What most impresses you?

General discussions of forests and trees that do not focus on a specific species or specific location.

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John Harvey
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Re: What most impresses you?

Post by John Harvey » Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:21 am

The short answer for me is this...Girth impresses me most and always has, that was until I walked through Founders Grove (Humboldt Redwoods) for the first time. The 300' plus threshold is more impressive than any girth a tree could have. I don't always get that feeling when I'm among 250' trees but 300'-350' tall trees trump everything...in a shorter forest it is still girth for me.
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

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RayA
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Re: What most impresses you?

Post by RayA » Mon Jul 24, 2017 2:17 pm

As always, the answers so far have been varied and interesting.

Don, I'm with you ... walking through a forest, the first thing that will catch my eye up ahead will be a girthy giant. Here in Western Mass, a tree like that just commands attention among the sticks around it. I'm not sure why, but I find a big diameter makes more of an impression on me than most any other feature. Maybe it's because we don't have a lot of that here, relatively speaking. Having seen a lot of bean-poles, it doesn't seem difficult for a tree to attain a fair amount of altitude quickly. But big diameter (in-forest)... that seems to signify a real achievement somehow. Now- combine the two (great height and large girth), and that really speaks to me! Add to that a 30-degree lean off the side of a steep slope, and wow!

Matt, I also agree with you... a really gnarled crown symbolizes persistence and survival of hardship, something to be admired. So far, for me, 500-year-old blackgums take the prize here.
Ancient Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica)
Ancient Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica)

Now, Forester Joe: you're saying what?-- when it comes to a tree... " it's not the size that counts" .... it's how you use it ??
Last edited by RayA on Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joe

Re: What most impresses you?

Post by Joe » Mon Jul 24, 2017 2:57 pm

RayA wrote:
Now, Forester Joe: you're saying what?-- when it comes to a tree... " it's not the size that counts" .... it's how you use it ??
Ray, all humor aside, I like really big trees too. I've been on a number of tours with Bob L. at MTSF and saw trees bigger and nicer than anywhere else in the northeast.

I've also seen the redwoods- where I felt I was in that movie, "Honey, I shrunk the kids".

But, I've seen some rather beautiful trees that were not huge that were memorable. Some are "deformed" with bonzai like qualities. But others were just really pretty with excellent form, from a forester's point of view. I think of a stand of sugar maple in Pittsfield growing on very rich soil. The trees liked that soil so much that they grew so rapidly that they exhibited a very beautiful, amazingly smooth bark pattern and color like I've never seen anywhere else. These trees were also very valuable as most were veneer quality. I had marked the stand for a thinning decades earlier and left the "best". Then when I went back several years ago- I was blown away how nice these trees looked- straight, tall, smooth beautiful bark and with few "defects". I marked quite a few of these and got a fantastic price for the owner. I was sorry to see them cut, but c'est la vie- that's my job. Hopefully the ones I left will look that good in a few more decades. My point here is that excellent silviculture can promote the growth of healthy, beautiful trees. Forestry isn't just about clear-cuts or high grading, though those are the most common forms of phony forestry, IMHO.

So, lots of kinds of beauty in trees, for me: size, shape (good for lumber or not), uniqueness and even how a tree fits in with neighboring trees in some kind of harmony.

By the way, a friend recently gave me a copy of "The Hidden Life of Trees"- a book that has had some discussion in this forum. It's subtitled "What they feel, how they communicate". Wow, this is one hokey book. I'll give the writer a pass for his special sensitivity to trees as I would any artist- but from a reality point of view, which I think I have working in forests for the last 44 years, it's mostly rather silly.

Joe

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RayA
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Re: What most impresses you?

Post by RayA » Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:10 pm

Joe, I read that book too. I had the same reaction. He seemed determined to make trees human. I found some interviews of him on youtube, and other sources, where he explained that he purposely wrote the book that way so less-scientific minds could find it of interest and gain some understanding of how a forest works. I don't think he really sees the forest in those terms. He said he could have taken a more scientific-language approach, but then no one would buy the book (which, now that I think of it, would have saved some trees!).

Joe

Re: What most impresses you?

Post by Joe » Mon Jul 24, 2017 6:42 pm

RayA wrote:I'd like to know what one tree characteristic most impresses or draws the attention of each of you.

Is it tree height, or girth? Or maybe some other characteristic?

I'd guess most people would go with girth, but maybe not.

(I realize of course that NTS folks are usually looking for the tallest trees out there,
but is it height that is most impressive to you, or some other quality?)
Now, too move this discussion to a new level. How about looking for characteristics that make for a fine forest stand, rather than just a specific tree? As a forester, this is what I look for every day. A very fine stand may not have any tree that would excite the NTS folks but overall has nice features. It could be fairly mature but not very old. It has fine, fast growing specimens well suited to the site. Though most of the trees may have good potential for silvicultural management- some do not and they are protected- such as snags, trees with hollows, trees of less common species to maintain for biodiversity, trees not good for harvesting but having some high aesthetic value. The stand may also have other features such as a vernal pool or fronts on a pond or lake or contains a nice stream or ledges. Such nice stands ought to be fully appreciated. As dynamic entities- they could be managed so that over the long term, they will contain exceptional specimens while also serving as a source of wood products. Some system for measuring the attributes of such a stand would be useful and interesting. I suspect Thoreau would have sensed such values.
Joe

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RayA
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Re: What most impresses you?

Post by RayA » Mon Jul 24, 2017 7:58 pm

Joe,

As you said, "A very fine stand may not have any tree that would excite the NTS folks ...".
We agree that we're all wood consumers, but I think NTS people are all about finding the trees that DO excite us. A uniform stand of fine timber trees is what I'd want too if I owned a woodland as an investment. I once owned 92 acres of hilltop forest land in Williamsburg MA. I bought it for the view it had, and the fact that it was forest that I could own. I opted to pay the full taxes on it rather than put it under Chapter 61 because I didn't want to have to manage it. I wanted it to be as natural as possible. It wasn't old growth, and I wouldn't buy it again today. But it was mine, and I sold it to a like-minded couple after 22 years with virtually all the trees intact.

We truly need working woodlands, but they aren't, and never will be, equivalent to unmanaged old growth in my opinion. I don't think we can improve on what nature creates, and it's THAT that NTS celebrates and cherishes (at least I do). I'm sure I'm not saying anything you don't already know. I fully appreciate, and thank you for, your calls for responsible and quality forestry. Lord knows I wish all forestry professionals shared your values.

Sadly though, I just can't get excited about the results of silviculture, same as I can't get excited about a really tasteful housing development. We need 'em, and some people love 'em. I'd much rather see the land not be developed though, same as I'd rather see an old, unmanaged forest, with all its non-uniformity, wildness, and unpredictable surprises. As a woodturner, I love some of the pieces I've made from trees that had come down for whatever reason; I'd much prefer to still have the standing, living tree though.

I've led some tree identification walks for other woodturners, some of whom had no clue what the trees whose wood they were using looked like; the wood was just a commodity. It was really heartening to see how enchanted they became at the sight of our old growth. It completely changed their outlook regarding wood, and they became weekly hiking buddies just to see more old trees. No such reaction in young second growth. The difference was plainly apparent to them. Again, you already know all that. But I feel better having expressed it. See-- it's all about me! :)

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Matt Markworth
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Re: What most impresses you?

Post by Matt Markworth » Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:37 pm

Joe,

I agree with all the characteristics you mentioned and I think it comes down to a sense of whether the overall integrity of the site has remained relatively intact. The ultimate expression of this would be old-growth, but I think it can definitely include relatively mature stands as well.

It's a feeling that the forest isn't being forced into production, but rather that it's developing organically and most, if not all, of the original puzzle pieces are there. The puzzle pieces don't even have to be all that unusual, but if most of them are there then at least I'll be able to witness what the site has to offer and see it's true nature. An example is I was walking down a trail recently that I've walked well over 100 times, and I noticed a few blue ash trees that I've never noticed before. They weren't big, but on that day they were the most memorable trees I saw.

Matt

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dbhguru
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Re: What most impresses you?

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:50 am

Joe, Ray, Matt, et. al.,

I feel fortunate in being able to appreciate a wide range of forest types and development and individual trees representing many growth trajectories. I acknowledge that the ultimate enjoyment for me comes from forest development that has been shaped by centuries of natural events, but I've also seen managed forests that impress me. Some of the regrowth ponderosa pine forests in the San Juan National Forest come to mind. No individual tree stands out, but stand aesthetics has been maintained. I see that less here in the East, but don't want to lose sight of what can be achieved.

As I mentioned previously, semi-bonsai forms are especially appealing to me. Here is a look at a stunted table mountain pine in the Doughton Park area of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The silhouette forms of these trees against a distant background of mountains and sky has a huge appeal for me.
TableMountainPine.jpg
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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dbhguru
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Re: What most impresses you?

Post by dbhguru » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:33 am

Ents,

I keep thinking about this topic that Ray thrust upon us, including the range of responses we've received so far. Images from the past keep popping up in my head. Here's one.
LeeAndPinchot1-a.jpg
This is a photo of Dr. Lee Frelich next to the Gifford Pinchot Sycamore in Simsbury, CT. When one considers what one commonly sees across the Connecticut countryside, among the observant, this has to induce not only a double, but triple take. The image offers a lot to talk about. Gifford Pinchot is the father of the US Forest Service, a past governor of PA, and a forester who valued conservation above all. Dr. Lee Frelich is one of the most highly respected forest ecologists in the entire United States. The Pinchot sycamore is Connecticut's largest tree. Gifford Pinchot was from Simsbury, CT. People of vision thought to give the Pinchot sycamore its own little park next to the Farmington River. Thousands of people drive by the tree on a busy road just above Pinchot without giving it a glance. Were we to poll the citizens of Connecticut, few would have even heard of the tree. A case for Pinchot's importance based on popular appeal could not be made. The tree's significance and protection must depend on the few. BTW, I guess that's also the history of NTS in a nutshell.

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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