I'm looking back on the trip to VA,NC, and TN that Monica and I returned from this past Sunday. In most ways it seemed pretty tame tree-wise, but in review, there were sufficient successes to have made the trip memorable. The first highlight was the huge white oak on the Charlottesville, VA airport property. Its 291-inch girth was the largest tree in circumference that I measured. To be asked to do the measurement was a plus for NTS.
For height, as expected, the Smokies ruled. Baxter Creek produced wild flowers and super tall trees. A 173.6-foot tuliptree was my best height measurement. Altogether, I measured 5 tulips to over 170 feet in Baxter Creek. Will and Michael Davie have measured considerably more, including the ones I measured. I was pleased at getting 172 feet out of a tuliptree that Will tape-drop measure in Sept 2011 to 171.5 feet. Allowing for just a little growth n 2012, the measurement could be as close as 0.25 feet. I believe that the 131.7-foot silver bell puts yours truly in competition for the top tree of that species - I think. Will, what's the best you know of? Oh yes, Monica and I identified 41 species of flowers on a 1.5 mile stretch of the trail. About 30 were in bloom. We identified the others by foliage.
A 152-foot tall, 11.2-foot girth tulip on an old homestead area on Porters Creek was sweet. Porters isn't a tall tree hotspot, at least not the lower portion, so that find was satisfying. I think Will has found other 150s in Lower Porters Creek.
Alum Cave Trail produced 4 yellow birches over 12 feet around, with the largest at 13.5 feet. There are a few others, but getting to them is not for me. A red spruce just off the trail exceeds 150 feet. Will measured it to 155, but I only confirmed 150. I couldn't locate the base in all the rhododendron.
The largest girth tulips measured were between 15 and 16 feet around for all Smoky Mtn sites. So, I flubbed on girths for the King of the Appalachians. However, I got a 16-foot girth tulip in Rock Castle Gorge, VA. It is 106.8 feet to a broken top. Tulips in the gorge make it to 130 feet and sycamores to 126.7. Other species are considerably less. It is not a tall tree hotspot, but has a wealth of wild flowers.
I got a 143-foot white pine along the BRPW, which is the best I've done for the species outside of Linville Gorge. Brian Beduhn has the record outside Linville Gorge for the great whites at 154 feet. Will and I once measured a 168-footer in the gorge. It has since toppled.
I was able to reconfirm a 146.8-foot tuliptree on Flat Top Mtn in VA. A second topped out at 143.7. These are the best I've done for tuliptrees along the Parkway. However, I'll bet Brian is going to smash that record. Brian, what is you best for Parkway tulips?
A 15.8-foot girth, 140-foot tall old growth tulip was a sweet find on Apple Orchard Mtn in a small cove. It is an old growth remnant. In other spots, I was able to confirm tulips to the low to mid-130s. A long term objective that fits with my research permit is to locate all sites along the Parkway with trees 130 feet tall or more. Headway was made on this trip.
Our return through the Catskills was most satisfying, but no important tree finds - just outstanding scenery. And finally, my return to the woods along Broad Brook behind our house. I actually was able to confirm two more 130-foot white pines yesterday. The count is up to 22.
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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