Belle Isle, Michigan

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DougBidlack
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Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by DougBidlack » Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:52 pm

NTS,

last weekend I visited Belle Isle to measure the Michigan AF champion pumpkin ash and Shumard oak. Belle Isle is a 985 acre island in the Detroit River that is within the Maumee Lakeplain. It is a flat landscape with silty clay soils that is wet in late winter/early spring and dries out in summer. The remaining forest on the island is classified as a wet-mesic flatwoods and it is unusual due to the number of rare tree/large shrub species that are common on the island but are rare in Michigan.

Pumpkin ash was first found in Michigan in 1992 by researchers from Ohio trying to determine the true range of the species within that state. The range map below consists of data from "Michigan Flora Online" by Reznicek, Voss and Walters as well as from the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. The red counties were the known distribution in Michigan in 1996 when the third part of "Michigan Flora" was published as a book by Voss. The numbers within counties refers to the number of times the species occurs within that county according to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
Pumpkin Ash.001.jpg
Shumard oak was not even positively identified in Michigan until after 1985 when the second part of "Michigan Flora" was published.
Shumard Oak.001.jpg
Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpurea) is a rare shrub for Michigan that can reach tree size (15' or more).
Wahoo.001.jpg
Shellbark hickory is rare for Michigan but apparently not rare enough for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory to track. Red indicates 1985 or earlier and corresponds to when the second part of "Michigan Flora" was published.
Shellbark Hickory.001.jpg
Rough-leaved dogwood, also known as Drummond's dogwood, is rare in Michigan but also apparently not rare enough to be tracked by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. This species is still only known from the four southeastern-most counties in the state.
Rough-leaved Dogwood.001.jpg
So these are the five rare trees that I'm aware of on the island. The forest is dominated by oaks. The common red oaks are Shumard oak, pin oak and northern red oak and the common white oaks are bur oak and swamp white oak. Chinkapin oak is also supposed to be on the island but I didn't notice it. Other common tree species include pumpkin ash, green ash, silver maple (?) and American elm. I put a question mark after the silver maple because I wonder if they aren't mostly Freeman maples. More on that later. The most common small tree is downy hawthorn although hornbeam and hophornbeam are also reasonably common. The most common shrub appears to be spicebush and actually the Michigan AF champion spicebush is also supposed to be on the island but I didn't have good location data or enough time to try and find it. Unfortunately, virtually all of the ashes are dead due to EAB and I very much feared that the champ would be dead as well.

The pumpkin ash was the first champ that I found. Luckily it still seems to be alive. On closer inspection, however, I think that luck may have nothing to do with it. I found a little hole near the base of the tree with a yellow, plastic insert. It looks kinda like a place that you'd hook up an IV to an ailing human, so I'm guessing that this tree is being treated to keep it alive. The tree was last measured in 2001 by Woody Ehrle and the dimensions were 85" (7.08') in girth, 135' in height and 50' in average crown spread for 232.5pts. I got 7.34' (88.1") in girth, 84.3' in height and 32.6' in average crown spread for 180.5pts. Just slightly shorter! I think I might have missed the highest sprig because when I shot straight up I got 87' and I didn't finish my calculations 'til later because I thought I got the highest point. I'll have to return again. It does look like this tree has lost a fair amount of limbs recently but this obviously does not explain the height and average crown spread disparity. The max spread that I found was 36' 7".

Here is a picture of of the champion pumpkin ash.
Belle Isle 1.jpg
A close-up of the bark.
Belle Isle 3.jpg
Looking up.
Belle Isle 4.jpg
The second tree that I wanted to measure was the Shumard oak. Back in 2001 this tree was measured at 150" (12.5') in girth, 128' in height and 70' in average crown spread for 295.5pts. I got 14.46' (173.5") in girth, 102.7' in height and 75.4' in average crown spread for 295.1pts. Again a big height differential but this tree has been growing extremely well...nearly 2' of girth growth in 10 1/2 years. Not too shabby! Also, and this is a first for me, I actually measured a greater average crown spread than the original measurers...wow! The max crown spread that I found was 83'. I feel fairly confident about the height since I got 102' by shooting straight up.

Here is a picture of the champion Shumard oak.
Belle Isle 5.jpg
A close-up of the bark.
Belle Isle 6.jpg
Looking up.
Belle Isle 7.jpg
Another view looking up.
Belle Isle 8.jpg
Leaves from around the champion Shumard oak.
Belle Isle 9.jpg
I measured the girth of one other Shumard oak to 13.36'. I think there are a number of decent-sized oaks that are just waiting to be measured.

As I mentioned earlier I'm not sure if the maples in the park are actually silver maples. I didn't notice any with multiple stems and the leaves looked a bit different. I'm hoping that other NTS can help out here.

Here is a picture of some leaves that I gathered on the forest floor.
Belle Isle 10.jpg
A picture of the bark of a fat maple. I measured the girth to 14.17'.
Belle Isle 11.jpg
Same tree looking up.
Belle Isle 12.jpg
Do these look like silver maple or Freeman maple?

Doug

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Will Blozan
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by Will Blozan » Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:44 pm

Doug,

Excellent report! As is typical with MI champion tree heights you have found some more for the "record" books. I am not sure what kind of instruments they use (if at all) but that state is host to some of the most aggregious errors ever documented by ENTS. Elwood Ehrle and I have had some heated exchanges over the years since the mid 1990's about the heights reported by him and the late Paul Thompson. No progress seems to have been made.

I am glad they are treating the ash- even if not a true champion. The maple does look like freemanii.

Will

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Steve Galehouse
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by Steve Galehouse » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:08 pm

Doug-

I agree with Will in that the maple looks like a Freeman. Pumpkin ash has also been confirmed in Summit County(Akron), Ohio, by a biologist with the Metropark system, so its apparent range has increased. I've not seen or measured any but I hope to in March.

Steve
every plant is native somewhere

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Rand
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by Rand » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:38 pm

Oh dear. I remember being at a forestry camp where some guy was claiming they had silver maples that had leaves that were shaped like red maples. Looks like he was describing freeman maple.

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Will Blozan
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by Will Blozan » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:42 pm

Rand,

My first introduction to Freeman maple was met with the thought along the lines of, "Damn, what a perfect blend of two species espressed in a package that preserves the essence of both!"

Will

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Rand
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by Rand » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:01 pm

Will Blozan wrote:Rand,

My first introduction to Freeman maple was met with the thought along the lines of, "Damn, what a perfect blend of two species espressed in a package that preserves the essence of both!"

Will
I remember back when I was trying to teach myself tree ID as a kid in NW Ohio and being utterly baffled what constituted a silver maple vs. a red maple. I think I need to go back to my old stomping grounds and see how many freeman maples I can find.
Last edited by Rand on Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Steve Galehouse
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by Steve Galehouse » Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:09 pm

Rand-

The best way to determine Freeman maple from red maple and silver maple is to taste the seed within the samara. Red maple tastes like almond, silver like hazelnut, Freeman like Midori liquer. Trust me, it works.

Steve
every plant is native somewhere

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Neil
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by Neil » Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:30 am

Steve Galehouse wrote:Rand-

The best way to determine Freeman maple from red maple and silver maple is to taste the seed within the samara. Red maple tastes like almond, silver like hazelnut, Freeman like Midori liquer. Trust me, it works.

Steve
that is awesome, Steve - thanks!

neil

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DougBidlack
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by DougBidlack » Sun Jan 15, 2012 2:07 pm

Will and Steve,

it's good to get confirmation from you guys that the maples are likely Freeman maples.


Will,

I knew the heights were way off even before I first visited the island on a measuring trip in February of 2008. I was with a friend looking for the champs but we didn't have exact locality data and we were looking in the wrong place. Some measurements that I made from that trip shooting straight up.
Pin Oak 127" (10.6') x 91.5'
Swamp White Oak 137" (11.4') x 94.5'
Shumard oak 114" (9.5') x 90'
Shumard oak 109" (9.1') x 102'
Based on these two trips I think it is unlikely that any trees are over 110' in height. The island is just too exposed as the Detroit River is nearly two miles wide at this point. I suspect that some of the pumpkin ash on the island were over 90' at one time, but now they are nearly all dead. The current champion pumpkin ash, despite the much more modest dimensions, may still be the largest on the island in terms of AF points. I'm sure taller ones exist, or once existed, in more sheltered areas of Michigan. Unfortunately we may never know.

Here is a picture of the taller Shumard oak from the February, 2008 trip. It shows the habitat a little better than some of my other shots. The Shumard oak is on slightly higher ground while the lower, flooded area in the background consists mostly of pin oaks I think...at least I remember many flooded areas that were pure or nearly pure stands of pin oaks ("pin oak flats").
Belle Isle.jpg

Steve,

I'm looking forward to hearing about how big pumpkin ash get in your area. Didn't you once mention that you thought you might also have some Shumard oaks near you too?

The seed tasting trick sounds cool. Only one problem for me...I don't know what Midori liqueur tastes like.

Doug

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DougBidlack
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Re: Belle Isle, Michigan

Post by DougBidlack » Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:17 pm

NTS,

in late February of 2018 I went back to Belle Isle to remeasure some of the trees that I measured in January of 2012 as well as to make new measurements of trees that I never measured before. I'll start with the State Champion pumpkin ash just as I did in 2012.
January 2012 measurement: 7.33' (87.96") x 84.3' x 33' = 180.5 points
February 2018 measurement: 7.45' (89.40') x 85.5' x 33' = 183.15 points (crown spread was not remeasured and height was measured with Nikon 440 straight up as shrubbery was so dense that I couldn't get good shot at base of tree.)

The next tree I remeasured was the State Champion Shumard oak.
January 2012 measurement: 14.50' (174.00") x 102.7' x 75' = 295.45 points
February 2018 measurement: 14.79' (177.48") x 105' 1" x 75.33' = 301.4 points (crown spread was remeasured on this tree and height was measured with the TruPulse 200X)

In 2012 I measured the girth of a tree that I thought was probably a Freeman maple rather than a silver maple.
January 2012 measurement: 14.17' (170.04") x ?
February 2018 measurement: 14.64' (175.68") x 102' (height measured by shooting straight up with the Nikon 440)
I wanted to revisit the identity of this tree by looking at the leaves again and I'd like to ask for input from others. Do these leaves look like they belong to silver maple or Freeman maple?
Belle7.jpg
One of the reasons that I wanted to go over this again is that the trees that I've been calling silver maples in the Lower Huron Metroparks look awfully similar to these ones. Here is a picture of some leaves collected from the base of the tallest silver maple/Freeman maple from that area.
Belle7.5.jpg
Try to ignore the black maple leaves in the above image. The leaves seem even more red maple-like than those from the Belle Isle picture...don't they?

Now to some new tree measurements. Downy hawthorn are quite common here and there appear to be many tall ones. The tallest one in a quick search measured:
3.22' (38.64") x 46' 4"
Below are a couple pictures.
Belle8.jpg
Belle9.jpg
It seems very likely to me that this species will eventually break 50' in height in Michigan as well as in other states.

I next set out to find the tallest pin oak I could find. Previously I had only come up with trees in the low 90's but I was sure that there were taller ones. In searching for tall pin oaks I ran across a hophornbeam that measured 2.99' (35.88") x 73.5' but it was dead because it was girdled right at 4.5'. Apparently oak wilt was a problem on this island and it is particularly deadly to red oaks. In an effort to stop the spread of this disease many trees were killed and/or removed and this hophornbeam was one of the casualties. It is the tallest hophornbeam that I've reported for Michigan so far but I know of at least one taller one that I've not posted about yet. The first fairly tall pin oak that I encountered was 9.94' (119.28") x 106.5' and after a little more searching I would find the tallest one yet for the Island. This pin oak measured 9.34' (112.08") x 109.5' which matches the tallest that I found in Lower Huron Metropark. Here are three pictures of the taller of the two pin oaks.
Belle10.jpg
Belle11.jpg
Belle12.jpg
The tallest pin oak that I'd measured in previous years was 10.58' (126.96") x 91.5' and it was one of the pin oaks that was cut down and removed.

Trees measured (instrument used to measure height and methodology):
Pin Oak 9.34' (112.08") x 109.5' (Nikon 440 straight up)
Pin Oak 9.94' (119.28") x 106.5' (Nikon 440 straight up)
Shumard Oak 14.79' (177.48") x 105' 1" x 75.33' = 301.4 points (TruPulse 200X sin)
Freeman Maple 14.64' (175.68") x 102' (Nikon 440 straight up)
Pumpkin Ash 7.45' (89.40") x 85.5' x 33' = 183.15 points (Nikon 440 straight up)
Hophornbeam 2.99' (35.88") x 73.5' (Nikon 440 straight up)
Downy Hawthorn 3.22' (38.64") x 46' 4" (TruPulse 200X sin)

Doug

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