On Saturday March 4 I took the Long Island Railroad out to its Syosset stop to connect with a character some of you here on the boards will be familiar with- Daniel Karpen, a clog-shod old-growth enthusiast with a lifetime knowledge of the forested lands of Long Island and their superlative trees. Daniel had a short list of sites he wanted to show me in the vicinity, so we hopped into his Dodge Aries (outfitted with headlights that he apparently holds a patent on) and hit the road.
Our first stop was a patch of remnant old-growth forest behind an abandoned house near Cold Springs Harbor, in which one of the eponymous cold springs flows from a hollow in a hillside. As you can see from one of the clusters of pins on the map this spot is specifically named Laurel Hollow, and there was indeed Mountain Laurel growing above the hollow, under a very pleasing canopy that included old specimens of a species relatively uncommon to Long Island- Yellow Birch. Also present were very old black birch, chestnut oak, red oak, white ash, and a nice cluster of Black Tupelo that are at least as old as the trees around them but relative youngsters compared to the specimens we'd visit later. Near them were the fallen remains of an apparently much older black tupelo, which Karpen and Kershner had previously cored and found to be at least a few centuries old. I made quick measurements of a few trees:
Yellow Birch - 83' tall/7.6'cbh
Black Tupelo - 86' tall/5.6'cbh
Black Birch - 95' tall/5.4'cbh
From here we headed north to Lloyd Harbor, where the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception owns a tract of old-growth forest along the south shore of the harbor. It seems the Seminary woods has potentially a lot to explore, but we only had time to examine a small area. A shallow ravine led down to the most impressive growth, in which Karpen knew of some tall tulips. Previous clinometer measurements had put one of them at over 155', so he was interested in seeing what more accurate NTS measurement would yield. I measured the three tallest-seeming tulips at the slope interface that seemed most likely to put up tall trees, as well as some other species in the immediate vicinity. The seminary woods did deliver a solid 150' class tree! It seems that in 2017 I can't take a trip to Long Island without turning up another 150' site (though based on the aerial images, i'm running out of tall canopy areas).
We took a stroll west along the harbor through a forest that was primarily chestnut oak with a dense mountain laurel understory- really beautiful. I pinged a couple more 130' class tulips but it seems likely that the tall trees cluster around the mentioned ravine. Species aside from those measured included white oak, scarlet oak, white ash, shagbark hickory, pignut hickory, black walnut, and red maple.
We traveled to Karpen's home nearby for a lunch break. On the way he pointed out just how abundant naturally occurring black walnut is in the area. He asked me to measure one near his house that is apparently just 35 years old. A nice straight narrow tree,it surprised me at a full 96' tall! He expects it to grow very tall- as to how tall it might get we'll have to disagree, but with its nice rooting situation and competition from its nice vigorous surrounding oak-tulip canopy I could definitely see it hitting 115' or so before it stops rising upwards. This seems to be an excellent area for the species.
From there we headed out to Blydenburgh County Park in nearby Suffolk County where he wanted to show me some exceptionally old Black Tupelo trees in a swamp. We started out as participants in a nice group hike around the lake. At the very beginning of the hike we passed through a white pine plantation. A quick shot suggested pines at least 115' tall and there were some nice early-maturity tulips poking up through that were nice too. Some slightly older tulips I scanned as we looped back down in the same direction near the end of the hike were in the 130s, so I'd like to return for some tall-tree measuring on a different occasion.
Sandy soils with older but less vigorous forests make up a large portion of the park. Scarlet oak makes up a large proportion of the oaks here than any other forest I've been in, along with the rest of the region's usual Quercus cohort, tupelo, red maple, white ash, black birch, beech, pitch pine, and eastern redcedar. Finally we reached the section of low swamp forest Daniel was looking for, and headed into the trees, often hopping between vegetation hummocks. Temperatures were in the teens but skunk cabbage was already out in abundance. Most of the trees in this wet section were black tupelo and red maple. Sure enough, we came to a group of trees that really stood out in their characteristics of antiquity. Karpen had not been to visit these in a few years, and there were some changes; one of the oldest had fallen, and the oldest had lost its top but seems most likely still alive. I believe he and Kershner confirmed ages exceeding 400 years via cores, though I'm fuzzy on the specifics. The oldest is hollow but he believes it may exceed 600 years old. From the bark and form that honestly wouldn't surprise me. We ran into one more that's half-horizontal that he had apparently not noticed before. He seemed less excited by this tree but my own impression is that it may be one of the oldest there.
Completing the loop around the lake, there's a corridor of wetland right alongside the trail in which there are several other tupelos (in better shape, to be honest) that have characteristics suggesting similar antiquity. We didn't spend much time on these. It was time to get out of the cold. The day concluded with the novel experience of cracking dozens of black walnuts with a hammer, which were incorporated into a nice pan of brownies. Quite a day!
(I seem to be having trouble getting all the images attached, working on it)