Frozen Head State Park, TN

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#1)  Frozen Head State Park, TN

Postby Jess Riddle » Fri Nov 27, 2015 8:16 pm


From a distance, Frozen Head State Park and the surrounding Cumberland Mountains in northeastern Tennessee look like they could be part of the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Catskills.  They have the same crumbled appearance and densely-forested, steep slopes.  However, winter reveals one stark difference: Frozen Head is deciduous.  Deciduous trees are at home in other eastern mountain ranges, but conifers maintain enclaves on high peaks or dry rocky ridges.  Around Frozen Head, entire mountain slopes go bare as the days shorten.  Oaks cover the ridges while tuliptree, basswood, buckeye, black cherry and other moist site hardwoods fill the coves.  Scattered ferns and moss, isolated patches of mountain laurel, and hemlocks along the streams at the foot of the mountains are the only winter green. Crinkled, papery leaves clinging to the widespread understory sugar maples are the only leaves that remain aloft.

Oak forest on ridge with New York fern

Flame azalea

Soils are often rocky, but seem rich over much of the park.  Nutrient demanding species like yellowwood and shagbark hickory are common in the mature, second-growth forests.  However, tree height drops off rather abruptly going up the slopes.  We encountered few trees of notable height above 2500’ elevation, and the tallest trees for most species were around 2000’ or lower.  Contrastingly, the Smokies, not much farther south, maintain excellent growing conditions for many hardwoods up to around 3600’.

FrozenHeadMeasurements1.JPG (62.04 KiB) Viewed 410 times

FrozenHeadMeasurements2.JPG (66.5 KiB) Viewed 410 times

Rucker 10 height index
FrozenHeadRuckerIndex.JPG (30.34 KiB) Viewed 410 times

6’8” cbh x 113.1’ black gum

I think the shagbark hickory is the most significant tree since it’s within only a few feet of the all-time record for the species.  Ironically, it was the first tree I measured in the area, and I didn’t think it was going to be significantly tall at the time.  I’d like to remeasure that tree and search the surrounding area more carefully.  The white pine was one of the few scattered amongst the hemlocks at the base of the mountains.  The other species generally fall short of the Smokies and Savage Gulf, though the chestnut oak isn’t far off of a height record and the black cherries are consistently tall.  Combined though, the Rucker Index of over 140’ is impressive.


Yellow birch

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#2)  Re: Frozen Head State Park, TN

Postby bbeduhn » Sun Sep 17, 2017 3:49 pm

What trails did you take? I didn't go there to measure trees but observed primarily old growth forest with a likely TN record red hickory. I didn't see many huge trees but large trees are common. Big sugars and buckeyes inhabit steep slopes at the east end of the natural area. I'll try to get there this winter to measure.
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