Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

#1)  Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby Zachary S » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:05 am

ENTS,

Here is an important trip report that I unfortunately have procrastinated for almost two months before posting. Sorry about that!

Well in any case, you can add me to the list of ENTS that have visited the "Sipsey Poplar", the largest known Tuliptree in Alabama, and the current state champion. I think Marcas Houtchings visited and measured the tree in 2007, according to the ENTS website, measuring a 26'8" circumference, 151' height, and 73' spread. The locally famous tree is located deep in the Sipsey Wilderness of Bankhead National Forest in Lawrence County, less than an hour's drive from the house.

Way back on May 28, me, my mother, and a family friend (Will Salter, who is also a member here) took an 8-mile round trip to the tree. The trail we took was in itself unremarkable and fairly easy hiking, mostly through scrubby second-growth pine and hardwood. But it was easy to tell when the trail started to descend into the older growth, with large oaks and tuliptrees becoming common. When the hemlock began to appear, it was clear that our destination was not too far ahead. Indeed, after a few steep descents, I spotted the giant tree straight ahead. A slow-tapering tuliptree twice the size of any other I have ever seen in Alabama is hard to miss! And the part of the tree I first noticed turned out to be the tree's upper trunk, as there was a huge vertical drop between me and the tree; the base was far below my position! We maneuvered along a narrow trail and dropped down a steep incline (with the help of beech roots) to reach the gorge the tree was in.

Image

Image

While larger trees exist in the Appalachians, this tree stands out dramatically from the surrounding woodlands - its trunk is more than twice the size of the trunk of any other Tuliptree I have seen or measured in the state. Indeed, unlike in the Smokies where giant tulips are so common that they are frequently ignored, the Sipsey Poplar dwarfs all surrounding trees, almost as if a freak of nature - albeit a beautiful one. I suspect the tree was able to reach this size because it is near a constant water source and protected from wind, not to mention being in a very difficult area to reach with logging equipment. Photographs, especially at this time of year, do the tree little justice: the scale of this tree is remarkable. The tree also produces an interesting level of taper. A description provided by Jess Riddle a few years back of this tree, judging its shape from photographs, is rather accurate. He noted that the tree was shaped much like a coke bottle; that is, a columnar trunk to 20 or so feet off the ground, followed by visible taper, then returning to columnar again about 60 feet off the ground. This suggests a smaller volume of wood than other tuliptrees with similar DBH, which I believe is the case. However, once the initial taper subsides, the trunk tapers very little until its awkward thrust of branches begins. And despite its taper, I fully believe the tree is much larger than any other Alabama tuliptree at all points of the trunk from base to crown.

Image

Image

The tree produces very little if any foliage along its straight clear fluted trunk until the trunk divides into two large branches somewhere around 100' off the ground; above this point, multiple very large horizontal branches extend probably 40' from the trunk on all sides of the tree, producing a fairly extensive canopy for a tree its size. Then again, it stands somewhat alone in a bit of a canopy gap, so it doesn't compete significantly with other trees. The crown shape (see photo) is perhaps odd, but a shape I've seen quite frequently on tall tulips in the Bankhead NF. The bark is another interesting feature: as can be seen in the photos, the lower bark's characteristics resemble that of truly gigantic tuliptrees I've seen elsewhere in photographs, as opposed to the more common tuliptree bark pattern.

Returning to the measurements listed by M. Houtchings, I wasn't able to confirm anything over ~22' CBH (though I could have measured a bit high), and, though my perspective on tree heights may be somewhat skewed (and it is impossible to ascertain the true top of the tree from below when the trees are in leaf), the tree didn't seem especially tall to me compared to nearby hickories and beech; perhaps the trunk's massive size played a role in my impression of the tree's height, but I would be a bit surprised if the tree was well over 130'. If the tree is 151', as measured multiple times, I would be very interested in seeing the measurements of the beech and hickory trees that reach canopy level yet begin below the level of the big tree's base. However, I could easily be wrong: I a, just not used to seeing such huge trees!

Image

Image

The tree stands in a small area of virgin forest along Bee Branch Gorge , a location which retains the potential for other significant discoveries. This cove contains numerous beech, hemlock, magnolia, hickory, and occasional tulip and oak. M.B. Davis documents these sites, along with other potential old-growth sites in AL and other eastern states, in the old-growth listings on primalnature.org. I would love to one day see an ENTS expedition to the gorges of Bankhead NF and surrounding sites. Hell, I'd be glad to lead the way if anyone is ever interested! I would also love to see if the Forest Service is interested in propagating the tree (though the feasibility of collecting seeds from a tree this tall so far in the wilderness seems a bit outlandish), as, judging from the size of the tree, it must certainly be in the latter part of its long life. I don't know how long tuliptrees can live, but it will be a sad day when the giant dies or falls over.

Image
Nearby beech and hickory reach over 100'.

Image
Fallen beech trees in the Sipsey Poplar grove, creating a substantial canopy gap.

Image
I call this the Atomic Bomb Tree!

Despite the elation of finding the tree, not everything about the trip was so great. We learned the hard way that spring/summer in Alabama is NOT the best time to hike long distances in the woods! We were covered in ticks by day's end, and our water supply was exhausted very quickly. Also, I was so covered in sweat before we even got to the tree that I had no dry clothing at all to wipe the sweat off of my face with.

I wanted to write a more extensive report, but unfortunately I just can't think of much else to say. In any case, this was definitely an experience, and we plan to return this fall or winter, perhaps with a few other people.

~Z

For this message the author Zachary S has received Likes - 2:
edfrank, James Parton
User avatar
Zachary S
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:21 pm
Location: Alabama
Has Liked: 1 times
Has Been Liked: 16 times
Print view this post

#2)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby edfrank » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:23 pm

Zac,

Fantastic report.  Please keep posting about your trips.

Ed
"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
User avatar
edfrank
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4191
{ IMAGES }: 0
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 6:46 pm
Location: Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, USA
Has Liked: 915 times
Has Been Liked: 706 times
Blog: View Blog (3)
Print view this post

#3)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby Zachary S » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:42 pm

Ed,

Thanks, will do!

~Z
User avatar
Zachary S
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:21 pm
Location: Alabama
Has Liked: 1 times
Has Been Liked: 16 times
Print view this post

#4)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby tsharp » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:04 pm

Zach, ENTS: I have never seen a bark pattern on Yellow-poplar that is similar to your photographs. Is it an unusual pattern or have you seen it before?
Turner sharp
User avatar
tsharp
 
Posts: 380
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2010 1:04 pm
Location: Parkersburg, WV
Has Liked: 727 times
Has Been Liked: 332 times
Print view this post

#5)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby James Parton » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:31 am

Zac,

Awesome report! The bark on the Sipsey Poplar looks very close to one I measured and photographed back in June while visiting Paris Mountain State Park just north of Greenville SC. The bark has a horizontal ribbed wrinkled pattern.

viewtopic.php?f=122&t=948

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145
User avatar
James Parton
 
Posts: 1576
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:47 pm
Location: Asheville, North Carolina USA
Has Liked: 338 times
Has Been Liked: 98 times
Print view this post

#6)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby dbhguru » Sat Jul 31, 2010 8:08 pm

Zac,

   No need to apologize. You've said plenty and did a superb job photographing the big tulip. Thanks from all of us.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
User avatar
dbhguru
 
Posts: 4056
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:34 pm
Location: Florence, Massachusetts
Has Liked: 4 times
Has Been Liked: 1087 times
Print view this post

#7)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby greenent22 » Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:30 am

awesome i've loved that tree ever since i saw it on a book on old-growth of the east (Wild Woodlands I think may have been the title)
never been to it though
one day
User avatar
greenent22
 
Posts: 201
Joined: Sun Oct 24, 2010 1:23 am
Location: NJ
Has Liked: 52 times
Has Been Liked: 28 times
Print view this post

#8)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby jamesrobertsmith » Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:52 am

This is yet another place that has LONG been on my list to visit. Maybe someday I can retire and spend my days hiking in these spots.

I've always thought that the bark pattern on the Sipsey poplar was strange. I've never seen it on any poplar I've visited.

One of my good hiking pals spent a weekend backpacking in the Sipsey Wilderness, and he did so in the Fall when conditions were a lot easier on the human body. I've noticed that ticks are getting really bad in the southern Appalachians. I've been an avid hiker/backpacker for 35 years and I've never encountered ticks in the southern mountains to the extent that I see them now. I know that burgeoning deer populations have a lot to do with it, but I'm convinced that warmer winters are even more conducive to the explosion of tick populations.
User avatar
jamesrobertsmith
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:32 am
Location: Matthews, NC
Has Liked: 522 times
Has Been Liked: 117 times
Print view this post

#9)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby James Parton » Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:43 pm

James S,

If you think the tick population is bad in the southern Apps, you outta visit the piedmont of SC. Those tiny deer ticks are so bad in spring and early summer that they can discourage one from going into the woods and brushy areas. Especially since they are carriers of Lyme Disease.
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145
User avatar
James Parton
 
Posts: 1576
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:47 pm
Location: Asheville, North Carolina USA
Has Liked: 338 times
Has Been Liked: 98 times
Print view this post

#10)  Re: Sipsey Poplar, May 2010

Postby RyanLeClair » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:39 pm

Hey Zachary, is the poplar still healthy? I ask because I was just reading about the Wasilik Poplar in NC, which suffered greatly because of root-trampling.
User avatar
RyanLeClair
 
Posts: 302
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 9:45 pm
Location: Trumbull, Connecticut
Has Liked: 35 times
Has Been Liked: 40 times
Print view this post

Next

Return to Alabama

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests