Robert Ridgway article from 1882

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Re: Robert Ridgway article from 1882

Post by Lucas » Tue May 12, 2015 3:28 pm


65. (218.) QUERCUS DIGITATA (Ma rsh all) 8ud worth. Spanish Oak.
A specimen of this oak measured bj' Dr. Schneck was 97 feet high
and 6 feet in circumference.
In the White Eiver bottoms there occurs a very strongly marked
variety of this species or possibly a tree that is specifically distinct, distinguished
from the true (J. digitata, which is especially a tree of thinsoiled
uplands, by its much larger and taller growth and distinctly
light-colored bark. In fact, although it has the bristle-pointed, acutelobed
leaves of the black-oak group, and moreover has the lobes shaped
as in Q. digitata and the under surface of the leaves densely tomentose
as in that species, the bark of the trunk is so light-colored as to cause
the tree to be easily mistaken for one of the white oaks, as, for exami^le,
Q. alba or Q. MuMenbergU, which it further resembles in habit. So very
different is it, in these particulars, from Q. digitata that I feel quite
certain it will prove, on investigation, to be at least subspecifically
The first specimen met with by me was growing in the White Eiver
bottoms, about five miles above the mouth of that stream, on the southern
side. It measured 14 feet in circumference, with the trunk free of
branches for at least 70 feet, but rather crooked. Other trees quite
identical in characters were afterward examined by Dr. Schneck and
myself near White Eiver Pond, several miles southwest of the tree
above mentioned, but neither of us have seen it elsewhere than in the
bottom-lands lying between the extreme lower portions of White and
Patoka rivers, where the typical black-barked Q. digitata seems not to
occur at all, being, as previously stated, apparently confined to thinsoiled
or clayey uplands

Notes on the Native Trees of the Lower Wabash and White River Valleys, in Illinois and Indiana,

65. (218.) Quercus falcafa. Spanish Oak.
Common, along with Q. nigra and Q. im1)ri<;aria, in poor soils. Very
rare in rich grounds, only one tree being seen in the bottoms; this a very
large one near White River, in Gibson County. It measured 14 feet in
circumference, and was estimated to be 130 feet high, with a crooked
trunk of 60 to 70 feet clear. The bark was remarkably light colored,
appearing almost as pale as some of the white oak section, but the
leaves, a number of which were obtained (the date being November 2,
and the ground beneath the tree covered with them, while many, still
adhering to the branches, aftbrded proof that those on the ground were
from the same tree), were unquestionably those of Q.falcata. A photograph
of this tree is in my possession, and sj)ecimens of the leaves
were deposited in the herbarium of the Agricultural Department. As
usually found growing, however, in drier and poorer soils, this oak is
by no means a large tree, seldom exceeding 80 feet in height, and probably
not averaging over 50 or 60 feet, with a diameter of 1 to 2 feet.

Is it possible this was Cherrybark, Shumard or ?

64. (213.) Quercm coccinea. Scarlet Oak; "Black Oak" (!).
This tree is apparently not popularly distinguished from Q. tinctoria.
Dr. Schueclr, in his catalogue, gives the maxinuim measurements of this
species as 20J feet girth, 04 feet trunk, and 181 feet total height. I am
unable to give measurements of my own, however. It is apparently our
tallest oak, though I had supposed Q. rubra to be entitled to this distinction.

As Ridgway says above he is unsure which oak this is. Was it ever determined?
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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Will Blozan
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Re: Robert Ridgway article from 1882

Post by Will Blozan » Tue May 12, 2015 5:18 pm


His heights cannot be repeated nor verified but I suspect they are tangent-based errors.


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Re: Robert Ridgway article from 1882

Post by dbhguru » Wed May 13, 2015 9:52 am


I agree with Will. Heights such as sometimes quoted for trees of years past can never be proven right or wrong, but we have no data to suggest that 180-foot scarlet oaks grew then any more than today. This is not to disrespect the folks who reported on the big trees. They did the best they could using what they had, and there us no justification in holding them to a higher standard than what we do today. Nevertheless, putting truth into the tree numbers is an NTS and American Forests mission. So, we push on.

I'm thinking of starting an eastern cottonwood database comparable to the black birch database. Where as maximum birch heights are typically understated, the reverse is true for the cottonwood. Its V-shaped crown architecture is a set up for mis-measurement. However, the species performs remarably well over a large part of its range. It is the giant that it is described to be and a database would reveal just how much.

Since it is given to natural coppicing, it presents a lot of challenges for us, separating the singles from the multiples. In terms of maximum dimensions, I wouldn't be surprised to see a real 10-foot diameter single trunk, but that would be very exceptional, 8 feet less so. Heights to 140 feet and very occasional 150 are possible. So, somewhere out there there is 9-foot diameter, 140-foot tall, 120-avg crown spread cottonwood. Let's see that would give us 509 big tree points. I wonder where the most likely state is to harbor such a giant?

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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