumental and champion trees and creating a register and / or a database of them as well as finding and photografing them.

Among the attendants were Thomas Pakenham, autor of the books"Meetings with Remarkable Trees" and "Remarkable Trees of the World", David Alderman, Registrar of the Tree Register, Tony Kirkham, Curator of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, as well as several writers / photographers of books on old or champion trees.

It was a very nice and inspiring meeting, meant to inform each other and talking about possibilities to have more international contact and preservation of trees.
At the end of the afternoon we visited the arboretum, still young but wit a nice collection of broadleave trees.

I took the opportunity to stay in belgium and, together with Tim Bekaert, creator of the website:, to visit a few interesting places with great trees.

A. We started with the beautiful and impressive Sweet Chestnuts ( Castanea sativa ) of Kasteel Schouwbroek near Vinderhoute (NW of Gent).
Three impressive and vital giants of up to 9 m girth behind the park-entrance.
See at Tim's website: or in the book of Jeroen Pater.
Because of the fence we did not measure the trees.

B. Next place to visit was the Castle park of Enghien / Edingen in Henegouwen: A very old park with good loamy soils and good tree-growth, so very large trees to be seen.
We saw a lot of trees and measured some:
1. Hornbeam - Carpinus betulus , Height: 33 m / 106 ft, new lasermeasured European heightrecord (the champion height tree of Ireland is 34 m, but I don't know if it was measured accurate). Girth @ 1,3 m: 280 cm, @ 1,5 m (Belgian measuring height) 273 cm.

2. London Plane - Platanus x hispanica . Height: 39,8 m (130,6 ft), girth @ 1,5 m: 508 cm. Many other plane trees of around 33 - 36 m and up to 5,5 m girth.

3. Common oak - Quercus robur - Chene "Duc Prosper" - height 31,5 m (not 40 m, as mentioned on the Bel Trees list and on Wikipedia), girth @ 1,3 m: 724 cm, @ 1,5 m 704 cm.

4. Common oak at the Golf Course - height 28,4 m, girth 756 cm.

5. Giant sequoia - Sequoiadendron gignteum - height 36 m, girth @ 1,3 m: 800 cm, @ 1,5 m: 780 cm.
Two other Sequoia's of ~ 34 and ~ 35 m tall, we did not measure the girths.

I measured some other heights: copper beech: 37,6 m; common oak: 34,5 m; common ash - Fraxinus excelsior : ~ 38 m.
We did not see the ash of 48 m wich is reported on "bell trees". Small leaved lime - Tilia cordata : 34,5 m.

C. In the Sonian Forest we visited the forestreserve Kersselaerspleyn.
The Sonian Forest (Dutch: Zoniënwoud, French: Forêt de Soignes) is a 4,421-hectare (10,920-acre) forest that lies across the south-eastern part of city of Brussels.
The forest is part of the scattered remains of the ancient Charcoal Forest. The first mention of the Sonian Forest (Soniaca Silva) dates from the early Middle Ages.
In the 18th century it was still 10.000 hectare, but parts were used to create housing and agricultural areas.
The forests are in fact plantations of European beech ( Fagus sylvatica ), about 75 % and Common Oak ( Quercus robur ), around 15 % as well as small areas with conifers and other broadleaves.

The forest is on slightly rolling areas about 300 feet above seelevel with most loamy eolian loess souls, wich are quite fertile allthough they have become more acid and were there is stagnation of watertables in some places.

The Forestreserve Kersselaerspleyn was planted with beech in 1777 after clearcut. Since 1983 it is left without forestmanagement, it is an official forestreserve since 1995. Since 2005 the reserve is enlarged to over 200 ha.
The old core reserve has nearly only beech, in the newer parts of the reserve there are also many large oaks with DBH up to 110 cm and 30 - 35, perhaps 40 m height. Of many oaks the height was difficult to measure because of undergrowth with young beech. Tallest I measured was 35,8 m, but I am sure there are taller oaks.

In the core area we heightmeasured 9 out of the 18 trees marked by the forest-researchers of INBO (Institute for Nature and Forest Research in Flanders): Peter van de Kerckhove c.s. as well as another very large beech at the border of the reserve. We did not measure more trees because of lack of time.
We had a list with heights measured by the researchers in 2000 with Forestor Vertex and in October 2010 with a Lasertech Impulse Forest Pro instument, wich costs $1,895.00 at an American website and seems to be very accurate.

In 2000 beeches were measured up to 52 m (170,6 feet) wich seemed nearly unbelievable, but we new the Forestor Vertex hypsometer works with tangential methods.

The measurements of last week by Peter van de Kerckhove gave a maximum of 49,5 m (162,4 feet), still much taller then we had measured beech in the Netherlands. Because these were with laser, I was very interested.
My measurements with Nikon Forestry 550 laser were all lower. The difference was 2,1 to 7,1 meter (7 to over 23 feet) and between 4,42 and 14,34 %! So this was very strange. It was a pity we could not do the measurements together with Peter, to see wat was the reason. After mailing with Kouta, he wrote back that the Lasertech Impulse Forest Pro works with a reflector. This you cannot put on the leaves in top, so it will work like the Forestor Vertex with the reflector at the trunk, a tangential method. This explains the difference.

In my measurements of 10 beeches all were between 42 and 45,4 meter (between 137,8 and 149 feet). So I had at least a new lasermeasured heightrecord for European Beech ( Fagus sylvatica )!
The tallest measured beech at right: 45,4 m / 149 ft tall, girth @ 1,5 m: 328 cm / 10,46 ft; beech on the left: 44,6 m / 146,3 ft, girth @ 1,5 m: 402 cm / 13,19 ft.

The girth of the measured beeches was between 328 and 466 cm (10,46 and 15,3 feet) and some of them are quite massive.
Most beeches measured were neighbouring open areas were other large beeches have been windthrown in a big storm in 1990 and therefore easy to measure by laser.
The second tallest beech with massive trunk, height 45 m / 147,6 ft, girth @ 1,5 m 402 cm / 13,19 ft.


There are only few other tree species in the reserve exept for some Sycamore maple ( Acer pseudoplatanus ), some Hornbeams ( Carpinus betulus ) and a few ashes (Fraxinus excelsior). This can be explained by the planting of only beech in this part of the forest and the enormous dominance of beech in this kind of habitat in NW Europe.

Jeroen Philippona
by Jeroen Philippona
Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:49 am
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Kelheim Forest, Germany


I have procrastinated long enough. I'm finally going to write about my trip to Kelheim forest back in May of this year. There were a couple reasons for me wanting to check this place out. The first is that Kouta informed me that it was supposed to have the tallest European (common) ash in Germany and that this stand seemed like it would be relatively easy to find. The second is that I had to convince my relatives that this would be a cool place to visit...and it is! It is along the Danube River flowing between nice cliffs and there is some award-winning dark beer to be had at the oldest brewery at a monastery (redundant?) in Bavaria and perhaps the world. The monastery is located just a few kilometers upstream from Kelheim in Weltenburg.

Background info on the forest is from a paper by Maximilian Waldherr and titled "Der Eschen-Eichen-Bestand in Wipfelsfurt bei Kelheim" ("The ash-oak stand in Wipfelsfurt near Kelheim"). In this paper he said that the oldest trees in the stand were 149 years old (now 167 years old) when he measured it in 1992. The oldest trees are ashes and oaks and the beeches were planted later. These are the three dominant trees of the stand and the only other species that I noticed when I visited was sycamore maple. He says the the tallest tree was an ash that measured 49.8m (163.3') in height and 85cm in diameter (8.75' or 2.67m in girth). I believe Germans measure at 1.3m (4.26') rather than at 4.5' (1.37m). I wasn't sure which species of oak was involved since the species was not indicated in the paper, but Jeroen has indicated to me that he is quite sure that it is Quercus robur (English/common oak). Jeroen says that of the two common oaks in Germany, English oak is the one that is typically found in floodplains with high pH soils (this region is all limestone). The other species is Q. petraea (sessile oak) and it normally grows in the hills and it is not so tolerant of frequent flooding or lime.

So in early May I set off for Kelheim with Ellen (my wife), my mom, my dad, Ellen's dad, my uncle bernd and my aunt Hilde. It was cloudy, rainy and cold. Unusually cold for Germany at this time of year, but we were hoping that at least the rain would eventually let up. We made a rest stop that conveniently happened to be near a big store selling all sorts of chocolates and candy. We then moved on to visit Regensburg which is a beautiful city located on the Danube River not too far downstream from Kelheim. In fact, Regensburg had just recently been named the most beautiful city in Bavaria just ahead of Bamberg. Bogus! Bogus I tell ya! Not that I'm biased or anything because my mom just happens to be from Bamberg. Ellen seemed to be the most distraught. She declared that "sure Regensburg is pretty, but no way is it more beautiful than Bamberg". Man, does Ellen know how to butter up the family or what? The rain had mostly stopped by this point and Hilde and Bernd showed us the most impressive sites of the old part of Regensburg, but our bellies soon told us it was time to make for the Weltenburg Monastery and get some good food and beer. The meal was just plain incredible, especially with the great beer! After the meal we decided to split up; I would go to the Kelheim forest with Ellen and everyone else would head out and see some local sites. Unfortunately the time they gave us was far too little. K1.jpg

We were finally on our way to see the tall trees but first we had to cross the river. There was a neat little ferry that we decided to try and after a bit we were able to find the man who operated it. My mom asked him if he knew about the tall trees and he did! He described how to get to the site and it exactly matched up with where I thought it was. Very encouraging. The short trip across the river was quite fun.
We had to follow a small road along the Danube for a short while until we found the Donauroute hiking trail. During the short roadside walk we were treated to some nice views of the Monastery. The first picture in this post was taken from this road. Once on the hiking trail we immediately began to climb up to the cliff which overlooks the Danube River from the North. Once we climbed to the top we had our very best view of the Monastery.
The forest here was dominated by beech and they were not particularly large. A typical scene follows.
After a couple kilometers the trail connected to a gravel road and we began to make our descent to the river. Just as we reached the river their was an orchard on the downstream side of the road and the forest was on the upstream side. To get to the forest I had to cross a remarkably deep ditch. Ellen decided not to go in because she wanted me to hurry as she didn't want us to be too late. The first nice tree I spotted was an oak. Shooting straight up I got an amazing 142.5' (43.4m). I couldn't believe it. I was there to measure the tallest ash and I didn't even really think about the oaks at all. I started running around like a little kid and yelling to Ellen that she just had to see this!
All the numbers I'm going to give are shooting straight up with a laser. The first tall ash I saw was 142.5', the second was 141' and the third was 142.5'. I thought are you kidding me? I came here to measure tall ashes and I'm not finding one taller than the tallest oak. So I moved farther into the forest (upstream or west). I saw what looked like a taller ash. It was 147' (44.8m) tall. Cool! It was also 9.54' (2.91m) in girth at 4.5' (1.37m). This could very well be the tallest one measured by Maximilian. If it is the same tree it is maybe 16' or so shorter than his measurement which was made 18 years earlier. In that 18 years it would have had to grow about 0.5" in girth per year. As Jeroen has mentioned to me this seems possible.
At this point Ellen said that we really needed to leave. I was very bummed. This site deserves much better.

After leaving the forest we walked very quickly towards the town of Kelheim. Here the trail stayed close to the river and was very flat. We covered the 2km or so in very little time but we were still quite late.

Upon arriving in the US I was able to communicate this info to Kouta and later to Jeroen. Jeroen told me that the tallest ash I found was exactly as tall as one that Tomasz Niechoda had measured in Bialowieza, Poland. The main difference being that I did not make a sine top sine bottom measurement and it is therefore less accurate. The Bialowieza site is also old growth and Jeroen mentioned that it is colder and drier than the Kelheim site as well. In light of the recent info by Neil on old trees I should also point out that the Kelheim ashes and oaks appear to be quite vigorous and still display good apical dominance...they're a long way from topping out at this site! The highest points were generally right over the center of the trees and they were easy to find. I'd be surprised if the tallest ash, if it is even the tallest ash, doesn't make 150' in less than a decade. Jeroen also mentioned that the one English/common oak that I measured may be the tallest so far measured in Germany. Ofcourse this all needs to be confirmed and happily Kouta recently mentioned that he wants to visit this site in fall or perhaps early next spring. I can't wait.

by DougBidlack
Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:31 pm
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Joshua Tree Nationa Park

WNETS, ENTS: Susan and I had a chance to visit Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California in October of 2009 with the main purpose of catching some nice sunshine before the Ohio Valley winter cloud cover takes over our area around Parkersburg, WV. Plus we needed to burn some frequent flier miles.
The park has 794,000 acres with 558,000 acres in designated as federal wilderness. We were not into a back country experience but stayed in developed campgrounds within the park which were about 90 percent empty when the weekend ended.
The park sits at the intersection of two vary different desert eco systems with the low elevation east portion considered part of the Colorado/Sonoran desert with its signature plants such as Octillo, Jumping Cholla, and Creosote Bush. the higher elevation western portion a part of the Mohave desert and has Joshua trees, Mohave yuccas and a perplexing scrub oak complex. The Park also has several nice Palm Oasis which we wanted to see. I brought the laser and clinometer along and got a some measurements.

View of a Joshua Tree forest
Photo by Susan Sharp

Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia
7.4' CBH and 40.2' HT
Photo by Susan Sharp

7.6' CBH and 31.7' HT.
Photo by Susan Sharp

One of the main reasons we wanted to come to Joshua Tree NP was to visit some of the Palm Oasis where the California Fan Palm dominates. We visited 3 of the 5 oasis where tourists are encouraged to visit. They were 49 Palms , Mara, and Cottonwood. Of the three visited, The 49 Palms Oasis was the most natural and required about a 4 mile round trip hike. The following picture shows our first glimpse of the oasis from the trail.

California Fan Palm, Washingtonia filifera
Photo by Susan Sharp

I measured several palms in the following picture of this cluster at 49 Palms Oasis with the two biggest being:
CBH 6.6' and 67.6' HT
8.2' and 55.0'
It appears that a previous fire had burned some of the thatch but many of the palms in the wetter areas had thatch all the way to the ground as the subsequent photo shows.
Additional Palms measured were at Mara Oasis:
9.2' and 49.2'
and Cottonwood Oasis:
9.0' and 52.0'
Photo by Susan Sharp

Dressed up in a full skirt
Photo by Susan Sharp

Mohave Yucca Yucca schidigera
CBH 2.5' and 13.1' HT
Photo by Susan Sharp

Jumping Cholla Cylindropuntia fulgida
Photo by Susan Sharp
There are many different species of Cholla. One is called Teddy Bear Cholla but as far as i know they have one characteristic in common. If you are going to be around them be prepared to spend time with tweezers removing tiny spiney bristles or wear a hazmat suit. The Cholla picture was taken in the southern part of the park at Cholla Garden and i swear i kept a respectfull distance and still took some spines home.

I also measured a Singleleaf Pinyon, Pinus monophylla, in Hidden Valley at:
CBH 3.8' and 28.1' HT
Turner Sharp
by tsharp
Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:14 pm
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European beech forests


We had a discussion on understories of European and American beech forests here:

I post here my photos from some forests dominated by European beech ( Fagus sylvatica ) and located in different parts of its natural range. This photo journey is, of course, very incomplete. Communities may vary much and the forest types in the photos are not only ones in the localities. It would be great if one or some of American ENTS made similar composition of forest interiors dominated by American beech ( F. grandifolia ).

European beech is a very important tree species in Europe. Without human impact, most of Central Europe would be dominated by beech. Reasons for its extraordinary role include its wide climatic, edaphic and shade tolerances and longevity. Natural stands dominated by other tree species are restricted to extreme sites (e.g. wet, dry or cold) outside of their growth optimum, where beech is unable to form a closed canopy. South from the Alps, the natural area extends to the mountains of the Mediterranean, Balkan and West Asian mountains, in Sicily up to 2250 meters (7380 ft).

As the photos show, forests dominated by European beech have rather uniform apperarance. In the southern high altitude sites, annual precipitation is higher and there is more moss on the trunks.

The first site is Høje Møn on the eastern coast of Denmark immediately behind more than 300 ft high chalk bluff rising directly from the Baltic sea. The forest is not old.


There are as tall chalk cliffs also in Jasmund National Park, northeastern German coast, pictured below.


The second beech forest site, a small old-growth patch, is close to the cliffs above. Elevation is 120 m (400 ft) and annual precipitation 800 mm (31 in). The understory mainly consists of grasses.


The third site is already familiar to the ENTS. It is Heilige Hallen Nature Reserve, northern Germany, where Jeroen and I measured beeches last May. There has been no wood cutting since 1850, but some dead wood use until 1950. Of the three tall trees in the photo, the rightmost one is 43 m (141 ft) tall and the middle one 42 m (138 ft).


The fourth site is Hainich National Park in central Germany, also familiar to the ENTS from Doug's report. This forest has had human use in the past but is untouched since WWII. These forests belong to the richest beech forest communities in Central Europe growing on fertile lime rich soil. Annual precipitation is 750 mm (30 in).

In the photo below there is an understory of Allium ursinum . At least two rough barked European ash ( Fraxinus excelsior ) trees can be seen. Elevation is 420 m (1380 ft).


The next photo is also from Hainich N. P. It shows a site at 340 m (1120 ft) with an Anemone nemorosa understory.


The fifth site is nearly untouched forest in Stužica National Nature Reserve, eastern Slovakia. Elevation is 750 m (2460 ft) and annual precipitation 850–1000 mm (33-39 in). In the foreground there is a canopy gap left by a fallen tree and filled by low shrubs, e.g. Rubus , and beech and European silver fir ( Abies alba ) seedlings.


The sixth site is in Pyrénées National Park, southern France, at an elevation of about 1400 m (4600 ft). The conifers in the left are European silver firs ( Abies alba ). This forest is not old.


The landskapes in the Pyrenees are truly stunning. See e.g.:

The seventh site is in Abruzzo National Park, central Italy, at an elevation of 1350 m (4430 ft) on an eastern slope. Precipitation is 2500-3000 mm (100-120 in) with late summer minimum. The geology is calcareous. The rough-barked tree in the foreground is Italian maple ( Acer opalus ). The forest is not old.


The next photo is also from Abruzzo National Park, at an elevation of about 1500 m (4900 ft) on a northern slope. In this part of the park, selective logging is still in place. The herb in the understory is Cardamine kitaibelii .


The eight site is old-growth forest in Biogradska Gora National Park, Montenegro. Elevation is 1130 m (3710 ft) and annual precipitation 2200 mm (87 in) with spring and fall maximums. There are mainly grasses in the understory of this stand.


The ninth site is nearly undisturbed forest, Crna Poda in Durmitor National Park. Crna Poda (elev. 840–940 meters (2760-3080 ft) is a terrace formed in the middle of a very steep slope of Tara Canyon. Level terrain has allowed deep soil to accumulate and European black pine ( Pinus nigra ), which otherwise grows stunted on steep slopes, has formed a fantastic forest. In recent years beech has invaded the forest, preventing pine regeneration. Understory consists of beech and maple ( A. pseudoplatanus and A. platanoides ) seedlings and various herbs, eg. Galium and Oxalis , and grasses. The tree in the foreground is European ash ( Fraxinus excelsior ).


Below a European black pine in the same forest:


The last site is nearly undisturbed forest on a lower northern slope of Alborz Mountains, northern Iran. Annual precipitation is about 1200 mm (47 in). These beeches belong to a different subspecies, oriental beech ( F. sylvatica subsp. orientalis ), also considered a different species ( F. orientalis ) by some authors. Unfortunately the photo is of very poor quality, but ~bare litter layer can be seen.


by KoutaR
Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:07 am
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