Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

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#1)  Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:45 pm

Greetings, NTSers!

Yesterday Doug Bidlack, Andrew Joslin, and I met for a day of tree hunting in Northborough. After we each finished our eggs benedict, coffee, and orange juice at Britney’s Cafe, we set sail in my car for Edmund Hill Woods.

We started into the woods from the parking lot in the southeastern corner of the property and walked along the main trail in the direction of the glacial drumlin known as Edmund Hill. There are some good sized oaks, hickories, maples, and white pines in the forest between Rice Avenue and the hill, but our mission was to measure up a large cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) first noticed and measured by Andrew in 2010. We passed several cucumber magnolias on our way to see their king, with each successive tree that we passed being a little bit bigger than the one before. Finally, we were in the presence of a towering, old, leafless magnolia.

               
                       
Edmund Hill Cucumber Magnolia - base + Andrew.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Edmund Hill Cucumber Magnolia - full.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Edmund Hill Cucumber Magnolia - looking up.jpg
                                       
               

First, Doug and I each employed a different method for finding CBH. Doug’s method, relying on divine revelation and/or black magic, produced a slightly different circumference measurement, which I’ll let him explain. I, on the other hand, took the midpoint between 4.5’ above up-slope and 4.5’ above down-slope, resulting in a circumference at breast height measurement of 8.22’. We each placed a tack in the tree where we considered 4.5’ above mid-slope to be and got to work measuring the height. When all was said and done, I had measured the tree at 121’7” and Doug had it at 121’3”. Considering that our placement of breast height differed by 2.75”, we were quite satisfied with having measured to within two inches of one another. We then measured the crown spread twice. Doug brought along reflective driveway markers to set up under the drip line, while I employed the more traditional spoke method. From eleven spoke measurements I calculated an average crown spread of 49.9’, whereas Doug’s “asterisk” method calculated an average crown spread of 45.7’.

After basking in the glory of this amazing angiosperm, we turned our focus to a nearby white pine that Andrew and Doug had last measured in 2010 at 125.2’ by Doug and 126’ by Andrew. In the seven intervening years this pine tree has put on about seven vertical feet, clocking in at 132’3” with a CBH of 9.55’. Here are a few pictures of Edmund Hill’s first recognized 130’ white pine:

               
                       
Edmund Hill 132 white pine - base + Andrew and Doug.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Edmund Hill 132 white pine - full.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Edmund Hill 132 white pine - top.jpg
                                       
               

Having accomplished what we had set out to do, we then made our way back to my car so that I could show the guys the two other 130’+ white pine sites that I’ve found in Northborough. We first went to the Yellick conservation area, which follows Stirrup Brook as it flows into the Assabet River. Here I showed Doug and Andrew some of the tall trees that I’ve measured, which you can see in the photos below.

               
                       
133.8 white pine - full.jpg
                       
8.73' CBH x 133'9" white pine
               
               

               
                       
112.5 bigtooth aspen - looking up.jpg
                       
4.45' CBH x 112'6" bigtooth aspen
               
               

               
                       
4.87 x 133 white pine - full.jpg
                       
4.87' CBH x 133' white pine. Ratio of height to diameter is off the charts!
               
               

               
                       
4.87 x 133 white pine - base.jpg
                       
4.87' CBH x 133' white pine, again. :)
               
               


To finish the day, we hopped across Route 20 to another piece of conservation land that flanks the town’s high school. This is where I measured the tallest white pine that I’ve found in Northborough (so far) at 9.49’ CBH x 136.5’. Here she is:

               
                       
136.5 white pine - full.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
136.5 white pine - looking up.jpg
                                       
               

Jared
Last edited by a_blooming_botanist on Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#2)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby AndrewJoslin » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:48 am

Thx for all your hard work finding these great trees! The 136.5 white pine is such a fine tree, as healthy and beautiful as it is tall.
-AJ

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#3)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby Erik Danielsen » Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:46 am

Beautiful. Does Cucumber Magnolia have some kind of a disjunct native presence there that just doesn't show on most range maps, or would these have come to the area anthropogenically and naturalized?
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#4)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby AndrewJoslin » Tue Apr 04, 2017 11:02 am

Erik Danielsen wrote:Beautiful. Does Cucumber Magnolia have some kind of a disjunct native presence there that just doesn't show on most range maps, or would these have come to the area anthropogenically and naturalized?


Under debate! When I first located this tree in 2010 I found a range map showing a thin sliver of Magnolia acuminata range extending north into this very section of eastern Worcester County. I have not been able to relocate that range map. Available range maps are all over the place and many not very detailed. For example the maps that show it native to Massachusetts simply show the entire state as containing the species. I've found historical records of the species in various parts of Massachusetts, some woods locations going back to 1909 (Barre and Ashfield MA). Cucumber Magnolia was a popular landscape tree in the mid to late 19th century in Massachusetts, Arnold Arboretum in Boston and the Olmstead House in Brookline have old open grown specimens so there were plenty of opportunities for seed to be moved around by birds and other wildlife into woods locations. This particular tree is woods grown and I can't imagine anyone going into the woods and planting the tree.

To add to the variables the site has very interesting geologic history, happens to be on the edge of a large drumlin at the edge of the ancient "Lake Assabet" formed when the Laurentide Ice Sheet started to retreat 20,000 years ago. So there is an interesting mix of glacial springs, sand/gravel, and fertile sediment from the massive lake at the location where the magnolia is thriving on the edge of a red maple swamp. The white pines surrounding the magnolia are doing very well with some 120's and probably another plus 130, a little more measuring to be done there.
-AJ

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#5)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby RayA » Tue Apr 04, 2017 11:48 am

Do you think knowing the age of the magnolia might help in deciding ?
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#6)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby AndrewJoslin » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:01 pm

RayA wrote:Do you think knowing the age of the magnolia might help in deciding ?

Probably not, it is a fast grower, growth rates likely close to the surrounding white pines. It may be only be 80-90 years old which is well after it's introduction as a landscape tree. All guesses, we know it's very difficult to estimate ages of trees without more info. With this species being so rare in Massachusetts woods, not much chance to count rings on a fallen M. acuminata of equal size.

There is a large white pine that was felled nearby (dead tree by a trail felled by Northborough Trails Committe), I could count the rings on that tree and guesstimate that the magnolia is no older.
-AJ
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#7)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby Erik Danielsen » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:06 pm

Andrew,

I've had similar discussions (maybe incorporating the same source you've been unable to relocate!) regarding its native range in NY state, and whether or not it would have had any native presence in the hudson valley and down towards NYC. The age question as Ray raises is a difficult one to use as an indicator here, seeing as a tree would have to be shown to be nearly 400 years old to be truly pre-settlement and it seems as though it would have been an attractively "exotic" species to spread for estates even prior to the 19th century. One could have a 200-year-old forest grown tree dispersed by a bird from a parent specimen tree on the estate of some wealthy landowner. Certainly it seems to have been familiar to the surveyors tasked by the Holland Land Company to describe the forests of Western NY state when they got there in the late 18th century.
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#8)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby dbhguru » Tue Apr 04, 2017 2:18 pm

Andrew, Erik,Jared, et. al.

 In his 1846 book of Trees and Shrubs of Massachusetts, George Emerson quotes Dr. Torrey of its presence in NY, and allows for the possibility of it having a scattered presence in western MA. Emerson observes that the species grows very well in the Arnold Arboretum.

  We don't see it in western MA. So, my guess is that specimens found in a natural state in eastern MA are the result of natural reseeding from planted trees. Just my two cents worth.

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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#9)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby Larry Tucei » Tue Apr 04, 2017 5:22 pm

Very nice Magnolia and White Pines.   The Big Tooth Aspen is quite taller than ones I've seen in Wisconsin. Nice photos of a good productive day in the Forest.   :) Larry

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#10)  Re: Northborough: Edmund Hill Woods and more

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:29 pm

I want to make it clear that my initial comment on Doug’s methods wasn’t meant disparagingly; Doug is one of the most competent tree measurers I know.

He and I have discussed the methods that we use in measuring trees and he has planted a healthy seed of doubt in my mind regarding some of our techniques. For instance, in measuring crown spread there seems to be an almost innate bias toward measuring the longest limbs. If, however, our average crown spread measurement is to be a true average it must include both the longest and the shortest limb extensions. There are many apt analogies to use; Doug first described this to me using the example of temperature. Within a given period of time, let’s say a year, temperatures will fluctuate. There will be daily highs, lows, and average temperatures over the course of the year. If one were to ask the question “what was the average temperature over the course of this one year?” then it would be appropriate to calculate the average of all the daily averages. The way many people, including myself, tend to measure crown spread is comparable to calculating the average of daily high temperatures and reporting that as the yearly average. It seems that a conscious effort must be made to measure the tree in a way that does not favor the longest branches at the expense of including the short ones.

There is also the matter of the placement of mid-slope, which theoretically represents where the seed sprouted. I wonder, if angiosperms and gymnosperms exhibit different responses to gravity in their compression wood, is it fair to assume that the seed always sprouted exactly halfway between down-slope and up-slope? Wouldn’t an angiosperm growing on a slope have a central pith slightly downhill from center, and a gymnosperm slightly uphill?

Jared

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