Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

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#1)  Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Thu Apr 07, 2016 9:27 pm

For the past couple weeks I have been doing some internet research to find good plots of conservation land in my neck of the woods that could be harboring tall trees. In reading the guide to conservation land in Littleton, specifically the description of the Cobb Memorial Forest (a portion of Nashoba Woodlands), my attention was caught by the words “extremely high canopy of oaks, white pines, and black birches.” Upon my first visit to the property, and all subsequent visits for that matter, I found the description not to be an exaggeration.

I spent a lot of time following trails, stumbling over rocks and roots as I gazed skyward, walking through ankle-deep standing water, and of course, refining my technique with the laser rangefinder and clinometer. Having practiced a bit, and realized that “steady” is the name of the game, I am now generally able to shoot a tree multiple times and generate a cluster of values where the difference between highest and lowest calculated heights is about 6 inches. I have found the iPhone app SeeLevel to be immensely useful because it integrates the camera, so that you can point, zoom, and read the angle to the nearest 1/10 of a degree.

So, now for the good stuff: the numbers and photos. I’ll start with the tallest eastern white pine that I have found on this property. I would say there are oodles of pines in the 100-110 class, a bit fewer in the 110-120 class, and maybe dozens at the lower end of the 120-130 class. Only this one has topped 130. I call him Tahattawan, after the chief of the Nashoba people who once occupied this area.

               
                       
Tahattawan - after snow.jpg
                       
Tahattawan
               
               

               
                       
Tahattawan - up trunk.jpg
                                       
               

Height: 130.5’
CBH: 107.5”

Next up, the girthiest (combined with respectable height). I call this one Blitz. He got struck by lightning once.

               
                       
Blitz - from afar.jpg
                       
Blitz is the distant pine in the center
               
               

               
                       
Blitz - side of trunk.jpg
                                       
               

Height: 119.3’
CBH: 118.75”

I could share many more photos from this site (and I probably will with future finds), but I will conclude with this black birch unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Please tell me this is the fusion product of multiple trunks, because I’ve never seen Betula lenta approach the 118.5 inches of girth that this thing has. I didn’t spend a lot of time working out its height, but from shooting at one of the tips in the crown, this beast is not less than 85.9 feet tall.

               
                       
Black birch beast - from afar.jpg
                       
Black birch beast
               
               

               
                       
Black birch beast - closer up.jpg
                                       
               


I would encourage any and all of you to check this place out if you’re passing through the Littleton area, just be mindful of the old barbed wire and rusty, old agricultural equipment that remains in places if you choose to venture off the trails.

Jared

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#2)  Re: Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

Postby dbhguru » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:38 am

Jarad,

  Thanks for the exciting post. That 130.5-foot white pine is a really good find. I assume that you used the Sine Method since you have a Nikon Prostaff 440 and a clinometer app. I will enter Tahattawan in my database of Massachusetts sites with trees reaching 130 feet or more. I've attached the latest Excel spreadsheet update. BTW, Rich Higgins is a friend in Concord for whom I have updated the list. Tahattawan becomes site # 74 in Massachusetts with one or more trees reaching to 130 feet.

  I've highlighted in orange the eastern Mass sites. I'm positive there are more and hope you'll be able to find some of them. If you are able to drive out to Mohawk Trail State Forest on either April 16, 23, 24, or May 7th, I can introduce you to Mohawk's 173-foot Jake Swamp pine and help you fine tune your measuring technique. Might one of those days work?

Bob
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#3)  Re: Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

Postby Erik Danielsen » Fri Apr 08, 2016 9:39 am

Looks like a beautiful site, always exciting to find tall pines! The black birch looks as if it may have originated as a single sprout but suffered damage to its trunk at some point early in its growth and developed multiple divergent leaders, or even coppiced from a more developed trunk that was broken or cut unusually high later on (like a traditional european "boundary tree"). That said, black (and yellow) birches can display some very unusual growth forms, whether fused or not.

Any spring ephemerals yet?

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#4)  Re: Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Sun Apr 10, 2016 10:02 pm

dbhguru wrote:   Thanks for the exciting post. That 130.5-foot white pine is a really good find. I assume that you used the Sine Method since you have a Nikon Prostaff 440 and a clinometer app. I will enter Tahattawan in my database of Massachusetts sites with trees reaching 130 feet or more. I've attached the latest Excel spreadsheet update. BTW, Rich Higgins is a friend in Concord for whom I have updated the list. Tahattawan becomes site # 74 in Massachusetts with one or more trees reaching to 130 feet.

  I've highlighted in orange the eastern Mass sites. I'm positive there are more and hope you'll be able to find some of them. If you are able to drive out to Mohawk Trail State Forest on either April 16, 23, 24, or May 7th, I can introduce you to Mohawk's 173-foot Jake Swamp pine and help you fine tune your measuring technique. Might one of those days work?

Bob – You are correct in assuming that I’m using the sine method to measure height. It seems to be the best option short of climbing the tree and dropping a tape, which you won’t see me doing any time soon. During one of my first walks through these woods a large, dark blob about 60 feet up in the trees caught my eye. It turned out to be a wild turkey perched on a limb. Even though they are perfectly capable of flying, to me they seem to belong on the ground. In that way, I feel like the turkey – happier on the ground with my rangefinder, clinometer, and scientific calculator.

And thanks for attaching the 130+ site list. I will be sure to let you know if I find other nice sites in eastern Mass with exceptional trees.

With regard to meeting at MTSF – I am available next Saturday (4/16) as well as both days the following weekend (4/23-24). I’m still figuring out this whole BBS thing here, so maybe you can send me a private message to work out the details…?

Erik Danielsen wrote:Looks like a beautiful site, always exciting to find tall pines! The black birch looks as if it may have originated as a single sprout but suffered damage to its trunk at some point early in its growth and developed multiple divergent leaders, or even coppiced from a more developed trunk that was broken or cut unusually high later on (like a traditional european "boundary tree"). That said, black (and yellow) birches can display some very unusual growth forms, whether fused or not.

Any spring ephemerals yet?

Erik – This patch of woods is indeed a treasure! Interesting what you say about these birches and their varied growth forms. I can imagine that since this tree seems to have been there when the stone wall was built it received treatment that most other black birches nearby did not.

I haven’t noticed any spring ephemerals, but then again my attention has been focused much more on the canopy than on the ground. Nothing in bloom has caught my eye yet. I think we’re just shaking off the last of the winter weather.

Because I like pictures, I’m attaching two photos of a more exemplary black birch from these woods that lost one of its two leaders. What remains, though, is still a 95-foot tower with a CBH of 86 inches. Not half bad, as they say.

               
                       
95-foot black birch.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
95-foot black birch - fallen leader.jpg
                                       
               


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#5)  Re: Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

Postby bbeduhn » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:46 am

Jared,
I agree with Erik on his assessment of the black birch being a single after cutting or storm damage. There is a discernible seam running to the ground but it is inconclusive that this shows a multistem. An off center growth pattern can also cause seams, and this one is subtle for much of its length. The growth of the limbs is consistent with a single stem. Most likely, it is single and without further evidence that's what I'd go with.
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#6)  Re: Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Wed Apr 20, 2016 11:57 pm

Update on Tahattawan pine:
Since my last post on this grand tree I have visited and measured it a good number of times, both to work on my own abilities with a rangefinder and clinometer and to feel confident in my declaration of its height. An afternoon spent shooting at a rather boring tree with a 300’ tape measure outstretched on a flat, abandoned road has shown me that in the 30 – 50 yard range my Nikon ProStaff 440 tends to overshoot by between 12 and 18 inches. This means that I could calculate a 130’ tree to be 131.5’. With that in mind, I now feel that the Tahattawan pine stands about 129’ tall. With another good growing season or two this tree should legitimately enter the elite 130 club of Massachusetts.

This is what the top of the tree looks like as seen through a spotting scope.
               
                       
Top of Tahattawan pine.jpg
                                       
               


Other nice trees that I have recently measured include:

This pine, which has several more years before it sees 130’.
Height: 125’
CBH: 94”
               
                       
125' pine.jpg
                                       
               


This 6.6 x 100’ eastern hemlock with a spread of about 50’.
               
                       
100' hemlock.jpg
                                       
               


This big hickory (not sure of the species yet).
Height: ≥105’
CBH: 120"
               
                       
tall hickory - top.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
tall hickory - trunk.jpg
                                       
               


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#7)  Re: Nashoba Woodlands, Littleton, MA

Postby bbeduhn » Thu Apr 21, 2016 9:33 am

Jared,
Your hickory looks like red, which in many guidebooks is listed as a variation of pignut hickory. It tends to grow on more upland sites. It doesn't quite have the classic red hickory look but it certainly has the depth in the furrows of the bark. They tend to be a bit shaggy but are not always so.
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