Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

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a_blooming_botanist
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Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Post by a_blooming_botanist » Thu Jul 09, 2020 12:14 pm

NTS,

On Tuesday Ray Asselin and I ventured across our home state’s southern border to visit what was once considered New England’s flagship old growth white pine and hemlock stand. The Cathedral Pines are nestled in the southern Berkshire mountains of northwestern Connecticut, just outside of the town of Cornwall. Prior to the 1989 tornado that leveled most of the large canopy trees there was at least one white pine that exceeded 170’ in height. Our mission on this visit was to observe the condition of the forest some 30 years after the catastrophic disturbance and to seek out the tallest survivor trees.

As a consequence of the Nature Conservancy’s decision not to allow salvage logging on the 42-acre property, the forest has retained its natural character and is three decades into the process of restoring the canopy and returning the fallen trees’ nutrients to the soil. In addition to the trunk-snapping winds of the tornado, the eastern hemlocks are visibly suffering from the wooly adelgid, with numerous wooden skeletons scattered throughout the property. Neither periodic natural disturbance nor introduced insect have entirely erased the former glory of this site; many beautiful old pines and hemlocks still stand for another revolution around the sun. Of the five white pines that I carefully measured all were taller than 140’, and one even topped 150! Ray can take credit for directing my attention to the largest pine by trunk volume: 12.5’ x 147.7’ with an estimated trunk volume of 786 cubic feet! The mature hemlocks that are still alive range from 100-120 feet tall, with one exceptional individual reaching 134.5’, which as far as I can tell is the CT height champion Tsuga!

In addition to the conifers there are many fine hardwoods, including northern red oak, chestnut oak, black and yellow birch, white ash, and red and sugar maple. I hope to return when the leaves have fallen so that I can more easily measure and photograph the great trees that grace this property, so stay tuned for another trip report! Hopefully by that time we will have resolved the photo uploading issues on this BBS.

Pinus strobus
10.3’ CBH x 144.4’
12.04’ CBH x 144.7’
10.05’ CBH x 145.3’
12.5’ CBH x 147.7’
9.33’ CBH x 151’

Tsuga canadensis
8.59’ CBH x 109.3’
9.7’ CBH x 134.5’

Jared

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a_blooming_botanist
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Re: Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Post by a_blooming_botanist » Thu Jul 09, 2020 7:55 pm

I think the files that I was attempting to upload were too large, so here's a go with slightly smaller ones. I believe the maximum file size is 2 MB, FYI.
Looking up the trunk of the Connecticut height champ hemlock.
Looking up the trunk of the Connecticut height champ hemlock.
The trunk in the center belongs to the 151-footer.
The trunk in the center belongs to the 151-footer.
The red arrow shows where my tape is wrapped (4.5') on the pine in the background.
The red arrow shows where my tape is wrapped (4.5') on the pine in the background.
12.04 x 144.7 white pine.jpeg
Brother Ray next to the big pine.
Brother Ray next to the big pine.
A nice (unmeasured) old chestnut oak.
A nice (unmeasured) old chestnut oak.
Unmeasured pines and hemlocks, with black birch regeneration.
Unmeasured pines and hemlocks, with black birch regeneration.
Ray leaning on a fallen hemlock giant.
Ray leaning on a fallen hemlock giant.
This is what a tornado will do to your favorite trees.
This is what a tornado will do to your favorite trees.
Jared

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dbhguru
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Re: Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Post by dbhguru » Fri Jul 10, 2020 7:46 am

Jared,

We are indebted to you and Ray for bringing the Cathedral Pines back up on our tall tree radar. This once New England flagship stand was a favorite haunt of mine and of my son Rob. JACK SOBON measured a pine there in the 1980s to 172 feet using his transit. There were a number over 160 according to Jack, and 150s were common. Now that 30 years have passed, the Cathedral Pines are back.

Below is a formula that will allow you to compute total above ground volume.
WPVolFormula.png
The trunk volume Jared gave can be increased using the above formula to include limbs. The amount goes up to 905.3 ft^3 where D and H are in feet. The formula will suffice for forest-grown white pines.

I hope to join you and Ray on a trip to the Cathedral Pines in the fall. We really need to bring attention to this great place. BTW, how did the pines look? Crowns okay, or thin?

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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ElijahW
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Re: Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Post by ElijahW » Sat Jul 11, 2020 6:08 pm

Jared,

I’m glad that you and Ray made this trip. I’ve always wondered what the Cathedral Pines looked like following the big blowdown. It seems to still have many impressive trees. I especially like the photo of the old Chestnut Oak. Thanks for sharing with us,

Elijah

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RayA
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Re: Cathedral Pines photos wanted

Post by RayA » Sat Jul 11, 2020 7:49 pm

We’re planning to make a short film about Connecticut’s Cathedral Pines. If anyone has photos of that forest taken prior to and/or immediately after the 1989 blowdown, I’d appreciate receiving a copy to be used in the film. Contributors will be listed in the film’s credits.

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a_blooming_botanist
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Re: Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Post by a_blooming_botanist » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:49 pm

Bob,

It would be great to get back here with you in the fall! Maybe there are other southern New England tree folk that would like to join us.

Regarding tree health — from what I saw the white pines don’t appear to show thinning foliage, but I wasn’t looking closely. There are at least a handful of pines that have decently healthy crowns. The hemlocks are another story. It’ll be great to get back here with you to more closely examine the trees.

Elijah,

Thanks! I’ve been meaning to visit some of the other iconic New England sites, and the Cathedral Pines did not disappoint!

I will surely share more following future expeditions!

Jared

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JHarkness
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Re: Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Post by JHarkness » Mon Jul 13, 2020 10:14 pm

Jared,

I'm glad to see this site finally given the attention it deserves from someone with the time and energy to do so. I've long wanted to measure some of the trees here, living only ten miles away, but I've never gotten to around to measuring any of them. You've confirmed my suspicions that there are still some impressive trees here. Hemlocks are my favorite trees, so it is wonderful to know that such massive trees are so close to here. I imagine that there must be others, but most of the old hemlock forests in this area are privately owned, largely by hunting clubs - at least they aren't turning into houses. From an ecological perspective, I have thought of the blowdown here as being quite positive for the forest, as it has increased the diversity and structural complexity of the forest; some parts of the forest really look like old growth to me now. Isn't this the defining characteristic of wild nature, that it is always changing?

You indicate that HWA is prevalent in the forest, did you check the foliage of any of the hemlocks? I'm surprised that this is the case as HWA is actually quite rare in the area (though I haven't been into Cathedral Pines in a few years); other than a few sites where it has maintained a presence, it seems to die off every few years here, slowly recover, then die off again. Presently two of my hemlocks have it, but I expect that it will be gone in a couple of years again, just as it has done on these trees every few years for the last decade and a half without causing any noticeable harm to the trees. By far, elongate hemlock scale, deer overpopulation and competition in overcrowded second growth forests are the leading causes of hemlock decline in the area - I can't even find HWA on most of the hemlocks near me, though it has been present in the area for close to twenty years.. When HWA and EHS arrived at the Sharon Audubon (a couple miles west of Cathedral Pines), it caused the "thinning" of the second-growth hemlock forests, and the result has been an improvement in the vigor of the remaining trees and new hemlock regeneration, though it is poor because of the deer issue (essentially it sped up the maturation and development of the forest). By the way, if you're looking for big hemlocks and hardwoods, the Sharon Audubon has a number of them, particularly some very impressive sugar maples, black cherry and bigtooth aspen, plus a few impressive but not exceptional white pines and tuliptrees.

Joshua

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a_blooming_botanist
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Re: Cathedral Pines, Cornwall

Post by a_blooming_botanist » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:22 pm

Joshua,

You’re very fortunate to have such a treasure so close to home! I have a feeling there are many more great trees in there that I haven’t measured or photographed!

What you say about the dynamic nature of forests is very true. It’s easy to forget that old growth forests are not static places that are locked in time. Disturbances like the ’89 event remind us of that.

I did note the presence of HWA on some hemlock foliage, but the infestation didn’t appear so severe on the branch that I examined. I didn’t think to check for EHS. I just assumed that the dead and dying hemlocks were a result of HWA, but you’re better in touch with the situation in NW CT.

Jared

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