Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportunities

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#11)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby dbhguru » Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:57 pm

Gaines,

  Sorry I haven't gotten back to you on your last post. You make many good points, all worthy of further discussion.

  First, let me say that my current belief is that the Mohawk pines warrant a scientific study, even if a limited one. But, the Mohawk pines are not as exceptional for the species as I once thought. They do show us what happens in the lower elevation Massachusetts Berkshires on favorable white pine sites with ample protection. It is good white pine country, but what have I encountered elsewhere? It is time to put it all together.

Summary of White Pine Observations

   Gaines, I have measured white pines over a large geographical area for over 20 years now. During this period, I have observed a few geographical areas with sites harboring exceptional white pines, sufficient to believe that in colonial days, there would have been lots of tall tree sites. For example, a large swath of northern Pennsylvania fits this description. Conversely, other geographical areas seem to be duds, e.g. much of southern New England's coastal region. So without further adieu,let me start with New England.

Connecticut

  Before they blew down, Connecticut's Cathedral Pines had one tree at 172 feet and quite a few over 150. In the 1980s, the trees were described as old field pines around 230 years old with a few exceeding 300. The Cathedral Pines were New England's flagship trees. Nearby, a Nature Conservancy property named Bally Hack had a few large pines,with one to about 144 feet and very old, but the Bally Hack pines had nothing to compare with the Cornwall site. Elsewhere, the state of Connecticut maintains an area known as the Gold Pines. The stand is okay, but nothing extraordinary - nothing over 140 feet, but plenty over 130. I've measured a few isolated Connecticut white pines to the mid-130s, all in the western side of the state. I've seen nothing in the eastern side of the state of consequence.

Rhode Island

  I've found nothing in Rhode Island. Pines in the 120s are pretty much it, and nobody has ever reported white pine sites for me to go look at in that state. When I've been down there, I see a lot of weeviled trees.

New Hampshire

   The Granite State should claim the species as its state tree in my humble opinion, more so that Maine. There is a private site in Claremont NH along the Connecticut River with between 60 and 80 pines over 150 feet. Four or 5 over 160. One is close to 170. The pines are about 150 years old. Elsewhere in the Granite State, I've measure 3 white pines in the Hanover area to between 150 and 155 feet. There are lots of NH sites with pines above 125 feet, but so far other sites with the charismatic 150s have eluded me. Reports of 260-footer once having grown in Lancaster are not credible.

Vermont

  Vermont has been a disappointment. I've broken 150 feet on only one pine in the entire state. That lone tree grows in the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park. A half dozen others there exceed 140 feet. Elsewhere I've broken 130 feet on only three sites. I think there was once a fairly impressive population of big pines.

Maine

  The Ordway Pines in Norway Maine are old trees. One lone pine exceeds 150 feet and a couple of others are above 140. Elsewhere there are a number of sites with pines in the 130 to 135-foot class as documented by Dr. Charlie Cogbill in the 1980s. He was measuring the heights with a clinometer, but he measured enough in different locations to lend credibility to that class of height. Maine is a large state, but much of it is industrial timberland, or better yet, industrial wasteland. Elsewhere, the idea of letting trees grow for a century or more is not part of the culture.

Massachusetts

  We have MTSF with 131,William Cullen Bryant with 20, and Ice Glen with 4. All other sites have only one. The total for all of Massachusetts stands at 159 great whites reaching 150.

New York

  The Adirondacks are where most of the 150s grow that we have measured. There are likely half dozen sites outside the Dacks with one or two 150s. In the Dacks, we have 4 sites that we've documented with a single pine reaching 150. But I expect there are a number of sites hidden across the state that make it.

Pennsylvania

  The Keystone State is a white pine goldmine. Of course, Cook Forest State Park leads the list, having the absolute tallest great whites in the Northeast, but they are older trees with many exceeding 250 years and probably a few surpassing 350. There are plenty of younger pines there approaching 150 feet, probably at ages of between 125 and 150 years. In addition to Cook Forest, we have Anders Run, Hearts Content, and several other sites with ones and twos. The potential is enormous.

New Jersey

  We have not documented any 150s in the Garden State.

Observations on Annual Growth

  I often see growth rates at the tops of the pines that exceed the numbers quoted in the Silvics sources for the assumed ages but then I see plenty of stands that conform. I'm interested in teasing out the broader patterns as opposed to committing a lot of energy on one or two sites. One must choose the trees to measure carefully when time and resources are limited.

  My present plan is to select a small number of pines from each of several sites as indicative of what the pines can achieve on those sites. As initial data are gathered, the direction to then take should become clearer to us. It will be a while before I can get to the measurements, but it will happen.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest

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#12)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby AccipiterGentilis » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:44 pm

Hi Gaines,

I am new to ENTS.  I found this discussion very interesting indeed.    In your plantations have you seen eastern white pine grow faster than Norway spruce on average?   How does red pine factor in??


thanks,
Dan Morris
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#13)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Fri Dec 11, 2015 9:16 pm

Dan:

  There is really no simple, single answer to this question.  If there were a simple answer, I would say it would be that they are equal.

  Now for the complex answer: first, they have different growth curves.  At SUNY Syracuse, they did a study of growth curves of Norway spruce growing in Central New York. This study, as far as I can judge, used extremely thorough and careful methodology.  You can call the Department of Environmental Science and Forestry, and I am sure they would send you a copy. Anyway, at least for the area the study covered, Norway spruce, after reaching a height of 4.5 feet, grew at an absolutely steady rate, on average, undiminished, for the next 50 years--there was no "bending over" of the curve. On the best sites, Norway spruce in the 50 years after reaching the "take-off" point of 4.5 feet, reached heights of about 114 feet. The best NS on my timberland in the MD mountains, exceed that by just three or four feet.

  The study of white pine growth rates is more extensive, at least in this country, than that of Norway spruce.  White pine starts faster than NS, reaching a height of 4.5 feet or so in two or three fewer years. After they get to a height of 8 to 12 feet or so, white pine can grow extremely rapidly.  On average sites annual growth will typically exceed three feet, and on the very good sites 4 feet or more is common.  I have heard reports of even faster growth.

  But after the trees reach something like 30  to 35 feet or more, the growth rate of white pine slows, and it slows continuously until at age 50 the rate is about one foot per year, and after age 150 or so, it slows to about 3 inches per year according to the best current sources.

  But, in contrast to white pine, Norway spruce at age 50 on the best sites is still growing at about 27 inches per year.

  So, to summarize, white pine starts faster, and reaches a maximum growth rate clearly faster than Norway spruce.  But then white pine growth slows  steadily, while the NS growth rate holds steady up to 50 years, and possibly for a short while beyond. So, although the NS falls behind early, by age 50 or so, it catches up, making the growth up to that point more or less equal. However, on the best sites in the southern Appalachians, the growth of white pine is much faster than that typical in the Northeast and upper Midwest, and total growth at age 50 can exceed 140 feet.  I have not heard of any NS anywhere matching that. Norway spruce is not so extensively grown in the US, but I would imagine that 125 feet in 50 years after reaching the 4.5 foot height, would be a likely maximum for the best strains on the best sites.

  But, excluding the exceptional growth of eastern white pine in the southern Appalachians, which tree would be ahead by age 100 or 150?  I don't know.  It could be that the growth rate of White pine, after starting out clearly faster, and dropping to a point slower than NS from an age of about 30 to age 50 or 60, after that may take the lead again, long, long term, at least in this country.  I am guessing--there is simply not enough data on NS in the US.  If you could find the relevant research done in Europe, most of which is not in English, you may find some interesting data.

  But, the strain of white pine, and of NS is crucial.  I have seen forest plantings with both NS and white pine growing next to each other, and at times the NS is far, far faster, and at times the reverse.

  The tallest Eastern white pine on which there have been accurate measurements was 207 feet tall, and the tallest NS in Europe is 204.  There have been reports of trees of both species growing taller, but there is no reliable data.  It is safe to assume, given that both species have been so heavily and persistently cut, that taller trees once existed.

  --Gaines
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#14)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby AccipiterGentilis » Sat Dec 12, 2015 12:58 am

Gaines:

Thanks for your detailed answer.  I did not know that Norway Spruce has a "constant growth rate".  It is truly interesting to me when these two tree species are planted side by side in cities and for windbreaks.  I have a strong enjoyment for both of them, although I know that Norway is somewhat invasive in some regions due to its shade tolerance.  And I have seen its seedlings growing in suburban/state land forests.

AS for Red pine:  It is interesting to me that Tree Guides for Identification written by credible professors will list the red pine as "fast growing" for our state, and then yet they will rate E. white pine as "moderately-fast growing".   I have planted both in my parents 40 acres and looked at the growth rate.  It really is not comparable for open grown trees, one white pine I planted I measured this year at a candle of 33".  Its about 8 feet tall and is growing at a latitude of 45 degrees.    

It is also interesting how both Norway spruce and white pine have similar max heights as far as we know.    I appreciate the discussion!

Dan
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#15)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Sat Dec 12, 2015 9:14 am

Dan:

  Statements of growth rates of various trees, where they class them as "fast," or moderately fast," or 'moderate" are not very precise, to say the least. White pine almost always outgrows red pine, but on some sites their growth rates can be fairly similar for a while.  On my timberland in the Western MD mountains, I have a couple of plantations where the red pines and white pines were mixed in alternate rows. A good portion of the white pines were harvested for Christmas trees, but the residual trees have grown "compatibly" for almost 50 years now, meaning that the red pines, while lagging behind by about 10 feet at this point, have not been "outcompeted" so much that they are seriously suppressed. Long-term, white pine on most sites will outgrow red pine significantly.

  One factor that has some influence is that red pine leaders are generally not broken by birds perching on them, as are white pine shoots.  This can be a partial equalizing factor on some sites. And, red pine leaders are not affected by the white pine weevil. I should mention that Norway spruce is often fairly severely attacked by the white pine weevil, and this can retard growth and sometimes lead to double leaders. In some areas white pine can be very seriously deformed by white pine weevil attacks.  But on my timberland, Norway spruce is attacked much more than white pine. But, because Norway spruce has many intermodal buds, weevil attacks don't affect growth and "form" very severely.

  --Gaines
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#16)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby dbhguru » Sat Dec 12, 2015 9:55 am

Gaines,

First a quote:

But after the trees reach something like 30  to 35 feet or more, the growth rate of white pine slows, and it slows continuously until at age 50 the rate is about one foot per year, and after age 150 or so, it slows to about 3 inches per year according to the best current sources.


I wonder how they determined the average 3-inch growth rate? I commonly see white pine that are over 150 years old exhibit growth rates above their number, and in stands with the super trees, I frequently measure rates currently between 7 and 12 inches. I don't see 4-foot internodes on these trees, but I do see 30-inches fairly frequently. So, I'm wondering if growth rates for white pines are more variable than even the SUNY data suggests.

I often cite measurements from MTSF because they represent the most outstanding statistics, but white pine data from elsewhere suggests growth rates of over 3 inches per year for ages over 150 years. But in MTSF, while the rates are variable, I'm reminded of Saheda, which I recently measured to 170.0 feet. Will Blozan climbed and tape drop measured Saheda in 1998 at 158.3 feet. Its growth rate has averaged 0.67 feet per year, and Saheda is around 190 years old.

More on this topic later.

Bob
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#17)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Sat Dec 12, 2015 11:29 am

Bob:

  I don't know the methodology involved in determining the 3" growth rate for very old white pine trees, but my best guess is that it is based simply on a correlation of tree heights with tree ages rather than on any direct observation of growth as it occurs. I have no idea about the size of any data sets or where the research was done.

  I cite the 3" figure simply because that is the only published data I have.  Of course, as you know, I have suggested that NTS should do, or participate in, some research, and if .67 foot per year growth for very old white pines could be convincingly demonstrated, this would be revolutionary, and change dramatically ideas about old-growth white pine.

  But, without personally having very accurate determinations of tree ages, and a tracking of the growth of white pines over a period of years long enough to establish a good average for the increase in total height, I am citing the 3" average.

  If you already have the data clearly establishing an average of .67 foot per year, I would encourage immediate publication. Personally, I would be cautious, because growth rates can very, and even with very old trees, growth rates could exceed longer term averages for a period of some years, only to revert to the "norm" over time.  And, specific individual trees, and perhaps small groups of trees, may exceed the growth of the average for trees in a stand. Of course, the shoot length in a given year, or an average shoot length at or near the top of a tree over a period of time, may not translate directly into a total height gain.

   Also, I would assume that any research that was behind the 3" average increase in height of very old white pine trees, would naturally, in the measurement of the total height of trees, have included the effect of damage from various sources, including not only ice and wind damage, but also bird perch damage, and damage from other causes. I believe any research that NTS might participate in should produce results that would not exclude any of the factors that affect the total heights of trees as they increase over longer periods of time. An observation over a period of years demonstrating an average growth in excess of the 3" figure would certainly be interesting, but unless it is data that would include all the factors that could affect growth, it would not supersede the 3" figure for total height growth average over extended periods of time.

  One problem that NTS will have in conducting any research is that the trees cannot be "destructively sampled." Current research on the growth of trees routinely does this, as did the study on Norway spruce I cited in a pervious post.  Destructive sampling allows for the most complete and reliable data.  In the SUNY Norway spruce study I cited, the trees were meticulously sliced, end to end, and every pith was studied, and every incident of damage, including weevil damage, was identified and tracked.

  --Gaines
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#18)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby dbhguru » Sat Dec 12, 2015 4:53 pm

Gaines,

 I have plenty of data that would show growth rates of over 3 inches per year for trees in the 150-year and older age classes on particular sites, but as you might expect, I'm concentrating on the top producers. The 3 inches may be a better landscape-level average. I don't know. Here is another example of a tree accurately traced over time. The Jake Swamp pine was first accurately measured using a transit in Nov 1992. At that time it was 155.0 feet tall. My post-growing season 2015 measurement with my TruPulse 200X was 173.0 feet. The represents and average annual increase of 0.78 feet. Jake is around 160 years old.

  Jake's growth rate is not unusual in MTSF. But Jake grows on a highly favorable site. I measured a white pine last week on the Mahican-Mohawk Recreation Trail that I had measured back in the early 1990s. Height increase from that first measurement would not exceed the 3-inch average. I wouldn't want to apply Jake's average annual height increase to the pines on the MMT or vice versa. More on this topic to come.

Bob
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#19)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby gnmcmartin » Sat Dec 12, 2015 9:32 pm

Bob:

  One little counter-intuitive thing about white pine growth is this--that after age 55, trees on all sites--I assume all "reasonable" growth sites ranging from index 80 to 120 or more--is the same.  To put it another way, so there can be no misunderstanding of this weird growth "fact," or "observation" --all white pine trees, whether they are growing on excellent sites, or merely "good" sites, grow at the same rate after age 55.  The study that produced this finding was done on white pine in the southern Appalachians. From another angle, any growth advantage a tree may have from growing on an excellent site, is all "made use of" in the first 55 years!

  But this does not mean that trees at a given height grow at the same rate--the trees growing on the best sites will be growing faster at any given height.

  If the results of this study done in the southern Appalachians hold true for your area, there would seem to be less need to measure growth rates of older trees on a wide variety of sites. But maybe you would like to check a bit to see if there might be a different growth "pattern" up there before deciding. if the growth rate does not vary site-by-site, you would not need to measure the growth of so many trees in so many different places. Anyway, happy measuring! I wish I was there to help.

  --Gaines
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#20)  Re: Eastern White Pine Growth Rates and Research Opportuniti

Postby AccipiterGentilis » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:13 am

One of my good friends from high school is an avid tree grower and does landscaping full time now.  He planted white pine and red pine on his fathers property as a child, about 20 years ago.    The white pine to red pine growth rate comparison here is extraordinary.  The white pine are planted about 10 to 12 feet apart in rows, and the red pines are along the boundary of his property at about the same distance.  The white pines are about 12 - 14 inches in diameter and roughly 30 to 35 feet tall.  They are literally 10 to 15 feet taller than the red pines and about 4" to 6" larger in diameter.  Their crown spread is double the width of the red pines crown spread as well.  Overall, the effect is such that is hard to believe that they were planted at the same time.   It makes it difficult for me to understand when considering the growth rates that are capitulated as correct in our Michigan tree guides for white, red and jack pines...

The soils there are loamy to clayi and as such fairly fertile, the county is heavily farmed for corn, soy beans, wheat etc..  It is a little south in our state for the typical range of white pine (not the overall range of the white pine) and equally a little far south for red pine.  But that withstanding, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that white pine is substantially faster growing than red pine is on at least some sites, if not all where the two coexist.   Perhaps the "moderately fast rating" makes sense if white pine is growing on very infertile sites, cold sites, or in shaded settings.  Otherwise, it does not seem applicable if the two are planted in a field.

Do you have any observations on that, Bob?  Gaines, I agree that the red pine is not affected like the white pine can be WPweevil, and that is one reason why they were planted so extensively in our state by the CCC.

Dan
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