Arkansas champion baldcypress and surroundings

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Jess Riddle
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Arkansas champion baldcypress and surroundings

Post by Jess Riddle » Mon Dec 29, 2014 3:23 pm

Nts,

10/26/2014
According to the Arkansas Forestry Commission and the Champion Trees list, the largest tree in Arkansas grows near the heart of the largest remaining bottomland forest in the state, the White River National Wildlife Refuge. The tree registers an impressive 516” in girth, and is, not surprisingly, a baldcypress. However, the tree does not stand in some inaccessible, primeval swamp. The surrounding floodplain dries out over the long Mississippi Delta summer, a road passes within a mile of the tree, an abandoned road even closer, and a trail leads to a little metal bench that affords an easy view of the tree. Loggers simply bypassed the little slough feeding an oxbow lake, so the slough remains dotted with cypress of all ages.

I visited the area to see the champion cypress and in hopes that the surrounding forest would be more mature and productive than other parts of White River I had seen. The champion cypress clearly surpasses all the other old cypress along the slough. The champion is massive, impressive, and old, but not in the mind-blowing way that the Senator Cypress in Florida was. While a twin, the fairly average buttress of the main stem largely swallows the much smaller secondary stem. I didn’t wade through the duckweed to check the circumference, but my height of 108.5’ was closer to the official 120’ than I had expected.
Arkansas champion baldcypress, accepted by the champion tree program as the largest tree in Arkansas
Arkansas champion baldcypress, accepted by the champion tree program as the largest tree in Arkansas
The trail to the big tree passes through a mature forest of water hickory, green ash, and overcup oak with possumhaw understory. All of those species tolerate extended flooding, and poor soil drainage likely limits the growth of many larger species in the area. However, the lower areas appear to provide excellent growing conditions for water locust, and serveral small groves of that species approach the record height of 88.9’, held by a tree in South Carolina. Additionally, another area along the road into the site also features remnant cypress, and a few measurements and less flood tolerant species like sycamore showed it to be more productive.
Measurements.JPG
Measurements.JPG (29.56 KiB) Viewed 2143 times
Green hawthorn generally seems a smaller species in Arkansas than in Georgia or the Carolinas, but this tree essentially ties the height record of 45.6’ held by a South Carolina tree. Conversely, water locust is much more widespread in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley than in the Southeast, and this site seems to suggest growing conditions are also better. While water locust of the lower Mississippi may slightly eclipse their eastern counterparts, the region’s black willows dwarf all others. The black willow smashes the current NTS girth record of 6’5”. The tree’s oddly shaped base and low fork gave me pause, but I am now confident it is a single individual. The live top has died back to 97.8’, and the tree is one of the last two survivors of a small black willow grove where the slough with the champion cypress fizzles out.
13’8” x 112.3’ Nuttall oak
13’8” x 112.3’ Nuttall oak
The unusual base of the new diameter record black willow
The unusual base of the new diameter record black willow
11’10” cbh x 105.0’ tall (dead top) black willow
11’10” cbh x 105.0’ tall (dead top) black willow
I almost didn’t measure the diameter on the cedar elm, which is also a new diameter record slightly eclipsing a tree at Meeman-Shelby State Park in Tennessee. I started measuring the diameter then stopped because of what was two feet from the base.
Not sure why they call them ‘cottonmouth’
Not sure why they call them ‘cottonmouth’
I measured the height, and when I returned to the base of the tree, the snake was nowhere to be seen. Looking before each step, it took me about five minutes to measure the diameter.
Baldcypress at end of small oxbow lake
Baldcypress at end of small oxbow lake
Baldcypress visible from the road to the trailhead, 27’1” cbh
Baldcypress visible from the road to the trailhead, 27’1” cbh
Jess Riddle

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Arkansas champion baldcypress and surroundings

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Mon Dec 29, 2014 5:57 pm

Amazing trees! Too bad you didn't have a handy human to place beside those trees for scale.

That naughty moccasin!

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dbhguru
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Re: Arkansas champion baldcypress and surroundings

Post by dbhguru » Tue Dec 30, 2014 8:48 am

Jess,

From the image of the champ, its double trunk status shows clearly. Do you have a feel for what kind of circumference the main trunk would have if by no other means than conversion of the trunk's estimated width to a circumference equivalent?

Bob
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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Jess Riddle
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Re: Arkansas champion baldcypress and surroundings

Post by Jess Riddle » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:34 pm

Bob,

As I mentioned, the secondary stem is largely wedged in between fins of the main stems buttress, so it doesn't influence the main stems girth that much. Rather than being 43' in circumference, I would guess the main stem would be 40 or more likely 41' in circumference.

Jess

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Arkansas champion baldcypress and surroundings

Post by Larry Tucei » Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:22 pm

Jess- That Black Willow is awesome!!! I have not seen one of that size except in Big Oak Tree State Park Missouri. Wow those reptiles can be scary- Yo get bit way in there and your lucky to make it out!! The 27' Cypress you measured is about the size of the larger ones at Delta National. Niiiiiice!!!!! Larry

arkansastreehugger
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Re: Arkansas champion baldcypress and surroundings

Post by arkansastreehugger » Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:18 pm

All those trees are close to the champion? Some of those could easily become Arkansas Champions. Are they all along the trail, or did you have to do a little bushwacking to get to them?

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