Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

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pdbrandt
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Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by pdbrandt » Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:28 pm

About a week ago I was at the doctor’s office for a follow up appointment to check on a nasty allergic reaction I had had to English Ivy (Hedera helix). Four weeks ago I was trying to free a beautiful Sycamore tree of ivy vines that were clinging to it’s trunk, but in so doing I unknowingly showered myself with bits of allergenic bark and root hairs that caused my eyes to swell and my arms, neck, and face to break out in itchy blisters that tormented me for 4 weeks. Apparently I am one of the few unlucky soles who is highly allergic to English ivy.

Anyway - as I was leaving the doctor’s office I looked up and beheld a beautiful tree I had never noticed before on the side of a steep hill near the Eno River in Hillsborough, NC. I unconsciously found myself walking toward the tree to get a closer look only to find that it was on the other side of the Eno from where I was. Before I knew it, I was crossing the river on an exposed water main in my business clothes and heading up the hill to the tree. Below is a picture of my first view of the full tree, which, not surprisingly, turned out to be a tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). I was a little dismayed by all the English Ivy in the area…


Click on image to see its original size

I took a few more pictures of the area and came back another morning on my way to work with my tape measure to determine the big tulip’s CBH and crown spread as well as the CBH of some other prominent oaks and tulips in the area. The big tulip is half way up a 60 foot hillside that borders the Eno River. The area contains large rock outcroppings, lots of beech trees, and plenty of signs of wildlife, too. There is an old stone fence at the top of the hill, and on the other side of the fence is an old, unused farmer’s field that is ceding to the gradual creep of the forest.


Click on image to see its original size


Click on image to see its original size


Click on image to see its original size


Click on image to see its original size
The big tulip trunk is in the middle of the picture just to the right of an ivy-laden trunk


Click on image to see its original size
view of the big tulip (directly in the center of the pic) from the field at the top of the hillside

The CBH of the big tulip is 13 feet even and the average crown spread (corrected for the steep angle of the hillside) is 71.5 feet. Other notable trees within a stone’s throw include twin tulip trees at the crest of the hill (measuring 11’, 2” and 11’, 3” CBH), and a couple of nearby oaks measuring 11’, 7” and 10’, 6”. The twin tulips are on par height-wise with the big tulip, but they are growing at the top of the hillside a good 20 feet above the base of the big tulip.


Click on image to see its original size


Click on image to see its original size
zooming in on the crown


Click on image to see its original size
the twin tulips at the top of the hill


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crowns of the twin tulips

Last Monday, President’s day, I returned on a rare (for NC) snowy day to climb the big tulip to measure its height and total volume. There is some ivy growing on one side of the tree that I (carefully) clipped on an earlier visit to the area, but even without nutrients from the roots, the ivy still looked perfectly healthy (and allergenic) on the day of the climb. I decided to set my climbing line on the second-lowest branch of the tree so that I could climb on the side without the ivy. Unfortunately, that limb is 84 feet off the ground and I only have a 150 foot climbing line. Since I don’t (yet) have gear for single rope technique (SRT) ascension, I am limited to doubled rope technique (DRT). That means that the rope, when doubled over the limb, was still about 6 feet off the ground on the uphill side.


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great day for a climb!

Not to be deterred from measuring the tallest tree I have ever encountered, I created a foot strap I could stand in using some webbing and an accessory cord that I tied around the base of the tree. That allowed me to reach the ends of the rope and clip into my harness. I took trunk circumference measurements as I went up and was surprised to see that unlike other tulips I have seen in NC, there are very few moss and lichens growing on the big tulip’s trunk. I did see what I’m assuming is woodpecker evidence, though. At 90 feet up, the circumference of the tree is still 9’, 7”.


Click on image to see its original size
notice the orange climbing line in the upper third of the picture


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woodpeckers?

Once in the canopy, I took some time to catch my breath, take some pictures, and enjoy the view. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to remain in the tree, so I took some limb measurements and made educated guesses on the stats of the limbs I didn’t have time to visit. I advanced my tie in point a few times to where I could get an accurate pole reading to determine the height of the tallest branch. Adding a few measurements together (I only carry a 100 foot tape measure) I determined the height of the tulip to be 132’, 2”. That gives a big tree point value of 306.


Click on image to see its original size
my doctor’s office is right in the middle of the picture


Click on image to see its original size
looking toward the north at downtown Hillsborough


Click on image to see its original size
looking toward the northeast

I crunched the volume calculations in Excel using the spreadsheet linked here: The volume of the trunk from ground level to 91.5’ where it splits into twin leaders is a respectable 906 cubic feet. As mentioned above, I relied on a fair number of assumptions to calculate the canopy limb volume, but I tried to err on the side of under-representation rather than exaggeration. There are 21 primary limbs with an combined estimated volume of 104 cubes. The secondary branches (those less than 2” in diameter) only add about 8.5 cubes. I think it is very safe to say that the volume of this tree exceeds 1000 cubes but not by too much.

I don’t know if other climbers experience what I call “land legs” when they get back on terra firme, but when reaching the ground after a few hours in a tree I always stumble around and trip over myself until my legs get used to being under me again. For this reason, I was not really looking forward to unclipping from my rope while balancing on the foot strap I had tied around the lower section of the trunk. I decided instead to lower my initial tie in point to a slightly lower limb that would allow me to descend all the way to the ground on rope. The only problem was that that side of the big tulip is covered with English ivy. I did my best to avoid touching the ivy on my way down, but the only way to do that was to “walk” down the trunk with my feet kicking the ivy out of the way.


Click on image to see its original size

Once on the ground, in my haste to remove my cambium saver and climbing line from my 75-foot tie in point, I decided not to lower the rope to the ground with a 2mm-diameter throw line as I should have (hind sight is 20-20). Instead, I just tied a stopper knot in one end of the climbing line and pulled on the other end until the knot dislodged the cambium saver and both came careering wildly toward the ground from 75 feet up. As luck would have it the end of the rope and the cambium saver became hopelessly lodged in a nearby beech tree, and… you guessed it… the trunk of the beech tree was absolutely covered with English ivy.


Click on image to see its original size
the cambium saver and rope were stuck in the ivy-infested beech on the right

The rope would not budge and my only option was to climb the stuck rope and attach a mini grapnel hook onto the cambium saver. When back on the ground I could pull down on the hook with a throw line attached to the grapnel and dislodge the cambium saver. I climbed SRT-style about 30 feet up the rope using two prusik cords trying my best to avoid the ivy. The rescue was successful and in short order I was packing up my ropes and gear. When I got back to the car I gave my exposed skin a thorough washing with powder-scented baby wipes I had in the car and hoped for the best.

That was 3 days ago and I’m happy to say that my English ivy exposure seems to be minimal and well-worth the experience of climbing my first 1000+ cuber and first 300+ point tulip with an unbeatable view of my doctor’s office.
Patrick

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edfrank
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by edfrank » Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:49 pm

Patrick,

Not woodpeckers, but sapsuckers.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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dbhguru
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by dbhguru » Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:55 pm

Patrick,

Outstanding report. It is an impressive tree and yet another example of the dominance of Liriodendron as an eastern species.

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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Larry Tucei
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:10 pm

Patrick, Nice Tulip! I really enjoyed the photos my favorite is the view from the top. Larry

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pdbrandt
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by pdbrandt » Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:52 pm

edfrank wrote:Patrick,

Not woodpeckers, but sapsuckers.

Ed
Thanks for the clarification, Ed. Do tulip trees have extra sweet sap or if I looked closely would I see sapsucker holes on most types of trees?

Patrick
Patrick

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edfrank
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by edfrank » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:10 pm

Patrick,

They feed on different types of trees. I know of them on birch an sugar maple also. I don't really know the answer about whether they have preferences or if tuliptree tree sap is especially sweet.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:28 pm

Does English ivy irritate the skin, too? I've never been exposed to it. I see it a lot, but I've never had my skin come in contact with it.

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pdbrandt
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by pdbrandt » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:00 pm

jamesrobertsmith wrote:Does English ivy irritate the skin, too? I've never been exposed to it. I see it a lot, but I've never had my skin come in contact with it.
Skin contact does lead to an itchy rash in a small percentage of the population. Here are two links that I found helpful:
http://www.walterreeves.com/landscaping ... 10&id=1032
http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/hehe1.htm

The first link implies that contact with the leaves alone should not cause an allergic reaction, but in my case brushing up against English Ivy definitely leads to a rash. I am hypersensitive to poison ivy, too, and even though the active ingredient is different in the two ivys (actually they are not even in the same genus) I guess there must be enough of a similarity that they affect me the same way.
Patrick

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AndrewJoslin
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by AndrewJoslin » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:05 am

Patrick, excellent report on a superfine tree. Believe me I've learned my lessons about the the potential problems resulting from dropping a a rope out of a tree with a rope sleeve or knot on the end. Even a free rope with nothing on the end can wrap a limb and hang up on the way down, less probable but it happens. For woods situations I either tie the rope in a continuous loop, send the knot up and drop the sleeve, then take the knot out and drop the clean rope, or even better, lower the rope and sleeve with a throwline.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker in the east drills in a variety of tree species, including conifers and broadleafs. They have favorite species, for example in the Boston area they reliably drill on mature Nikko firs (non-native) in the Arnold Arboretum and Mt. Auburn Cemetery. It is suspected that some trees that are stressed give off chemical signals that attract sapsuckers to drill. For example you might see one tree in a same species stand that is drilled year in and year out, the rest are untouched.

Sapsucker drillings on pitch pine, this kind of extensive damage indicates the tree is being visited by sapsuckers year in and year out. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers do not nest in the woods where this pitch pine grows so they are only utilizing it when they pass though during spring and fall migration, most likely drilling in the spring when the sap flow is stronger.

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Minimal sapsucker damage near the top of a white ash

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-AJ

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pdbrandt
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Re: Eno River Tulip Tree - Hillsborough, NC

Post by pdbrandt » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:35 pm

Andrew and Ed,

Thanks for the info about sapsuckers. I'll keep my eye out for more evidence of their activity. I'm always excited to learn something new.
Patrick

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