ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

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Erik Danielsen
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ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:47 am

Near my home is a stand of Oaks that the homeowner (I'm housesitting for the winter) has referred to as "old growth." Given what I read on the characteristics of old trees, I have no real reason to doubt that these trees are if not old growth very old secondary growth, and the forest shows a lot of old-growth characteristics (pits+mounds, etc). It's seen sufficient disturbance to probably not qualify as an old-growth forest by most definitions, but some of the trees themselves may well be. They're not very large, but show high sinuosity, considerable balding, and have low or unusual taper (in some cases the greatest girth appears to be more than 20 feet above the ground, as well as having their living limbs concentrated in a dense crown area. I've wondered if they might have been present as midstory trees when the original old-growth canopy was cut and removed (which would have been a long time ago) that have since matured and assumed the canopy role, but had no need to grow particularly tall in the process as they were then adjacent to a gas-well road. There's one blowdown as of this winter, so when the property owner gets back from a trip I'll see if we can take a slice to count rings. The stump of a small branch that broke off in the crown appeared to have 50-60 growth rings itself, so I'm eager to see how old the tree might be. In the meantime, though, I have a problem:

I cannot figure out what species of oak these trees are. The leaves suggest membership in the red oak group, but the balded bark eliminates one of the primary clues I might expect to use... I've attached a set of images. Perhaps someone else will recognize the species.

I really love the pale green color of the bark that becomes apparent up close.
Attachments
Lots of interesting fungi on the blowdown
Lots of interesting fungi on the blowdown
Leaf on the blowdown
Leaf on the blowdown
interesting bark tones
interesting bark tones
more trunks
more trunks
another crown
another crown
Lower trunks where there's still a little rough bark at the base
Lower trunks where there's still a little rough bark at the base
characteristic gnarled crowns
characteristic gnarled crowns
Broad view of the stand
Broad view of the stand

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bbeduhn
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Re: ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

Post by bbeduhn » Fri Mar 28, 2014 11:04 am

Erik,
Those are very different "oaks". They appear to be aspen. The pictures look to be of second growth. They do have crooked growth so they may have some age but it's unlikely that they're of great age. The leaf you show does appear to be northern red oak, but it did not come from the trees you have pictured.
Brian

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:54 pm

Aspen was what I first thought they were from across the field, actually, but the twisted shapes (I've only ever really seen skinny young aspen) and the attached leaves convinced me otherwise. I was really quite sure that that leaf was attached to the mentioned fallen tree (the branch it's on is hidden by my glove in the image), but I guess when I'm back up there during the week I'll have to go check. If I have indeed been deceived by an oldish Aspen that fell on top of some Oak branches, well, then I suppose that that'll be a very amusing if somewhat embarrassing greenhorn introduction to the wonderful world of identifying trees!

At least that would explain how much these trees have been confounding me for the last few weeks.

This leaves me wondering where the "old growth oaks" my landlord referenced are actually located. I've noticed some other stands of what I quite clearly recognize as northern red oak (I promise!) but none of it looks very old. When the property owner gets back he told me he'd walk me through the rest of the land (only about half of it is open to local hikers) and show me the major points of interest.

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bbeduhn
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Re: ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

Post by bbeduhn » Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:23 pm

Erik,
We were all green at some point. I've been doing this for several years and I still make mistakes on ID. Even seasoned veterans do. As for old growth red oaks, they usually are quite large but in poor soils even red oaks can grow slowly so they may not be as large as one would expect. The crowns should be weathered and the bark tends to be more furrowed on the older red oaks...but not always.
Brian

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

Post by Erik Danielsen » Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:51 pm

The soil there supports some large beech, hemlock, white pine, and silver maple, so I figure I probably just haven't found the big oaks yet. Some nearby state land has the biggest red oaks I have ever seen, however. This coming week I hope to do girth measurements and get some good photographs to share here; I don't imagine they're record-sized but they are pretty impressive, looming over a ravine full of planted conifers.

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tomhoward
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Re: ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

Post by tomhoward » Sat Mar 29, 2014 12:51 pm

Erik,

Your photos of the wooded area near where you live are evocative of a wooded area next to where I grew up here in North Syracuse, NY. The crooked trees in your photos are definitely aspens, and there were many crooked aspens like these in the woods in North Syracuse. I often take the train from Syracuse to Toronto to visit my brother, and there are several groves of crooked aspens near the Buffalo-Depew station. They are beautiful, artistic trees. They are not old growth, and are probably 60 years old or so.

The forest in North Syracuse was mostly 2nd growth (the areas with aspens were definitely 2nd growth), but a small section near the edge, a section that survives today, is an extremely dense 1-acre old growth oak grove, with lots of pits and mounds, and large gnarled white, red, and black oaks - it is called the North Syracuse Cemetery Oak grove, about which I have posted several times.

It would be interesting to see if some other part of the forest near your place contains old growth oaks.

What is the name of the state land that has the big red oaks you mention?

Tom Howard

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: ID some Oaks- different or just really old?

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:16 pm

Tom, I believe the state land I've been hiking around on is in fact the J.N. Adams Historical Landmark and Forest. There's a lot of info on the forest in this page: http://jnadam.org/forest/index.html

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