The Hunt for Tall White Ashes

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

Post Reply
User avatar
JHarkness
Posts: 249
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 5:44 pm

The Hunt for Tall White Ashes

Post by JHarkness » Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:58 pm

ENTS,

I'm beginning a project to measure, photograph and document all white ashes in the Housatonic River watershed area of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. This includes my property in northeastern Dutchess County, NY. It makes sense that that's where the hunt for the tall trees will start.

I used to be certain that the EAB had wiped out all of our white ashes, save for a few isolated individuals which have so far been missed, but I had no idea of what the species was capable of. In August of 2016 me and a friend of mine decided to go explore my neighbor's property alongside ours, I assumed all of the ashes here were gone, and it seemed so base on the amount of decaying ash trunks on the forest floor, but I noted how much larger the fallen trees were than what I assumed the species was capable of, after "bushwhacking" through a grove of young beeches with very dense foliage, we found ourselves standing at the base of a giant, that giant was the Perry Hill Ash, and it wasn't just a giant, it was a healthy giant, bigger than any white ash I'd ever seen and with the thickest crown of one I'd seen in years. As it turned out, a new survey of the property revealed that the tree is located on my side, which means that I own twice as much of the area I call "Valley of the Giants" than I thought. The tree's shear size along with it's character left an impression on me and started my fascination with tree measuring. Ironically, it wasn't until that winter that it got measured.

I had long believed that my forest was oak-hickory dominated and that the northern red oak was our tallest species, I simply believed no other species could get anywhere near their size, not even the white ash, I quickly measured the two tallest I could find, one was 124' and the other at least 125', but my assumption was very wrong indeed. A few months later I paid a visit to the Perry Hill Ash, and pegged it's height down at 137', I had forgotten how I did the measurement but remembered it recently, I remembered that I hadn't factored in the height from my eye level to the base of the tree, as it turns out, it's 138' from my eye level to the top of the tree (which accounts for new growth), and an extra 10.1' to it's base. There are a number of trees taller than those oaks, I've documented sugar maples and other white ashes into the 130s, and sugar maple, white ash, black birch, and American beech taller than the red oaks, but still under 130'. Red oak now happens to be one of the lower species on the height index for this forest, and not just that, but there are only 120-160 mature red oaks on my property, while there are 190-210 hemlocks, 350-500 white ashes and sugar maples, black birches and american beeches far too numerous to count, I expect well into the thousands for each species.

In truth, this tree really started making me appreciate my forest for what it was, and started my interest in discovering everything I could about it.

As of June 2018, the height of the tree is 148.1' (needs to be confirmed with a laser measurement come fall) and it's girth 9' 5". One of it's "babies" grows around twenty-five feet from it's base, I recently decided to measure it as it's one of the smallest surviving ashes in the stand, well, it's not so small, it's a mere 6' 5" in girth, but a remarkable 135.0' in height. This means that there are likely another dozen white ashes in the stand that exceed 130', and 4-6 are likely to exceed 140', though only half of the 140s are still alive. This is what my project will start with, measuring all the remaining white ashes here, then moving onto nearby sites also within the Housatonic River watershed. I'm confident that there are a number of sites that hold 130s and possibly 140s in the area, but whether or not they've fared as well as my trees is the big question.

I will be using this forum to posts updates on the search for and measurement of these trees. For those trees in Massachusetts and Connecticut, they will be in a separate trip report, but will be mentioned here to be included in the larger search.

I'm also trying to come up with a new name of the Perry Hill Ash, one that conveys the tree's personality and individuality, it's not just one of the many trees on Perry Hill, it's clearly something unique. I picked that name as it's the tallest tree on the geographical formation known as Perry Hill, though as it turns out there is a taller white pine in a protected gorge at the base of the hill. When I've come up with a new name for it, that name will be how I identify it.

Stay tuned for posts of the search,
Joshua
Last edited by JHarkness on Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

User avatar
JHarkness
Posts: 249
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 5:44 pm

Re: The Hunt for Tall White Ashes

Post by JHarkness » Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:21 pm

The Perry Hill Ash and it's "baby".
The Perry Hill Ash and it's "baby".
The Perry Hill Ash is currently the tallest measured white ash in the State of New York, though it's height needs confirmation with laser equipment once the leaves fall, however, I am conifdent that my measurement is within 2-feet of the tree's true height, and it should in fact be accurate to within a foot, but it does need confirmation.

As of June 2018
Height: 148.1'
Girth: 9' 5"
Average Crown Spread: 62.5'

The "baby" of the Perry Hill Ash, I still need a name for this one.
The "baby" of the Perry Hill Ash, I still need a name for this one.
The "baby" of Perry Hill Ash grows alongside it's parent, it has a broken top and would have been arrow straight and significantly taller had it not been for the injury.

As of June 2018
Height: 135.0'
Girth: 6' 5"
The Cohosh Flats Ash
The Cohosh Flats Ash
While not a 130-footer, the Cohosh Flats Ash is remarkable as it's the sole survivor of the initial EAB infestations in it's grove, it's a very young tree, likely just a little over 100 years old, it could still be putting on close to a foot of height per year, it will make 130' within four years assuming that no winter storms or the EAB decide to have a say in the matter.

As of June 2018
Height: 127.0'
Circumference: 5' 0"
Blue Cohosh at Cohosh Flats.  Cohosh Flats Ash in the background-center, an unhealthy larger and taller ash is on the far right of the photo, it's likely a 130-footer.
Blue Cohosh at Cohosh Flats. Cohosh Flats Ash in the background-center, an unhealthy larger and taller ash is on the far right of the photo, it's likely a 130-footer.
The namesake of the site is the abundance of blue cohosh here, the site is alongside an old farm field so it is full of invasive plants and the earthworm load is heavy here, but these plants are still thriving, and are amazingly gaining ground on the nearby patches of japanese barberry. This is a very rich site with a lot of moisture, it's positioned directly below a cliff face that contains several springs the feed a nearby brook. Forest floor plants found here include blue cohosh, white snakeroot, wood nettle, white baneberry, red trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, canada mayflower, false soloman's seal and I'm sure many others that I can't think of at the moment. Just a few years ago, hardly any of these plants were here due to excessive deer browsing, the installation of a 4-foot metal wire fence has created a 'pressure point' for large herds of deer and they no longer come to this site, small herds and individuals do, they eat the cohosh but don't cause any excessive damage, they're actually beneficial here, without them the cohosh would dominate and hardly anything else would grow here. By the end of this year, the invasive plants here will be removed allow more of the native plants to spread.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

User avatar
Larry Tucei
Posts: 2017
Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:44 am

Re: The Hunt for Tall White Ashes

Post by Larry Tucei » Mon Jun 25, 2018 8:32 am

Congratulations on your Ash. I have measured Green Ash in the 120's but that is about as tall as any I've seen. Larry

User avatar
JHarkness
Posts: 249
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 5:44 pm

Re: The Hunt for Tall White Ashes

Post by JHarkness » Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:56 am

Thanks Larry. A green ash in the 120s is still pretty impressive, as far as I know, the species isn't able to do that here, the tallest I've seen are around 90-100' in height, mostly along wetlands where there's slightly less light competition allowing them to grow wider crowns and stay relatively short.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

Post Reply

Return to “New York”