Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

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#1)  Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Fri May 20, 2016 9:20 pm

This afternoon I wandered down to the Nashua River to walk along the trails in the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge. My first destination was a large swamp white oak growing near the parking lot just east of the Harvard/Lancaster town line. I’ve seen the tree in past visits, and even noticed the small sign next to it identifying it as swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), but it was only today that I noticed “state record tree” next to the artist’s depiction of the species.

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - sign.jpg
                                       
               

I don’t know when or how the tree’s height was last measured, but I figured it behooved me to measure the tree as accurately as I can. Here are some pictures of the tree, followed by its measurements (which have been properly discounted to compensate for the slight overshot of my Nikon ProStaff 440).

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - top to bottom.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - side to side.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - sunlit.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Quercus bicolor - dusk.jpg
                                       
               

Height: 68.5’
CBH: 154.5” (12.9’)
Average spread: 77.9’
Total big tree points: 242.5

As I was scoping out the tree before measuring, a woman who was leaving in her car told me that the tree was roughly 200 years old. I asked her what else she knew about it, but that was about the extent of her knowledge of the tree. I explained to her my interests and asked if she knew of any other big trees in Oxbow NWR. She claimed that there is a state champion hickory tree growing by the Nashua River, and gave me general directions toward it. After parting with this nice woman and setting off down the trail I encountered a fellow with binoculars around his neck. You know, one of those naturalist types. I asked him if he knew of a big hickory tree, and his vague directions were consistent with what I had been going on. Both of the people that knew of the big hickory mentioned that there was a sign identifying the species, similar to what is next to the swamp white oak.

A leisurely stroll through some large silver maples that inhabit the river floodplain eventually brought me to an old, shaggy hickory tree next to the trail. Sure enough, there’s a little sign identifying it as shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). The tree certainly seems like a mature individual, but after taking some preliminary measurements I started looking deeper into the woods for other old shagbark hickories. A few paces through nearly knee-high poison ivy and I was standing next to a tree 10 feet taller and 10 inches girthier than its trailside conspecific. If there is a champion shagbark hickory in these woods, I imagine it might well be this one. Here are a couple pictures of it, followed by its stats.

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - base.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - burl.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - looking up.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Carya ovata - top.jpg
                                       
               

Height: 83.4’
CBH: 93” (7.8’)
Average spread: 52.6’
Big tree points: 189.6

I am curious to know how these two trees compare to others of their kind in Massachusetts. Do folks know what the current status of the Massachusetts state champion swamp white oak and shagbark hickory is? Could one or both of these trees in Oxbow NWR hold the title of state champion?

Jared
Last edited by a_blooming_botanist on Sat May 21, 2016 9:16 am, edited 2 times in total.

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#2)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby dbhguru » Fri May 20, 2016 9:54 pm

Jared,

 I'll look up the current champs of both species and get back to you.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest

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#3)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby Matt Markworth » Sat May 21, 2016 7:56 am

Jared,

Nice trees and great writeup! I really like your writing style of recounting the events of your hikes because it makes me feel like I'm there. One quick thing for the points is unless the Massachusetts list does it different you'll want to use a quarter of the average spread for the spread component.

Good luck on your searching. Keep an eye out for bur oak for me if you can for the bur oak database. I hope to measure some bur oaks on my way to New England this September.

Matt
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#4)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Sat May 21, 2016 8:35 am

Matt,

Thanks for your positive feedback! I do have fun writing trip reports. :)

With regard to tree points – I am just now working on measuring crown spread, so I will concede that my assignment of big tree points may have been off. Yesterday was the first time I used the spoke method, so I'm getting used to how that goes. I do appreciate the correction, though!

I'll keep my eye out for any intimidating bur oaks up in these parts and let you know if I come across some.

Jared

Note: I edited my original post to include the correct number of big tree points.

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#5)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby Lucas » Tue May 24, 2016 1:23 pm

Good Story!

As a former res of MA and SWO fan, I sometimes wondered what the record for SWO was there. So thanks!

I don't doubt that bigger ones are there off trail.

Good Work!
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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#6)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby Lucas » Wed May 25, 2016 9:59 am

Image

http://www.salicicola.com/photos/galler ... olymp0161s

SWO June 8,   Great Meadows, Wayland

Might be worth checking

http://www.salicicola.com/photos/gallery/view/1444/1444

maybe more leads
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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#7)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Thu May 26, 2016 11:05 am

Lucas,

It’s funny that you mention Great Meadows NWR – I was there on the 19th (the day before I measured the state champ SWO in Oxbow NWR). I walked around a bit, but didn’t measure many trees. It was more of a reconnaissance mission. It might have been this swamp white oak growing east of Weir Hill by the Sudbury River that inspired me to visit the one I know that grows by the Nashua in Harvard.

               
                       
Great Meadows NWR - SWO 1.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Great Meadows NWR - SWO 2.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Great Meadows NWR - SWO 3.jpg
                                       
               

Here’s a little bit of the history of Weir Hill in Sudbury, MA.

               
                       
Great Meadows NWR - Weir Hill history.jpg
                                       
               

I didn’t notice any trees of comparable size to the current champ, but now that I know what it takes to depose it I will be on the lookout for some competition. I did, however, find a litter of weasels.

               
                       
Great Meadows NWR - weasels.jpg
                                       
               

Jared

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#8)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby Lucas » Thu May 26, 2016 12:48 pm

Nice tree.

I used to pass by them on Water Row, etc. all the time when I was there but didn't have a clue what they were then. Something, I regret now.

Amazing luck on the weasels. You don't see them often.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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#9)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Fri May 27, 2016 7:31 pm

Fellow tree people,

I was mistaken when I first thought that Oxbow NWR is home to both the swamp white oak and shagbark hickory state champion trees. The swamp white oak that I measured last week does hold the title, but the hickories of these woods don’t quite reach champion status.

In looking into the champion trees of Massachusetts, I find that a previous bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata) state champion was a tree in Westhampton measured in 1975 at 60’ tall, 60” CBH, and 40’ crown spread, making for 134 big tree points. According to the Massachusetts DCR Forest Health Program, “a tree must be re-measured at least every 10 years to maintain its champion status.” Whether or not this tree in Westhampton maintains its champion status in the eyes of the DCR, I’d like you all to meet this bruiser of an aspen that I found and measured in Oxbow NWR today.

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Populus grandidentata - full.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Populus grandidentata - base.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Oxbow NWR Populus grandidentata - crown.jpg
                                       
               

Height: 88.4’
CBH: 76.9” (6.4’)
Average spread: 49.5’
Big tree points: 177.7

I’ll be submitting a nomination form for this tree. I can’t let my home state go on without a champion tree of one of my favorite species. The one thing that would make me happier than seeing this 177-point bigtooth aspen crowned the state champion would be for one of you folks to find a bigger one! Consider that a challenge. ☺

Jared
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#10)  Re: Oxbow NWR and two putative state champion trees

Postby Bart Bouricius » Sat May 28, 2016 8:44 am

Very cool shot of weasels.  I know they often hunt in groups, possibly they are groups of siblings?  How many did you see?
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