Giants of Monroe State Forest

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a_blooming_botanist
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Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by a_blooming_botanist » Tue Feb 05, 2019 8:01 pm

NTS,

Over the last several months I’ve trekked out to Monroe State Forest both with Ray Asselin and by myself to take in the beauty of the landscape and to visit, photograph, and measure some of the colossal trees. In the portion of the forest where I have focused my efforts some two hundred acres have been identified as old growth, with mature trees ranging from 150 to 300 years old. Dominant canopy tree species include sugar maple, yellow birch, white ash, and American beech, with some eastern hemlock, white pine, and red spruce mostly in the lower elevations near Dunbar Brook. American basswood, paper birch, bigtooth aspen, and black birch can also be seen, but I believe that most representatives of these species are located in parts that would not qualify as bona fide old growth.

This first installment in a series dedicated to the outstanding trees of Monroe SF will focus on my recent measurements of one of the largest eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) that we know of in Massachusetts. Bob Leverett has given this tree the name the Grandfather Pine, which is fitting for an individual of such size and age. At around 200 years old, the Grandfather grows in a portion of the forest where white pines are uncommon, with the notable exception of two other nearby pines, the Thoreau Pine and the Sigurd Olson Pine. Below you’ll see some photos of the subject of this post.
Grandfather - full uphill_L.jpg
Grandfather - base_L.jpg
Grandfather - looking up_L.jpg
Grandfather - full side_L.jpg
Using my two trusty instruments, an LTI TruPulse 200X laser rangefinder (Spiffy) and a Vortex Solo 8x36 monocular with reticle (Ragamuffin), I carefully measured the diameter of Grandfather’s trunk from breast height up to the highest position along the trunk that I could see. To avoid assuming that the trunk’s cross section is perfectly circular I collected two sets of measurements, one taken from an uphill location and another from about 130 feet away at the same elevation as the base of the tree. With these reticle-based measurements dividing the tree into sections (frustums), which ranged in height from approximately 16 to 45 feet, I modeled the trunk above breast height as a series of paraboloid conical frustums topped by a cone. To calculate the volume of the trunk below breast height I used a combination of direct measurements with a forestry tape measure and reticle-based measurements to find the volume of the basal wedge (a conical frustum with slanted base) and the conical frustum from the upslope level up to 4.5 feet.

Without further ado, I present the Grandfather’s most current statistics:

CBH: 14.52’ (174.24”)
Height: 147.6’ (147’7”)
Average crown spread: 50.9’
American Forests Big Tree Points: 334
Height above midslope of lowest live limb: 47’
Calculated trunk volume from uphill measurements: 1,097.19 ft3
Calculated volume from same elevation: 1,092.77 ft3
Average of two calculated volumes: 1,094.98 ft3
Trunk form factor: 0.442

I hope to collect measurements of some of the other grand trees in this forest and to share my findings with you all, the next on my list being the Thoreau Pine. You can see him looming in the background behind Grandfather in the photo below.
Grandfather and Thoreau_L.jpg
Jared
Last edited by a_blooming_botanist on Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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dbhguru
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by dbhguru » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:20 am

Jared,

You do us proud! I think we can now ay with much greater certainty what the minimum volume of Grandfather is. As a future modeling exercise, maybe we can sneak a reticle measurement or two in the upper conical section and see if the calculated diameters would fit the conical assumption. I have no reason to think they wouldn't, but a worthy final crack refining Grandfather's stats would dot the final 'I' and cross the final 't'.

Ents,

Jared, Erik, Elijah, John Eichholz, Joshua, and yours truly form the current obsessed cadre of
Mad Reticlers of the Northeast
. We wear our title with distinction.

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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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:49 pm

This is really some quality work. Thanks for sharing the details of your process, and the photos showing the tree in proportion (along with the data) really allow the viewer to contemplate the relationship between the tree's basic stats and its slow-tapering form and how these relate to its full physical volume. Looking forward to this thread's future posts!

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JHarkness
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by JHarkness » Wed Feb 06, 2019 1:00 pm

Jared,

Really great and informative post. And what a big, beautiful tree. Thank you for taking the time to take such detailed measurements and photographs of this tree, I don't believe I have seen any one photo showing the tree's entire form before. Oh, and that snag in the foreground of the first image is also impressive! Any idea of what species it was?

Despite this tree's slow taper and overall massive form, it honestly bears more resemblance to a younger (though still quite old) tree to me, the bark and the relatively intact crown make up part of that, but I find the many dead lower branches more indicative. Do you have any idea of why these lower limbs were retained so long, did the tree have less competition for much of its life or was there another factor in this?

I'm looking forward to more posts from Monroe,

Joshua Harkness
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by Bart Bouricius » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:44 am

It is great to see the trees in this general area one by one exceeding the 170' height, and most important to get good volume measurements to better understand and document the growth patterns of the rare old growth giants over time. It is also critical to get a broad ecological, rather than narrow economic perspective on such trees. Thanks for the good work.

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dbhguru
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by dbhguru » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:52 am

Bart,

The role of big trees in the carbon sequestration debates could heat up even more in the near future. NTS is well positioned to play a role. In the coming months we’ll be doubling down here in Massachusetts.

Our past site-based RHI analysis has given many of us a fine-tuned sense of how our forests are regenerating on good sites. I am less confident in what we know about slow growth and the averages. For example, at 50 years, I think white pines vary in trunk volume from about 20 to 150 cubes. That’s a 7.5 to one ratio! This is at the single tree scale. What about the stand and landscape levels? We have a long way to go and we need to find ways to partner with forest managers if we want our input to be accepted and play a role. Given the short-term outlook of most forest managers, I don’t know how we make progress. Thoughts?

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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a_blooming_botanist
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by a_blooming_botanist » Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:43 pm

Thanks for the positive reviews, everyone! There are so many great trees in Monroe SF, and so much of the forest that I haven’t seen yet! I just wish I didn’t live two hours away from this place. I will return there as frequently as I can and report back to you all.

Bob,

Yes, my calculations establish a minimum volume of Grandfather’s trunk. As you and I have discussed before, the method that I (and I think most other mad reticlers) employ treats each frustum as a perfectly vertical section of the trunk. Any deviation from 90 degrees means that not all of a trunk’s length is in the vertical plane, which our current method doesn’t account for. To solve this problem we could take additional measurements with the reticle and rangefinder to know the exact length of a frustum, but this would make the process much more time-consuming. In some cases the lean of a tree may be so significant that it would be worth the time to take those extra measurements.

And yes, some additional measurements of Grandfather’s top would help to refine our determination of his volume. It’s on my to do list.

I think we’re going to need some official team apparel for you, Erik, Elijah, Joshua, John, me, and anyone else crazy enough to join us in our tree measuring frenzy. Here’s something that might look nice on a t-shirt or sweatshirt:
Mad Reticlers of the Northeast.png
Erik,

Thanks for your praise. Half of the fun for me is in taking nice photographs that help to convey the size and form of the tree of interest. A person standing next to the tree is always helpful, but I rarely think to take such a photo. I’m just so focused on the dang tree!

Joshua,

Thank you! You know, I’ve not yet taken a close look at that snag. I’m inclined to say that it’s a hardwood species based on the branching structure, perhaps white ash. I will check it out next time I’m there.

Your comments on the bark’s appearance and the history of competition for light as it relates to the branches have got me thinking. The bark at the base of the tree is some of the oldest looking that I have seen. Those thick ridges oriented in a sort of zig-zag pattern indicate substantial age to me. In the picture showing the bottom of the tree you can see the stub of a low limb that would have developed early in Grandfather’s life. Given the size of that stub and the number of similarly large dead branch stubs up the trunk I hypothesize that the tree sprouted following some form of disturbance that would have provided enough light to allow white pines (like Grandfather, Thoreau, Olson, and others) to successfully colonize this area. I imagine that there was enough space and light around Grandfather in his early days to allow his lower limbs to be retained and to thicken as he continued to grow skyward. And I agree that the crown of the tree doesn’t look as weather-beaten as you might expect for an old pine, with the exception of the very top that looks like it was bent or regrew following a natural pruning event.

Jared

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dbhguru
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by dbhguru » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:25 pm

Jared,

Gotta have a T-shirt with that logo.

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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AndrewJoslin
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by AndrewJoslin » Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:36 pm

This is a top to bottom detailed view of the Grandfather Pine, from 2009 for reference:


Click on image to see its original size

This is a fairly high resolution image, you can download it here if you want to study the tree's form in more detail:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/naturejou ... 6/sizes/o/

Great work as always Jared!
-AJ

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Giants of Monroe State Forest

Post by Erik Danielsen » Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:43 pm

Andrew, was this photo taken from up in the crown of the Thoreau pine? Quite a perspective.

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