Old Growth Forests, Important Trees in Lowland

The goal project, is to document and measure the exceptional trees in the Lake Ontario - St. Lawrence Lowlands of central and upper New York.

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Old Growth Forests, Important Trees in Lowland

Post by tomhoward » Sun May 18, 2014 4:21 pm


This is a summary of my latest knowledge about the eastern Lake Ontario Plain and St. Lawrence Valley.

There are very few old growth forests known in this region, mainly, possibly, because few people are searching for them.

From North Syracuse, NY where I live, these forests and important trees irregularly northward from here are (the old growth forest of Green Lakes State Park is not listed in this document as it is south of North Syracuse, and is on the hills rising south of the Lake Ontario Plain and not on the Lake Ontario Plain itself.):

The 2 North Syracuse Oak Groves – the North Syracuse Cemetery Oak Grove (oldest Oaks possibly over 300 years old) is the northernmost old growth Oak grove I know of in this region. The tallest trees in the North Syracuse Oak Groves are: Wizard of Oz Memorial Oak Grove (L. Frank Baum Red Oak 117.1 feet), North Syracuse Cemetery Oak Grove (White Oak #22 111.8 feet).

Liverpool, NY School Maple Grove – about 11 acres old growth, one of the tallest forests and possibly the oldest forest in this whole area, dominated by Sugar Maple and Beech, with Sugar Maples to 127 ft. tall, and up to 400 years old, and largest tree Sugar Maple 54” dbh, over 118 feet tall, possibly the largest forest-grown single-trunked tree in this whole region. The average height of this grove’s canopy is 111.7 feet.

In 2008 Jess Riddle documented old stands of Black Gum in Cicero Swamp.

Beaver Lake Nature Center has old 2nd growth forest with Black Cherries over 120 feet tall, and Scots Pine in plantation to 111 feet tall, possibly the tallest of that species in the USA.

Fulton, NY – 3 groups of old (over 200 years old) open-grown oaks (not forests): Mt. Adnah Cemetery (White Oak, huge Black Oak, White Pine), 2 sites by Lake Neahwanta: Recreation Park (Red Oak, White Oak), North Bay Campground (Red Oak).

Fort Ontario State Historic Site, Oswego, NY – biggest and tallest Cottonwood at Fort Ontario Cemetery, 56.2” dbh, 117.1 feet tall, planted 1904.

Selkirk Shores State Park, Oswego County, NY – the only known old growth forest in Oswego County is an 8-acre grove of northern hardwoods (Sugar Maple, Beech, huge Red Oak, White Ash over 200 years old) between the park’s Day Use Area and Campground. Just north of this, is the roughly 2-acre Pine Grove at the Selkirk Shores State Park Boat Launch. This stand is not original old growth, but is an old 2nd growth pure stand of White Pines 150-180 years old. It is the best stand of White Pines I know of in this whole region, with an average height of 114 feet and maximum height of 123 feet. These are the tallest trees I know of this far north in this whole region, and the tallest trees I know of on the Lake Ontario shore in both USA and Canada.

North of Selkirk Shores the trees do not seem to be very tall, and I know of no old growth forests in this region between the northern hardwood grove at Selkirk Shores and Muir’s Woods (a much-studied old growth Sugar Maple-Beech forest south of Montreal, QC).

The trees north of Selkirk Shores appear to be much shorter, and only in the following places have I measured (or heard of) trees over 100 feet tall (these are all open collections of trees, not forests):

Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, NY: Cottonwood 77.5” dbh, 110 feet tall
Greenwood Cemetery, Morristown, NY: White Pines to 105 feet tall
Blue Church Cemetery, Prescott, ON: White Pines to 104 feet tall
Near Pointe du Lac, QC (between Montreal and Quebec City): White Pines to 114.4 feet tall.

There are also tall (likely to be at least 100 feet tall) Cottonwoods in parks at Contrecoeur, QC and Chambly QC (by the 18th century Fort de Chambly), but I did not have measuring equipment with me when I visited these sites in Sept. 2013.

The western Lake Ontario Plain has significant tree sites, especially (rising up above the edge of the plain, not on the Lake Ontario Plain) Washington Grove City Park, Rochester, NY, with trees measured by Elijah Whitcomb: Oaks to over 120 feet tall, Tuliptree to over 126 feet tall. Bruce Kershner also documented many old growth and potential old growth sites in western NY and the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario. One of the tallest sites (possibly with trees over 100 feet tall) appears to be an open grove of tall White Pines near a school in Grimsby, ON (called “Grimsby School Grove” by Bruce Kershner). On the north shore of Lake Ontario west of Toronto are several groves of large Oaks and tall White Pines – these White Pines possibly reach 100 feet in height. In the city of Toronto itself I have not measured a tree over 90 feet tall, and most are much shorter. East of Toronto is Thickson’s Woods in Whitby, ON; the rather open (not nearly as dense or as impressive as the Selkirk Shores Boat Launch Pine Grove) grove of White Pines may reach or just exceed 100 feet in height.

Tom Howard
May 18, 2014

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