Average distance between trees

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#1)  Average distance between trees

Postby DougBidlack » Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:18 am

NTS,

I'm going to start planting a small forest this year in southeastern Michigan and I was wondering about spacing between trees.  I was thinking of an average spacing of about 25' for the flowering trees and 20' for the conifers.  Does this seem reasonable if I want to end up with a fairly open forest?  I chose this spacing based on forests that I thought were aesthetically pleasing to me but if anyone out there thinks this spacing is not a good idea I'd like to know about it...and I'd like to know why.

Thanks,

Doug

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#2)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby PAwildernessadvocate » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:36 am

Whereabouts in SE Michigan? Just wondering.

If it was me -- and this is just my personal opinion -- I would plant them on a somewhat tighter spacing in order to give them more of an upright, 'forest-grown' appearance with fewer lower limbs over time. As opposed to a more spreading open-grown or 'field-grown' appearance. Then, as time goes on you could always thin out a few here and there to open things up a bit in the stand if you wanted to.

Again, that is just what personally appeals to me more aesthetically. The tall straight trees, ideally with a single leader, over the bushy trees possibly with multiple leaders. (As long as they are able to be reached with a pole pruner, personally I would also clip out multiple leaders in the same year that they may develop in order to keep a single leader on each tree as high as possible.)

Plus, if you or anyone else ever wanted to cut some of the trees down in the future to sell them, the straighter trees with fewer lower limbs/knots will make probably more valuable logs.
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#3)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby mdvaden » Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:44 am

DougBidlack wrote:NTS,

I'm going to start planting a small forest this year in southeastern Michigan and I was wondering about spacing between trees.  I was thinking of an average spacing of about 25' for the flowering trees and 20' for the conifers.  Does this seem reasonable if I want to end up with a fairly open forest?  I chose this spacing based on forests that I thought were aesthetically pleasing to me but if anyone out there thinks this spacing is not a good idea I'd like to know about it...and I'd like to know why.

Thanks,

Doug



Do you want them to be a permanent forest or harvested someday?

In small groups, I stagger the adjacent row. Given any  thought to staggered rows, or all on the same axis?
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#4)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby DougBidlack » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:22 pm

Kirk,

the site is in Milford in my parents' backyard.  I've thought about closer spacing and then thinning over time but I think this would cost me far more time and money as I am trying to grow most of them from seed that I collect which is extremely time consuming especially since I live nearly 800 miles away.  So far, with trees that I've already planted, I've not had much of a problem keeping up with the pruning required to keep a single leader and good branching, especially with ones that are 25' or so apart.

What do you think of an ultimate spacing of 25' for flowering trees and 20' for conifers?  Do you think that spacing is still too great for trees that are 100' tall or so?


Mario,

I don't plan to harvest the trees in the future.  I hope to walk through this forest when I'm an old man and smile.  

I don't want the trees in rows and I'm trying hard to keep the forest from looking like a plantation.

Doug
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#5)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby Joe » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:35 pm

Doug as to your question, "Do you think that spacing is still too great for trees that are 100' tall or so?"-- when they're 100' tall, that spacing is probably pretty good- but while they're smaller, you're going to get a lot of "natural regeneration" and you'll be beating it back for decades- so one big advantage to closer planting is to minimize that problem.

You're likely to lose many from storms and browsing animals unless you can fence the area. Depending on the site, it's possible that no specimens of some species will survive at all- unless you're there often enough to care for them. I suggest planting as thick as you can afford to.

Regarding the aesthetics of a planted forest- I should think it's not even important to try to get them to grow straight with a single leader- well, that's a good goal for conifers, but with hardwoods, it all depends on what you like. To me, odd shaped hardwoods are more interesting than straight trees, unless it's a forest under mgt. for timber.

If it was me, I'd get seeds of as many species as possible and spread them out very densely, then as the years go by, this would give you more opportunity to express your aesthetic interest with the way you allow it to develop- so as to not look like a regimented planted forest.
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#6)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby Don » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:41 pm

Doug-
You're getting a lot of good advice, and as a few have pointed out, what matters most is what you want out of it.  I don't know if Gaines is still monitoring this BBS, but he would be a good source for advice regarding 'woodlot aesthetics' as he has decades of experience managing his, with an eye towards aesthetics.
My own input is probably a little off target for you, is to consider diversity of species, and to consider those species/seed zones that might be a good match to what the climate is predicted to be, out 50-100 years. This latter is highly speculative I know, but wouldn't some of those choices turning out right "put a bigger smile on your face", as the old man?
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#7)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby DougBidlack » Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:18 am

Joe and Don,

thank you both for your advice.  I'm hoping that tree tubes and fencing will help to greatly minimize tree mortality so we'll see how that works out.  I think the site is plenty small enough to keep out unwanted seedlings.  My mom has been destroying all invading autumn olives on her own to this point.  I think at some point I will probably actually want to let reseeding take place...just not sure how far down the line.  I'm most worried about garlic mustard.  Once the trees get big enough the grasses and other plants will start to die back but that's when I expect garlic mustard to move in and I'll need a plan for this.  I'd eventually like to plant native woodland species under the trees but I think I'll need some way to deal with the deer first.  I'd thought about planting material mainly from southern Illinois and thereabouts to deal with increasing temperature but I ended up sticking with mostly southern Michigan material because it is just much easier for me to collect and I know the trees and forests of southeastern Michigan so much better.  Hopefully they'll be able to cope with the changing climate for at least my lifetime.

Here are a couple screen shots that will give you a better idea of what I'm up to.  The first is the western portion and the second is the eastern portion.

               
                       
Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 10.20.08 PM.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 10.21.05 PM.jpg
                                       
               


The circles for most of the trees are 25’ in diameter.  The conifers in the northeastern corner of the field are represented by 20’ diameter circles.  The circles in light green are trees that are already present.  Each of the other colors represents some kind of community type/planting and is described below.  Each community type is followed by a list of species that fit nicely within that type followed by a space and some trees that are already present on site, I don't wish to remove, and don't fit as well in the listed community type.

Here are the trees that will be present in the 8 Forest Communities:

DRY COMMUNITIES

Quaking Aspen - Red Pine Community (white)
10        Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
3        Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)
3        Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) ‘Shenandoah’, ‘Susquehanna’, ‘Wabash’
1        Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
1        American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
1        Dwarf Chinkapin Oak (Quercus prinoides)
1        Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
1        Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) ‘April Wine’
1        Apple Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora) ‘Autumn Brilliance’
1        Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum)
1        Common Pear (Pyrus communis)
1        Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

This is not a real community but just a hodgepodge of trees at the northwestern portion of the planting that is closest to the house.

Oak - Savanna Community (red)
5        Hill’s Oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis)
4        Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)
3        Black Oak (Quercus velutina)

1        Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)

In this part of Michigan black oak would have been the dominant species of most oak savannas.  White oak and Hill’s oak would probably be next and bur oak probably last.  Scarlet oak is possibly much less common in Michigan than previously believed and since it is nearly identical to Hill’s oak all scarlet oak acorns were collected from Massachusetts.  I opted to showcase the red oaks here because it is such a small area and there are plenty of white oaks in other areas.  This area is especially well drained and hotter and drier than the other sites.  Redcedar and butterfly weed were starting to take root in this area.  I had already planted chestnut oak here and it fits in reasonably well with the other species even though it may not actually be native to Michigan.

Oak - Hickory Community (yellow)
11        White Oak (Quercus alba)
6        Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
3        Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
3        Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
7        Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra)
5        Red Hickory (Carya ovalis)
7        Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
3        Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

1        Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
1        Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica)
1        Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa)

This is the dominant community of this region of Michigan.  Chinkapin oak and red hickory are not nearly as common as might be indicated by this planting and white oak is not quite so dominant but otherwise not too bad.

Pine Community (dark green)
20        White Pine (Pinus strobus)
12        Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)

6        Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)
3        White Spruce (Picea glauca)
1        White Fir (Abies concolor)

The dominant community type in much of the northern lower peninsula and the reason Michigan’s state tree is the white pine.


MOIST COMMUNITIES

Beech - Maple Community (orange)
11        American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
10        Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
9        Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
6        Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
4        Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis)
4        Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
4        Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)
3        Basswood (Tilia americana)

1        Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
1        Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
1        Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)
1        Georgia Oak (Quercus georgiana)
1        Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra)
1        Common Apple (Malus pumila)

The second most important community type in this part of Michigan.  Tuliptree and black tupelo are not as important as this planting might indicate but I like them.

River Floodplain Community A (light blue)
5        Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
5        Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
5        Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
3        Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria)
3        Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa)
3        Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
2        Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
1        American Elm (Ulmus americana) ‘Princeton’

1        Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)

Such a diverse community that it was tough to narrow it down to so few species.  Dutch Elm Disease and Emerald Ash Borer made things easier but I love American elm and it is and was such an incredibly important part of this region that I couldn’t leave it out.  Probably a mistake and I’ll have to replace it in the future…oh well.

River Floodplain Community B (dark blue)
10        Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
9        Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)
7        Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

1        White Ash (Fraxinus americana) ‘Autumn Purple’

These are just three floodplain species that I have always dreamed of planting together and now I get the chance!

Deciduous Swamp Community (black)
7        Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
5        Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
5        Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
5        Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)
4        American Elm (Ulmus americana) ‘Princeton’
3        Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

1        Hill’s Oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis)
1        Post Oak (Quercus stellata)
1        Buckeye (Aesculus x arnoldiana) ‘Autumn Splendor’

I’m a bit worried about how the yellow birch will fare in this site as it is possibly too dry for it…still too far from the marsh.  More American elm that may need to be replaced in the future but I hope not.

Doug

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#8)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby PAwildernessadvocate » Mon Mar 16, 2015 1:02 pm

This Tree Owner's Manual showed up on the U.S. Forest Service's Facebook page today. Don't know if there will be any info in there that is relevant/useful for your project, but maybe there is. It might be all stuff you already know. I haven't read it closely, just skimmed through. The document is from 2008.

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOC ... 368392.pdf

               
                       
TreeOwnersManual.pdf
                                               
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#9)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby gnmcmartin » Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:43 pm

Doug:

  Yes, Don, I am always here.  And, with your encouragement, I will put in my two cents worth.  In addition to planting conifers for future forest stands, I am doing a lot of planting on our residential property north of Winchester, VA. for aesthetic effects. I have something like 130 varieties on 14 acres, including both individual specimen trees, groupings of individual species, groups of "compatible" trees, and pine and spruce groves. And lots of special "cultivars" of various species.

  If your goal is to have as many species as possible on the site, then I think your plan is a reasonable one.  But, without careful site evaluation, and study of the species you have in mind, I can't give much very specific advice.

  But, if aesthetics is a primary concern, I have a strong suggestion for modifying your plan.  I have seen lots of "plots" with trees planted with more or less even spacing, covering all the ground.  When the trees are young, spacing about 20 feet apart is fine. Of course, different species would have different optimum spacing to accommodate their eventual growth.  But, as the trees grow up, aesthetic values are lost.  You will have trees--the full sized ones anyway--with their crowns touching, or almost touching, and the arboretum will have no "shape."  There will be no open space that would give good views of individual trees growing in the open--no "alleys," no "groupings," etc., just a formless collection.

  One suggestion would be to have some "groves" or groups of similar kinds of trees.  Perhaps in one corner you could have a group of white pines, originally spaced relatively close, say a maximum of 12 feet, to be thinned later to remove the more poorly shaped, or less vigorous trees.  Ditto with Norway spruces, etc.

  You could have a little grove of mixed white pine and Norway spruce, with a larch or two mixed in.  Maybe a sugar maple in the understory, etc.

  Some other trees are wonderful as individual specimens when given a lot of room.  One of my special favorites, eastern white oak, can be especially beautiful growing as an open grown tree, isolated 40 feet from any other tree. Cedar trees--Cedrus--are best growing in the open with plenty of space.

  Of course, eastern white oak trees when grown in groves, are the ultimate "cathedral" tree with their regular form and arching branches.

  For groups of three to five, I find baldcypress compellingly beautiful, spaced anywhere from 18 to 25 feet or so. Larches can work similarly.

  Fall colors?  Best seen on trees--maples, sweetgum, blackgum, etc.--growing in the open, or at least with an opening to one side. Yes, these can grow very nicely spaced 20 feet or so, but I think their colors are best when there is an opening for viewing, and when they have room to retain some lower limbs.

  Well, I could go on and on, but you get my idea.  Of course, if your property is small and you want the maximum number of trees, your options are limited for the kind of thing I am recommending here, and you may want to go with the more or less regular spacing you are planning, maybe best with some consideration of the growth forms of the trees.  Some trees naturally grow broader, some are more columnar or pyramidal. The trees' tolerance for shade can be a factor to consider if there will eventually be any crowding.  Not to get too technical, but some trees are more "geotropic," such as spruces, others more phototropic, such as white oaks, etc. Sometimes it may be best to mix these kinds a bit, and at other times, to group like with like. Actually this can get a bit complicated, and there are unlimited possibilities. Every tree has its own characteristics, and nice effects can be created in different ways.

  Well, you see I do get involved.  Maybe my first idea was best--just to read and observe, and not try to offer advice!

  --Gaines
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#10)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby gnmcmartin » Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:18 pm

Doug:

  I read over this topic again this morning, and my response.  I think I should try to explain a bit more.  Obviously, what I am recommending is not a "forest" as such, and is more of an arboretum, or collection of specimen trees/groups to create a beautiful "artificial" area of trees.

  What you say you want is to create a "natural forest," much like some of the more "open" forests you see in your part of Michigan. By the way, I studied forestry at Michigan State University, many, many, many years ago, and spent a lot of time in woodlands there both as a part of my studies and for pleasure.

  Establishing  "forest" from "scratch" with planted trees is very difficult and time consuming.  It is easiest with pines or other conifers, and if there is to be a variety of species, they must grow well together at similar rates.  Initial spacings vary from 6 to as much as 12 feet or more, depending on the species.  With Norway spruce, initial spacings of 6 feet will lead to the best final results, because with many seed sources, there is great variability, and the more opportunities there are to thin for the best trees, the more very fine individuals will be in the final stand.  with red pine, there is not the same advantage with close spacing. With white pines, the advantages of closer spacing are between the two.

  But, the bottom line is, even with conifers, to create a beautiful forest relatively quickly, one must put in a great amount of work, both thinning and pruning.  An un-pruned and un-thinned stand of white pine, for example, after thirty years can be a very, very unattractive thing in the eyes of most people. If the trees are planted 20 feet apart to reduce the need for thinning, they will be limby,  and may not grow straight and tall.  If they are pruned regularly, and the leaders are tended to as others have suggested, the result can be OK, but you won't get  so much the "cathedral" effect that is so wonderful with white pines.

  With a stand of mixed hardwoods, the problems are exponentially more difficult. Without using very careful methods, including planting much closer together with an eye to later thinning, as Joe, and PA Wilderness, etc. have suggested, ending up with a forest anything like what you envision will be almost impossible.  If it were possible, it would be so only with very regular and careful pruning, and "leader tending"--a huge, huge amount of work.

  I mentioned in my original response that the compatibility of the trees growing together is a difficult issue.  One must be very careful not to plant a slower growing tree next to a substantially faster growing tree, or it will be overtopped, suppressed, and lost. And which trees are compatible varies by site--some trees grow much faster on wet sites than dry ones, and soil types also matter. And growth forms matter.  Some hardwoods that eventually grow broad crowns start with a more narrow conical crown.  Trees that grow this way can be planted near each other.  Other trees when young will spread more, with branches arching outward. Maybe these should not be planted next to those starting out more narrowly.  Trees with very good shade tolerance, such as sugar maples are more resistant to "competition" from nearby trees, and can grow nicely between taller trees.  Other trees, unless they have a 90% or more angle to the open sky, will have their growth retarded.

  So, what I am trying to explain here, is that deciding which trees to plant near other trees can be a very complicated job, especially if you are including a large number of different species. Working all this out could be a fun pastime, but unless you are expert in such matters, it is easy to make mistakes.

  So, with all that I have tried to explain here, I would encourage you to go with an "arboretum-like" plan, something like what I have suggested in my original post.  AND, there is the issue of TIME.  Even if you could establish artificially the kind of forest you envision, it won't look like much in less than 40 years, and to be like the forests you see in Michigan, will take at least 70 years or more.

  So, in all good conscience, I must recommend the "arboretum" kind of plan I suggested. On another discussion forum elsewhere, a number of years ago, I tried to advise someone, at great, great length, on how to artificially create a mixed forest of hardwoods and conifers.  I spent a lot of time trying to describe how this "could" be done. I repeatedly said that I thought it extremely difficult, but the individual was completely determined to try.  I now think I did a disservice by going along and giving all the advice I did. Efforts continued for a few years, and then they were given up, time, and efforts wasted, and hopes dashed.

  I would hate to have you put in a lot of effort and have it come to little or nothing of special value in the end.

  I will close with a comment about spacing in a mature natural hardwood forest.  25 feet for hardwoods may be too close, depending somewhat on species and site quality.  A fine stand of white oak on a very good growing site will have trees at an average spacing of 30 feet or more. I have a nice young (48 year-old, 95 feet tall) stand of white pines on my timberland, and their spacing is already fairly tight at about 20 to 25 feet. Of course there are lots of variables.

  --Gaines
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