Bryant Homstead Visit

A selection of founder Robert Leverett's more philosophical posts and trip reports.

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Bryant Homstead Visit

Post by dbhguru » Thu Apr 29, 2010 4:27 pm


Earlier today, I met my buddy Gary Beluzo at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA. Gary wanted to test mehtods for photographic stitching of images in horizontal layout format and I wanted to build a better library of simple images for the Bryant forest, and measure a few trees. I suppose the latter goes without saying.

The Bryant Homestead was constructed in 1785 and is the boyhood home of William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). The homestead is managed by the Trustees of Reservations, a very worthy conservation organization that I fully support. TTOR manages nearly 25,000 acres spread over more than 100 properties and is generally considered to be one of the oldest conservation organizations in the nation. TTOR has some real jewels and the Bryant Homestead is one of the jewels. The property contains a small area of old growth and one of the truly great white pines stands in New England. As was introduced to the pines around 1990 by my friend Jack Sobon. We've since monitored the growth of the pines. We have records extending overly nearly 20 years. Unfortunately, the pines were hit pretty hard by last winter's ice storm, but though many limbs were lost, the big trees survived. It will take a few years to heal the wounds, but I have faith. The Bryant pines get pummeled every few years, but continue to grow.

As we started down the Rivulet Trail, a hobble bush caught my eye. The image below shows the bright green leaves and snowy white flowers - a sure sight of the progression of spring. Soon the hobble bush and other shrubs and deciduous trees will complete leaf out and the canopy will close and tree measuring season will end. Realizing that, I needed to take full advantage of the opportunity to take some last measurements of the tall pines while I could still see their tops. But first, the flowers were demanding my attention.
A treat for any visit to the Bryant woods is a chance to commune with the old hemlocks. They, more than any other species carry the theme of old growth and heritage trees for the Homestead. There is presently no adelgid in Bryant so the hemlocks look splendid. The image below shows a group of hemlocks that we've dated to between 230 and 270 years of age. There are many hemlocks over 175 years and I expect a few over 300, but most of the old ones appear to be in the age interval cited above.
The main walking trail on the Bryant property is the Rivulet Trail. For years that was the primary nature trail. However there is now a loop trail off the Rivulet Trail called the Pine Loop Trail. I had the honor of laying it out a number of years ago. I will always be beholding to the Trustrees in following through in acknowledging the value of a pine stand adjacent to the area with the Rivulet Trail and accepting my recommendations. The treasure of the trail is the stand of gargantuan white pines that the trail passes through. There are a number of pines over 11 feet in girth and 3 or 4 over 150 feet in height. At one time, there were 6 over 150, but the winters pare back their crowns. There are many over 10 feet in girth and 140 feet in height. The following image is of a big pine measuring 11.7 feet in girth, but only 120 feet in height, thanks to that miserable ice storm.
A short distance farther, I reached the second of the huge pines at the west end of the property. It measures 13.1 feet in girth and 142.4 feet in girth. I have its trunk volume calculated to be 739 cubic feet. I originally had its girth even more, but using the Will Blozan method for determining girth, I have settled on 13.1 feet. The first of the following two images shows the Patriarch Pine - its new name. The second image shows Gary Beluzo among other big bruisers in the process of photographing the Patriarch.
A short distance from Gary in the preceding image stands a magnificent pine that we both photographed. I think the name Centurion fits that pine. So the Centurion it is. The next two images show Centurion.
Oh yes, Centurion's dimensions. Hmm, now what were they? Oh yes, Girth = 12.0 feet and height = 149.3 feet. That is a higher number than I previously got. The answer apparently lies in last winter's ice storm. It thinned the crown enough for me to hit spots in the crown's interior that I could not previously measure with the laser. Finding the absolute top of tall white pines is a task not for the feint of heart. You often have to climb them. Otherwise you get lucky if measuring from the ground.

I once confirmed 6 white pines in Bryant to over 150. However, the winters do damage. They pare back the crowns of many. What about Bryant's flagship tree? No problem. It came through the ice storm with crown entirely intact. Bryant's tallest pines is appropriately enough, the Bryant Pine. It is shown in the following two images.
Today, I remeasured the Bryant Pine at 156.7 feet in height and 10.3 feet in girth. My last measurement was 156.6, so I'm within the range. It is unquestionablly the tallest tree on the Bryant property and I'm confident on all TTOR properties. Jack Sobon measured it in 1991 with a transit to 149 feet and a few inches.

The big Bryant Pines should not be an exclusive old boy's club. The next image shows the Emily Dickinson Pine (far right) and other trees in the vicinity. It's Emily's family. The Emily Dickinson Pine is one of those that has lost crown due to teh ravages of winter. At one time Will Blozan gt 154 feet for Emily. Now the big tree just exceeds 148 feet. Its girth is 10.8 feet.
Gary and I also measured an impressive pine on the opposite side and down trail from Emily's pine, which we decided to name the Lynn Margulis Pine, in honor of that great scientist who lives on part of the Emily Dickinson property. Lynn was Gary's mentor. Dr. Margulis is one of the truly great scientific thinkers of our time. She was once married to astronomer Carl Sagan. The dimension of Lynn's tree are Girth = 10.6 feet and height = 143.7 feet. Gary took the images.

As a last image, I present a lovely unnamed old yellow birch. There are many old birches on the Bryant property and I expect they are around the same age as the oldest hemlocks. None are exceptionally large or tall, but they have a commanding presence.
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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Re: Bryant Homstead Visit

Post by edfrank » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:59 pm

There is a map that actually shows the new pine loop (I think). ... il-Map.pdf

"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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