Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

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Erik Danielsen
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Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sat Jun 14, 2014 4:50 pm

Forest Hill Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Fredonia. It contains an interesting and diverse set of very large trees, many of which are likely older than the village. The plot was purchased to complement the smaller adjacent Pioneer Cemetery in 1854, and was described as "primeval forest." As that was only 50 years or so after the first settlers arrived, one can assume that it was indeed primary forest, with perhaps the largest timber (white pine is absent from the site) and hemlock for the tanneries having been removed in the interim. The purchasers were (to our fortune) clear about their desire to maintain the forest atmosphere. To quote a historian on rootsweb:

"The first secretary of the Cemetery Board, Lucius Hurlbut, a local engineer and surveyor, visited “some of the more modern cemeteries” and mapped out Sections A, B, and C based on what he had learned from his tour. Those sections are north of the office just off Lambert Avenue. Very deliberately, according to the new style, the graves sites and surrounding paths were laid out in a circle and two free-form shapes adapted to the contours of the ground. (fig. 5) Although a few large trees had to be removed to make way for the drives and the walks, most of the “primeval forest” was kept to provide what C.S. Pervical’s dedicatory Ode of 1855 called “the plesant woodland bowers.”

The original nine have grown to forty acres, but the design has remained true to the initial concept: a parklike burial ground with cur ving drives and walks meandering by the overarching trees. But the cemetery is more than just itself. Along with the adjacent cemetery, which represents the earlier tradition, we have two perfect models of the changing concepts about public space here preserved for us in our two central burial grounds, Pioneer and Forest Hill cemeteries."

The original plot has the largest and oldest trees, as one might expect. Part of the old portion is missing old trees but is well-planted with red maple that probably dates back to the original landscaping work, most of it 7-10' cbh. Of course there are plenty of younger trees as well. "Newer" sections of the cemetery include more shrubby magnolias, arborvitae etc. along with younger maple and nonnative conifers, and the newest plot, still largely unused, is home to a section of weeping willow that's relatively overgrown.

Due to the close spacing, quantity and diversity of the trees no one species really dominates or stands out, though the most impressive is, unsurprisingly, the single massive tuliptree. The nearby oaks are next. I am hesitantly calling three of them red oak and one black oak, though some of the traits seem intermediate and there could be some hybridization involved. Acorns might help sort it out. Three massive red maples and one sugar maple with really wild-looking bark adjoin several large hemlocks, all rather thick though not especially tall (one has a broken crown). My favorite tree at the site is the smaller of two very impressive Cucumber Magnolias, and there's one nice shagbark near the oaks. Outside the original plot area large multitrunk silver maple, a nice freeman maple (I think), several tall norway spruce and a nice douglas fir. Many smaller ornamental conifers produce an "understory" structure of sorts and do create a "forest" feel. There's one lonely Larix sp. in with the old trees, not sure if it's native tamarack or a planted species.

I recorded girths for most of the notable specimens, as follows:

Tuliptree 16'2" cbh
Black Oak 14'8" cbh
Red Oak 15' cbh
13'8" cbh
14'6" cbh
Red Maple 12'5" cbh
11'11" cbh
Sugar Maple 11'8" cbh
Hemlock 12'6" cbh
10'8" cbh
Freeman Maple 11'5" cbh
Silver Maple (multistem) 14'4" cbh
Cucumber Magnolia 11'5" cbh
11'1" cbh
Weeping Willow 15'7" cbh
Larix sp. 8'10" cbh
Norway Spruce 11'3" cbh (doublestem)
9'4" cbh
8'5" cbh
Douglas Fir 9'6" cbh
Shagbark Hickory 9'7" cbh

Seems to me that girth indexes might be more useful to compare "open" sites like cemetaries and parks than height indexes, so for this site RGI5- 181.8 RGI10- 160.7. Not too shabby if you ask me. Some pictures next post.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:16 pm

Well, the uploader kept on magically losing the images but here they are at last:
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The 16'2" cbh tuliptree in all its glory, the thickest tree I've personally measured so far.
The 16'2" cbh tuliptree in all its glory, the thickest tree I've personally measured so far.
15' cbh Red Oak in front of the great tuliptree
15' cbh Red Oak in front of the great tuliptree
One of a few really big old red maples at 12'5"
One of a few really big old red maples at 12'5"
This was the only old sugar maple, and its bark is pretty crazy-looking.
This was the only old sugar maple, and its bark is pretty crazy-looking.
12'6" cbh Hemlock, thickest I've measured but not especially tall.
12'6" cbh Hemlock, thickest I've measured but not especially tall.
The smaller Cucumber Magnolia (11'1") is one of the most nicely formed trees I've encountered, I think.
The smaller Cucumber Magnolia (11'1") is one of the most nicely formed trees I've encountered, I think.
The larger cucumber magnolia (11'5") has an interesting bulbous trunk below the crown.
The larger cucumber magnolia (11'5") has an interesting bulbous trunk below the crown.
Black Oak? Oak IDs are not my strong point so far. Beautiful tree either way. Tombstones from the 1850s follow the curve of its root buttress, which must have already been well-formed by then.
Black Oak? Oak IDs are not my strong point so far. Beautiful tree either way. Tombstones from the 1850s follow the curve of its root buttress, which must have already been well-formed by then.
14'4" cbh Silver Maple, with a nicely formed trunk for a multistem.
14'4" cbh Silver Maple, with a nicely formed trunk for a multistem.
The overgrown stand of willow, 15'7" cbh tree at the right.
The overgrown stand of willow, 15'7" cbh tree at the right.

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dbhguru
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by dbhguru » Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:49 pm

Erik,

Gorgeous trees. Love that tulip. As a cemetery property, Forest Hill has one of the best collections of trees I've seen. Thanks for sharing. So many cemetery managers see trees as enemies.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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tomhoward
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by tomhoward » Sun Jun 15, 2014 2:04 pm

Erik,

Forest Hill Cemetery looks like a fabulous place. The pictures are really great. This cemetery looks a lot like Mt. Adnah Cemetery in Fulton with huge open grown trees. The Tuliptree reminds me a lot of the big Tuliptree Elijah Whitcomb and I measured in the old Pioneer Cemetery in Phoenix, NY.

One difference between Mt. Adnah Cemetery and this cemetery in Fredonia is the greater diversity of large trees in the Fredonia site.

I agree that girth indexes should be more useful in open sites like this than height indexes.

The Red Maple is easily the biggest I've ever seen - none that I know of in central NY reach that girth.

The Cucumber Magnolias are incredible, and look really old with their spiral grain. They are magnificent and full of character, with their large leaves. This species is very small and rare here in Onondaga County, with only a few small trees in Beaver Lake Nature Center. Farther west of here, in a ravine in Seneca Falls Cemetery, I remember seeing some large Cucumber Magnolias back in 2003, but not as large as these trees in Fredonia. Leolyn Woods in Lily Dale also has some big trees of this species.

The big oak you think is a Black Oak looks like a Black Oak.

Tom Howard

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Jun 15, 2014 4:22 pm

Now the question is whether the oaks I think are red oak are black oak. I'll have to spend a little more time with them.

I was surprised when the tape read the tulip here as larger than the one you measured there, but I suspect yours is taller from the picture. Close to getting my rangefinder, so we'll know soon enough. Cucumber magnolia isn't uncommon over here, to be honest. There are more nice specimens at Rushing Stream preserve, arkwright falls, and many of the old woodlots in the area. Perhaps they find the Lake Erie microclimate more hospitable than the state's interior. Perhaps that's also related to the sizeable red maple; these are the largest I've measured but there are some other massive trunks here and there as well as impressive heights in zoar.

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Jess Riddle
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by Jess Riddle » Sun Jun 15, 2014 8:59 pm

Erik,

Thanks for posting all of the photos and background information with your measurements. The trees are always the focus, but measurements mean so much more in context.

I think we might be getting a little carried away with that "red" maple though. All the characters point towards sugar to me. The broad furrows in the bark and consistently shallow lobes on the leaves suggest northern red rather than black on the oak.

I think you're right about the lake moderated climate being important for cucumbertree. The only ones I ever saw in central New York were in the Lake Ontario Lake Plain.

Jess

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:45 pm

That certainly could be the case. My confusion then would be as to the one I did ID as sugar maple, which is a similar girth but very different bark, and very nearby. The more "platey" bark on that tree evoked the sugar maples I tapped this spring. I really should check leaves more carefully.

I'll get back to these within the next couple days to clear it up.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:18 pm

A couple updates:

-The "red" maples measured are indeed all sugar maples. There seem to be two distinct bark types spread across a wide range of diameters, so I'm going to investigate this further through leaf comparisons and seed-helicopter comparisons to determine if there may be some involvement by black maple (which I was previously unaware of), whose status as a separate species is debated but intermediate forms do also occur.

-There are nonetheless some good-sized red maples (real ones, I promise). One I thought might hit 9' cbh, turned out to actually be 11'5". Photos forthcoming.

-The oaks are likely all red oak; I was mistakenly paying more attention to leaf shape than depth of sinuses, which is apparently more relevant. Additionally, black oak is not listed as present in this area by most sources.

-I missed a few patches of good trees in my initial sampling. A quick stroll turned up several more 10'+ cbh hemlocks, including a 12'2", as well as a 13'8" (doublestem) black cherry, and a few other cherries I didn't measure. Site RGI will probably go up with a more careful measuring session, which I plan to do once I get my rangefinder. I figure it's a good site to practice height measurement with its relative lack of clutter.

-There's a tree cookie from a large sugar maple that came down last decade stored in SUNY Fredonia's bio department; I got to take a look at it last week and the rings go back to 1806. Pretty good diameter, too.

-I also missed a very nice "cut leaf" European Beech ("asplenifolia") near the cemetary entrance. The trunk splits low but measures 11'9" cbh at its narrowest point between the root buttress and spreading trunks (2 feet up). The trunks are pretty solid themselves and the foliage is beautiful.

And last, regarding cucumber magnolia, I spent a day at the nearby college lodge forest with the bio department on tuesday assisting with the installation of some botanical survey plots, and cucumber magnolia regeneration there is fantastic. From small saplings to 30-foot high and growing, they're almost as numerous as beech saplings usually are. The lodge is a botanical gem overall, with a nice old-growth section and an interesting recent logging-threat-and-community-response story that I'd like to get into in a future post after I do some measuring there. There's a "bio-blitz" occuring in late july to fully evaluate the property's ecological richness and I'm hoping to contribute some dendro data.

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tomhoward
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by tomhoward » Sun Jun 22, 2014 6:52 pm

Erik,

Even with the best photographs (and yours are excellent), I have a hard time identifying trees. It's a lot easier identifying them in person. Red Oak and Black Oak look alike in photographs, and Red Maple and Sugar Maple also look alike in photographs.

The tree you definitely identified as a Red Maple at 11 ft.5 in. cbh is still larger than any Red Maple I've seen here in central NY. I'm looking forward to the photo of that tree.

Tom Howard

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredonia, NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:48 pm

Here's the 11'5" cbh red maple. Just bought a rangefinder, so I'm pretty excited. Just need a clinometer and I'm set.
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IMGP6847.jpg

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