Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

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#1)  Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby Matt Markworth » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:05 pm

NTS,

I recently spent a few days measuring trees in the Red River Gorge, Clifty Wilderness, and Natural Bridge State Park in Eastern Kentucky. They are contiguous and comprise an area of over 30,000 acres.

I focused on slopes and coves along well-established trails and found an interesting mix of species. The most common scene starting from the bottom of the canopy and moving up consisted of rosebay rhododendron, bigleaf magnolia, black birch, red maple, eastern hemlock, a scattering of tuliptrees, and the towering eastern white pines. From the standpoint of overall tree size (relative to each species) in the limited sample size in the area that I have seen so far, I found the white pines and hemlocks to be the most impressive at this point in time following a history of heavy logging in the area. Red maples are very common and one particular tree stood out, but more measuring is needed to determine if it was an outlier.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that for the white pines I would need to set my threshold for careful measurement at 160’! If they can keep their tops, the pines have quite a bit more height potential based on the modest girths, vigorous appearance, and readily available water. I got into the habit of looking upslope whenever the trail got muddy and sure enough there would be some tall pines. To give a sense of age, for an 8’5” CBH cut pine that was in a spot with what I would estimate as average moisture, there were approximately 105 rings at 10.5’ above midslope. Here are the measurements listed in order of height:

Eastern White Pine
9’8.5” x 174.5’ – New tallest-known tree in KY
9’6.5” x 171’
10’6” x 170.5’
9’4” x 170’
170’ – dead, tree difficult to reach for girth
10’4” x 169.5’
9’7” x 169’
11’2” x 167.5’ x 41’ – New state champ
9’6” x 166.5’
9’6” x 166’
9’9” x 165.5’
9’4” x 164’
9’11” x 162’
10’7” x 161.5’
10’4” x 159’
9’6” x 156’
10’7” x 155’ – dying, girth includes vines
11’11” x 154.7’ – original top is gone, new top is established with multiple leaders
10’3” x 154.5’
8’9” x 151.5’
white pine snag: 13' CBH

Tuliptree
157.3’ – tree difficult to reach for girth
Additional girth measurement: 11’5” – an outlier for the limited area I visited

Eastern Hemlock
11’ x 137’
9’2” x 136’
10’5” x 133.5’
8’9” x 130’
8’10” x 128.5’

Northern Red Oak
8’2” x 132.5’

Red Maple
8’2” x 129’

Black Birch
5’5” x 92.5’

               
                       
Clifty Wilderness Scene - small2.jpg
                       
Clifty Wilderness Scene
               
               


               
                       
Clifty Wilderness Scene - 2a - small.jpg
                       
Clifty Wilderness Scene
               
               


               
                       
9'6.5'' x 171' white pine - small.jpg
                       
9'6.5" x 171' white pine
               
               


               
                       
11' x 137' eastern hemlock - small.jpg
                       
11' x 137' eastern hemlock
               
               


               
                       
11'2 x 167.5' x 41' white pine - small.jpg
                       
11'2" x 167.5' x 41' white pine
               
               




               
                       
Approximately 105 rings on 8'5'' white pine 10'6'' above midslope - small.JPG
                       
Approximately 105 rings on 8'5" CBH white pine, 10'6" above midslope
               
               


               
                       
black birch roots - small.jpg
                       
black birch roots
               
               


               
                       
13' CBH white pine snag - small.jpg
                       
13' CBH white pine snag
               
               


Matt

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#2)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby sradivoy » Mon Nov 09, 2015 11:00 pm

The white pine is such a majestic species when it pokes through the surrounding canopy! They're so domineering and dare I say "elitist". It's no wonder that the British monarchy protected these trees to be used solely for the masts of their warships.  I like that robust looking hemlock also. The dense foliage and downward sloping branches of that species is very much to my liking. Often times its overshadowed by the taller white pines, but not for me. There's a certain mystique about that species that I find irresistible. Two very different species that have an entirely different feel about them. Congratulations on your impressive finds!
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#3)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby bbeduhn » Tue Nov 10, 2015 11:04 am

Matt,
Finding more than one 170' at a location is epic! ...and 14 160's?! They appear to have more room to grow. It's definitely a site that needs more attention and future measurements on what you did. The 129' red maple is unusual as well. I've been wanting to get back to those areas. I hiked in there about 12 years ago. The amount of arches in Kentucky is crazy high, rivaling the western states.
Brian
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#4)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby bbeduhn » Tue Nov 10, 2015 11:12 am

Kentucky is added to the list of eastern states with 170 footers.

North Carolina
South Carolina
Georgia
Tennessee
Pennsylvania
Ohio
Massachusetts
Kentucky
Virginia ? I believe 169'+
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#5)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby Matt Markworth » Tue Nov 10, 2015 7:34 pm

sradivoy wrote:The white pine is such a majestic species when it pokes through the surrounding canopy! They're so domineering and dare I say "elitist". It's no wonder that the British monarchy protected these trees to be used solely for the masts of their warships.  I like that robust looking hemlock also. The dense foliage and downward sloping branches of that species is very much to my liking. Often times its overshadowed by the taller white pines, but not for me. There's a certain mystique about that species that I find irresistible. Two very different species that have an entirely different feel about them. Congratulations on your impressive finds!


Well said! It seems they have the height advantage of not being quite so concerned, compared to some other species, of allocating resources to height even when they are clearly above the canopy and in a dominant position.

It's definitely hard to compete with the hemlocks when it comes to how they completely change the overall mood/feeling of the forest.

Here are some more photos of the chunky hemlocks I was privileged to see on my trip:

               
                       
9'9'' hemlock - small.jpg
                       
9'9" CBH eastern hemlock
               
               


               
                       
10'1'' hemlock - small.jpg
                       
10'1" CBH eastern hemlock
               
               


               
                       
10'5'' hemlock - small.jpg
                       
10'5" CBH eastern hemlock
               
               


               
                       
11' hemlock - small.jpg
                       
11' CBH eastern hemlock
               
               


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#6)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby Matt Markworth » Tue Nov 10, 2015 7:56 pm

bbeduhn wrote:Matt,
Finding more than one 170' at a location is epic! ...and 14 160's?! They appear to have more room to grow. It's definitely a site that needs more attention and future measurements on what you did. The 129' red maple is unusual as well. I've been wanting to get back to those areas. I hiked in there about 12 years ago. The amount of arches in Kentucky is crazy high, rivaling the western states.
Brian


Brian,

It's only about 2 hours away for me, so if you're ever there and need a hiking partner then let me know!

I agree they definitely have some room to grow. I can only imagine what the past heights may have been for the 13' CBH white pine snag and this chunky 11'11" CBH white pine with a new top:

               
                       
11'11'' x 154.7' white pine - small.jpg
                       
11'11" x 154.7' white pine
               
               


You're right about the arches. Natural Bridge is a must see (based on my experience for those wanting to go, weekends get crowded!)

Matt

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#7)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby dbhguru » Tue Nov 10, 2015 10:31 pm

Matt,

  Amazing, congratulations, and thanks! You have added a very important sute to the white pine list. And to think that these magnificent trees are just now being accurately measured and put into compartive lists. The southern Appalachians grow amazing great whites.

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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#8)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby sradivoy » Wed Nov 11, 2015 3:44 am

Matt Markworth wrote:
sradivoy wrote:The white pine is such a majestic species when it pokes through the surrounding canopy! They're so domineering and dare I say "elitist". It's no wonder that the British monarchy protected these trees to be used solely for the masts of their warships.  I like that robust looking hemlock also. The dense foliage and downward sloping branches of that species is very much to my liking. Often times its overshadowed by the taller white pines, but not for me. There's a certain mystique about that species that I find irresistible. Two very different species that have an entirely different feel about them. Congratulations on your impressive finds!


Well said! It seems they have the height advantage of not being quite so concerned, compared to some other species, of allocating resources to height even when they are clearly above the canopy and in a dominant position.

It's definitely hard to compete with the hemlocks when it comes to how they completely change the overall mood/feeling of the forest.


Matt


Walking into a hemlock grove is one of the most enchanting and spellbinding experiences that one can possible encounter in the woods. The only other species that is as capable of casting a spell on me the way hemlocks can are the coast redwoods! This is not an exaggeration. Both are transformative in their own way. Being closer to the ground hemlocks are more intimate and more potent. Redwoods, on the other hand, will transport you to a different time that hemlocks can't. The best kept secret about hemlocks is that there are no tourists attached to them. They haven't been commercialized like redwoods. How cool is that?

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#9)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby Matt Markworth » Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:23 pm

dbhguru wrote:Matt,

  Amazing, congratulations, and thanks! You have added a very important sute to the white pine list. And to think that these magnificent trees are just now being accurately measured and put into compartive lists. The southern Appalachians grow amazing great whites.

Bob


Thanks Bob!

I feel very fortunate to live close to some of these great KY sites and for the ability to camp down in Daniel Boone NF. I work in Northern KY, which puts me that much closer if I head south after work. After about 45 minutes I enter into the Inner Bluegrass and enjoy seeing the ancient bur oaks in woodland pastures visible from the road. Heading southeast after Lexington and then after exiting the Inner Bluegrass and the Outer Bluegrass the white pines quickly start making their presence known.

I was particularly fond of this pine and black birch...

               
                       
048 - small.jpg
                                       
               


               
                       
058.jpg
                                       
               


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#10)  Re: Mighty Fine Kentucky Pines

Postby sradivoy » Thu Nov 12, 2015 3:07 am

Interesting how the white pines seem to dominate south of the Ohio river while the tulips dominate north of the Ohio river. Both seem relatively young with a lot of room to grow in both instances, judging by the photos I've seen thus far. Indeed, the Ohio River Valley may very well become the epicenter for both species going forward.
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