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dbhguru
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Back to Mohawk

Post by dbhguru » Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:13 pm

ENTS,

Earlier today I led a group from the Springfield Naturalist Club on a guided tour of the more accessible big tree sections of MTSF. We reached our destinations mostly by trail, a not typical course for me, but trails do serve useful purposes. A big one is to minimize damage to fragile vegetation. Another is to get people to scenic areas without fear of accident. Since the age of the majority of participants equaled my own, today was no time for off trail excursions through boulder fields with tricky footing.

Today's program allowed me to reconnect with old friends - one from over 30 years ago. We stared at each other's thinning gray hair and accumulation of wrinkles. Could we be the same people? After sharing memories, we concluded that we were. Others I hadn't seen for over a decade. It was quite a reunion.

I'd done programs for the Springfield Naturalist Club in the past and I like those folks very much. On my last program, I had taken them to Monroe State Forest. It had made an impact. However, I had never done a program for the Club in Mohawk. Naturally, I wanted the members to take to my forest Mecca, and they did. Mohawk's wealth of beautiful trees began working their magic. They always do. I see people leave in what I've come to call the woodland trance. As evidence of the forest elixir, at the end of the walk, every single member shook my hand - the first time that has happened for so large a group. Were I in the mood to indulge my modest ego, I might think in a self-congratulatory way, but on deeper reflection, I would have to acknowledge that it wasn't me they were thanking - other than to lead them to spots. They certainly weren't applauding my endless spewing out of numbers: tree measurements, the altitudes of surrounding peaks, acreages, dates, climate statistics - you name it. No, it was the trees that wowed them - and in particular, the great whites. The charismatic pines of Mohawk always impress visitors, at least those who are tree savvy and appreciative. Never fails.

At our parting, the members of the club pledged to come to the aid of Mohawk should anything ever threaten that irreplaceable forest icon. In hearing their words, I felt a deep sense of relief, knowing that Mohawk has powerful allies. I hadn't forgotten that the Springfield Naturalist Club came to the aid of Mount Tom State Reservation in the mid-1980s and halted a foolish timber sale then planned by the Department of Environmental Management. Mass Audubon and other mainstream environmental organizations had thrown in the towel, but the Naturalist Club persevered and won.

Back to the present, it was especially good to see Mohawk today after Monica's and my return from Virginia. I needed a reaffirmation. On the Madison Estate, I was constantly cognizant that I was in the domain of the lordly tuliptree--tallest of all native eastern hardwoods and the tree of my youth. In MTSF, I had returned to the kingdom of the great whites, tallest of all native eastern species, including the tulips. That said, in fairness, I should point out that the white pine eclipses the tulip by only a few feet in today's growing environment and there are far more towering tulips than pines. Additionally, in the southern Appalachians, the tulips and white pines often go head to head. However, the battles don't end that way elsewhere. In northern climes, the great whites win hands down. But in the mid-west, the tulips win just as handily. It is nip and tuck - a worthy contest. So is measuring both species. Each has its special challenges that can leave the measurer mumbling in single syllable words of four letters each.

For comparison of the species, today, my memories of Virginia were still fresh. At Montpelier, I struggled to find the tops of towering tulips with the three lasers I used. I was in their world and they were not going to reveal their dimensions without a battle, or at least a test of my will power--I like to think the latter. It was as if Montpelier's tulips were silently whispering, "measure me, Bob Leverett, if you can, but beware, I will not divulge my stature to you readily. I will never allow you to take me for granted. You must work and work hard, for I am lord of my domain. You must be humble in my presence."

In Mohawk, I don't get a similar feeling of resistance when measuring the white pines, although I often must take a lot of time to measure individual trees. I attribute measuring difficulties to the crowded configuration of many pine groves, as opposed to a resistance to being measured. I account for the difference in my perception this way - another flight of imagination, I suppose.

It is no secret that I like to compare and contrast the tulips and great whites. But it isn't a simple comparison of statures, as readers might expect from my frequent postings on tree measuring. Comparisons form along many lines of perception, straightforward and subtle. For instance, in Montpelier, I found the light green foliage of the tulips uplifting to my spirit. The almost iridescent green of tulip leaves imparts a spring-like feeling long after spring has bowed to summer. When the tulips bloom, it is easy to imagine oneself in a tropical setting. But there is more to the effect than leaves and flowers. The light-colored bark of the tulips seems to air out the forest. The tulips lift do our spirits, whether the trees are young or old and whether we are junior or senior. How about the pines?

In Mohawk, the dark green foliage of the lofty pines imparts a slight somber or stern sense to the woodlands, though not always. One does feel oneself in a more northerly clime, though, and that connotes rugged character. In mixed stands of conifers and deciduous trees, the white pines often thrust their crowns through the shorter canopy of hardwoods. In doing that they communicate their great heights and give meaning to the ecological concept of super canopy. In the regions where these two charismatic species dominate, they create energy gestalts that leave their imprints on the surrounding countryside. I am loathe to place one imprint, tulip or white pine, on a higher pedestal than the other. I am thankful for both, but alas, I cannot help perpetually contrasting and comparing, searching for the right words to convey what will always remain elusive. For me, comparison is in the genes, but so is my undying admiration for these two noble species. They are so different and that has made me think about what makes each so powerful. When I am among the tall tulips of my native South, I acknowledge that their energy signature is distinctly their own. No other species leaves the same imprint on its surroundings and the sheer dominance of the tuliptree's size insures that the energy imprint is intense. But, the same can be said of the great whites of the northeastern states. They dominate their surroundings as thoroughly as the tulips. Maybe it is partly my fixation on stature.

Both species tower to dizzying heights. They leave their competitors to gaze longingly upward. In direct dimensional comparisons, the tulips are more massive, but the whites have an oddly reassuring presence that seems to counterbalance what they give up in girth. I think it has to do with their darker, deeply furrowed bark. An then there is the unconscious awareness of the immensely historical role of the great whites in New England. But no sooner have I called the white pine's cards to the table than tulip awareness surges in my frontal lobes. Remember me, I am the tree of your youth. I am the true giant of the forest. In the end, I pronounce the contest a draw. No losers. Only winners.

Thinking in a different direction, I think of the white pines of the north and the tulips of the south as somehow being aware of the other. This probably sounds foolish, a product of a bizarre, overworked imagination, but in a distant, multi-dimensional way, maybe the two species are connected as mutually respectful arboreal relatives, each content to rule in its distinctive domain - one to the north and the other to the south. But, if the climate continues to warm, will the tulips establish a stronger presence in the north? What will happen to the great whites. That's a worry I will gladly put off for another day.

If this contorted comparing and contrasting seems excessive to any of you reading this essay, others would agree. I recall a young woman on a walk who had absorbed all the comparing and contrasting she could handle and timidly explained that she liked all trees, large and small, old and young. I sheepishly acknowledged her point and agreed with her. It was my way of making her feel that she hadn't crossed any boundaries. However, on subsequently thinking more deeply on the subject, I realized that I didn't like all trees the same. To do so would be to deny their individuality. It would be as though I liked all people the same, which I don't. Trees are individuals. Were I to feel compelled to like them all, then I'd have to like those little ornamental pear trees that people plant in their yards after removing perfectly fine native species. It is as though people must leave their territorial marks and force conformity. I have a hard time accepting those little human engineered forms as true trees. So, my acknowledgment to myself is that some trees inspire me. Some don't. I feel no need to apologize for that. All trees are not created equal.

Well, I've rambled enough. Back to Mohawk. I took only one photo today. It was a shot of three of the Council Pines, some of Monica's favorites trees. She has a spot among them where she sits quietly and meditates while I scurry around measuring. It is a special spot for both of us and one today that I felt like sharing with the group. It also afforded me the opportunity to continue my efforts at capturing the different looks of important places and trees. As the seasons change, as the light increases or decreases, as the amount of green waxes or wanes, and forest moods become strikingly different. I want to capture those differences. Today, the pines were seen through brighter light. As a consequence, they looked appreciably different from the last time I saw them. So, I tried to capture today's look. To mercifully end my rambling, I present the single image of the Council Pines in the Pocumtuck Grove.
CouncilGrove.jpg
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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James Parton
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Re: Back to Mohawk

Post by James Parton » Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:30 pm

Bob,

While I generally like all trees, I agree. They are not all created equal. I have my favorites. I feel some have greater value.

Today, I got reminded of that. Will Blozan and I visited a old growth hemlock grove that he treated in Cataloochee Valley. It was sooo nice to see green thriving hemlocks. Though I did not mention it to Will, it was a moving experience. It brought tears to my eyes. Hemlocks are among the most valuable of trees. Too valuable to loose.

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
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New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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edfrank
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Re: Back to Mohawk

Post by edfrank » Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:47 pm

Bob,

Excellent post. When you psot something then delete it, it may still appear in the newsfeeds. I read your post abot 5:30 and was disappointed to see it gone fro the site. I had hoped it was jst for a rewrite. I created a copy of it in teh Leverett's Lounge section as well as here in the MTSF section of the BBS.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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dbhguru
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Re: Back to Mohawk

Post by dbhguru » Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:37 am

Ed,

The delete was unintentional. I didn't mean to. I didn't know that I had. Ah the scourge of old age.

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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dbhguru
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Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Re: Back to Mohawk

Post by dbhguru » Mon Apr 19, 2010 8:29 am

James,

I think most of us feel that way, i.e. we like trees as life forms of beauty and utility. Some of us are loathe to leave out species or even particular trees. I am not quite as reluctant to establish a personal hierarchy. I don't like Ailanthus. I suppose I would prefer it to not having trees at all, but where I often see it is along roads that are strangled with invasive plants, especially vines. I could go on, but I think you know where I'm coming from.

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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gnmcmartin
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Re: Back to Mohawk

Post by gnmcmartin » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:58 am

Bob:

I am as big a fan of white pine as anyone--maybe even you! I need to come to see Mowhawk. And Cook, etc. Tuliptree was my favorite when I was a young boy and for many years after. It is still at the very top of my list, along with white oak, eastern hemlock and white pine. And, of course Norway spruce. But for me white pines have an aura about them that is very, very special

As for the massiveness of white pine. I need to search for a picture I have of some virgin white pine, I think in Wisconsin. I tucked it away "safe" between the pages of a large format book, but I have not been able to find it. If I do I will use MACRO and send it to you all. It was part of an advertisement for the Waussau Insurance Co. many years ago. It showed, if I remember rightly, a horseman between five or so gigantic white pines. Now one might ask, were these really eastern white pines? Well, I have been a lover of this species all my life--even as a young boy when tuliptree was my absolute favorite--and for the life of me the bark on these trees looks like white pine.

I have lots of planted white pines on my timberland and for me they are beautiful. I got out my new measuring equipment last week and my tallest are 95 feet and nicely straight. I have some pruned up to over 40 feet!

Oh, last week when you were at Montpelier, I wanted to come down there and "scare you up." But my wife had another appointment. We are going tomorrow--any advice on where I should go to see the best trees there? Or are they all in one place that I can't miss, so to speak?

--Gaines

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Rand
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Re: Back to Mohawk

Post by Rand » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:24 pm

Ahh...tuliptree..

Click on image to see its original size


10' 5" cbh x 142.59' Located in Blackhand Gorge southeast of Newark Ohio.

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gnmcmartin
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Back to Mohawk

Post by gnmcmartin » Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:34 pm

Rand:

Now that's a beautiful tuliptree--love it! thanks.

--Gaines

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