Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

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#1)  Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby ElijahW » Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:25 am

NTS,

This trip report will be fairly brief, owing to the fact that it features only one measured tree.  But it's a pretty big tree, so I figured that I should give it its shot at the spotlight.  The tree is a locally famous (at least among tree people) eastern cottonwood, or populus deltoides in the village of Moravia, NY, which is located at the south end of Owasco Lake, one of the smaller Finger Lakes.  Some ents may have heard of this tree or seen it in person, or even written about it (my apologies if that's the case).  I visited the tree a couple of years ago after reading an archived local newspaper article making reference to it on the internet (I wasn't able to locate the article again for this report), but I made no measurements at the time.  The poplar was touted as Cayuga County's largest tree, and I now would probably agree, both in terms of girth and total volume.

This past week, I had some time off from work and an itch to measure, so I figured I'd mosey on down and finally do the work and crunch the numbers and see if I really did have a noteworthy tree on my hands.  In addition, Bob Leverett's recent report on the northern NY/Champlain Valley cottonwoods made me curious as to where this tree stood in comparison.  The short answer:  very favorably.  Here are the stats:  height:  107.8'; cbh:  29.0'; average crown spread:  100.7'.  Like most area cottonwoods, this tree has lost many large limbs during its lifetime, as you may be able to see in the pictures below.  Unlike most area cottonwoods, this tree has one solid trunk and its fallen limbs were located high in the canopy, so the crown spread has significant room for improvement.  Here's the fat lady in all her glory:

               
                       
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Maybe it's not the most beautiful or tallest tree around, but it's the biggest tree I've measured, and I figured I'd give her props.  Here's a link to more stats, courtesy of the Galehouse trees database:  http://alpha.treesdb.org/Browse/Sites/1095/Details

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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#2)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby Bart Bouricius » Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:03 am

Elijah,

That is a really fat genuine single trunk tree!  You are right it does not have the beauty of the Lake Champlain monster that Bob reported on, but it certainly has impressive dimensions and it's health does not seem too bad considering where the branches were lost from.  It still may have growth potential for a number of years possibly eventually exceeding 30' in circumference.  

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#3)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby Bart Bouricius » Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:06 am

One more thing Elija,

You need to get a photo of someone standing next to this behemoth.

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#4)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby Will Blozan » Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:46 am

WoW! Nice tree! Thanks for posting. It does look like a double to me, though.

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#5)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby jamesrobertsmith » Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:58 am

Definitely get a photo with a person standing beside it. Nothing translates the true size of a tree than a photo of a person standing close to the trunk.
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#6)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby Bart Bouricius » Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:40 am

Will,

Your right, it could be, but when you magnify it as much as possible it seems ambiguous.  Maybe when and if Elija goes back to get a size comparison picture he can check to see if the separation line really does seem to run all the way down and get some images of that.  I wonder is someone knows how common it is for cottonwoods to fuse trunks in such a way that you cant tell.  I am spending too much time on this bulletin board, but its raining on the slush here now.

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#7)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby tsharp » Sat Mar 03, 2012 4:00 pm

Bart: Along the Ohio river it is not unusual to see fused mutlistem cottonwoods. I am currently in Arizona and in the past couple of days I observed a couple of hundred Fremont Cottonwoods along water courses. I would estimate 15-25 percent were fused multistems. Will have some decent Arizona tree numbers and trip reports to post have  when I get back. i agree with Will B. it looks like a possible fused double.
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#8)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby ElijahW » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:55 am

Y'all,

Thanks for the observations.  After I posted the pictures I noticed the scaling problems (nothing close to the trunk to compare it to, size-wise).  I was there by my lonesome and had nobody to pose or take a picture for me, though the owner's [son, I guess] was friendly and probably would have obliged.  Maybe I should have parked my car next to it!  Regretfully, I probably won't be able to get back there for a couple of months, so any new pictures from me will have to wait.  

Regarding the fused trunk hypothesis, I hadn't even considered it until now.  As Bart inferred, if the tree is a double, it really isn't noticeable in the overall form.  My argument for the single-tree theory:  1)  The main trunk, up to the first big split (~20-30' up), is fairly symmetrical all the way around from ground level (no bulbous protrusions or deep hollows); 2)  Double trees (especially in this area) tend to split apart before reaching this size, I'm guessing from a combination of freeze-thaw cycles and heavy snow and wind, but that's just an uneducated guess; and 3)  The tree presents itself, from almost every angle, as one individual, not two or more individuals combined.  Part of the problem here is that I only took photos from one direction, so I'm not giving an overall representation of the tree.  I respect every opinion expressed on this forum, especially those lots of experience with this kind of thing, and if I'm proven wrong, that's ok with me.  You fellows have good eyes, and I certainly see the quality of your reasoning.  

If anybody is in the area, I would encourage you to visit the cottonwood and take pictures, for sure.  Just watch out for vehicles coming down the hill and around the bend while you're there.  

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks
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#9)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby dbhguru » Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:49 am

Elijah,

  What a monster! Maybe Y should be the eastern cottonwood state. There are so many huge cottonwoods in the Empire State. It is much more cottonwood friendly than New England, even though the Connecticut River Valley and tributaries have some impressive ones.

  In terms of the one or two tree theory, I'm inclined to give the tree the benefit of the doubt. As one who regularly observes cottonwoods and how they tend to change shape as they grow larger, it is a tough call, but from your explanation and the images, I vote thumbs up.

Bob
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#10)  Re: Moravia, NY, Cottonwood

Postby edfrank » Sun Mar 04, 2012 12:29 pm

Elijah,

It is always nice to have someone or something in a photograph next to the tree for scale, but it isn't always practical.  I usually carry a tripod and use the self timer if I can.  That doesn't always work out so well either.  I have a photo in my Allegheny River report of a large butternut taken by Dale Luthringer.  In the original photo you can see a bit of Dale's foot as he tumbled head over heels running to get into the photo through the heavy grass.

As for the question of double or single trunk, there will be arguments between experienced measurers about whether a particular tree is a double or a single.  Many old doubles have grown together so that the trunk is regular in form and on the face of everything no longer appear to be doubles.  The opposite situation s where there is a large low protruding branch.  If the tree and branch grow large enough, the low branch appears to look much like a second trunk.  When faced by wind and weather it is possible that these may  split along the attachment line to look as if they are two trunks.  In many cases there is sufficient doubt that the only way to know for sure would be to cut the tree down at ground level and see what the cross section shows.

The posts I am sure were encourage you to think  about the double versus single question while in the field looking at the tree itself.  While there you can walk around it, see it from all angles, and get a better idea of whether is is a double or single than people can tell from the photographs.  If I were to guess based on the photo alone, I would say likely a double, but that does not replace what you saw in the field.  You were there, so it is your call.  

Some people consider it being conservative to consider something a double if they can't tell for sure otherwise.  I think this corrupts the data set more so than an occasional misclassified tree.  You should make your observations in the field, and then go with your best guess as to whether the tree is a single or double, and report that.  Field inspection trumps photos except in the most egregious examples.  This is not to say that someone else who goes out and looks at the tree will reach the same conclusion, but we hope so.  Try to build in your mind characteristics that might distinguish singles from double or multitrunk trees, and apply these mental lists to what you are looking at.  Keep up the good work, and keep reporting.

Ed
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