State champ shagbark hickory and northern catalpa contender

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#1)  State champ shagbark hickory and northern catalpa contender

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Sun May 22, 2016 9:43 pm

Today was a productive day of tree hunting/measuring. I left my house intending to visit the reigning state champion shagbark hickory tree, but also had the secondary goal of measuring a large northern catalpa that grows near me. To keep with the sequence of events, I’ll show you the catalpa that lives in Harvard that I believe has a very real chance of earning the title of state champion.

               
                       
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - from afar.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - base.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Harvard Catalpa speciosa -  base closeup.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - trunk and low branch.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - from lawn.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - rooted branch.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Harvard Catalpa speciosa - tangled branches lawnside.jpg
                                       
               

Height: 86.1’
CBH: 165” (13.8’)
Average spread: 69.8’
Big tree points: 268.6

I would have used my rangefinder and clinometer to measure all four spokes of the crown, but one limb grows clear across the road into neighboring trees and I couldn’t see its end. So, I measured two spokes parallel to the hillslope (and road) with my high-tech toys, and used a tape measure for the spokes perpendicular to the slope. I think I was able to keep the effects of slack in the tape and difference in elevation to a minimum, so I feel good about all four spoke measurements. Before I stretched my tape measure into a stranger’s front yard I rang the doorbell and asked for permission to measure their beautiful, old catalpa tree. The woman who answered the door seemed flattered that I was so taken in with her tree, and kindly granted me permission to walk on her lawn. The tree has a very low branch that extends out over the grass, touches the ground, and then extends upward again. It has clearly taken root, and the owners of the property can no longer mow in that area.

Part of the reason that I measured this northern catalpa tree in Harvard is because the town of Westford boasts THREE state champion trees: black oak (Quercus velutina), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), and northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa). Today I drove by the enormous black oak that shades the town library, but measuring it will have to wait for another day.

On to the shagbark hickory. This tree is to be found in Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, which is managed by the Westford Conservation Trust. Here’s a map showing exactly where the tree is (taken from http://westfordconservationtrust.org/tw ... sanctuary/):

               
                       
Prospect Hill, Westford, MA - BIG SHAGBARK HICKORY.jpg
                                       
               


Neither finding the tree nor ascertaining its identity is a challenge. This sign makes it clear what you’re looking at.

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - sign.jpg
                                       
               

Step back and take a look at the rest of this beast.

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - boulder and tree.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - pillar.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - lower third.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - looking up.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - silhouette.jpg
                                       
               

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - looking up from road.jpg
                                       
               

Height: 89.8’
CBH: 146” (12.2’)
Average spread: 85.1’
Big tree points: 257.1

Once again, I had difficulty employing the traditional spoke method because of obscuring foliage (and maybe because I’m new at it). My solution was to stand underneath the tips of the spokes and shoot level at the edge of the trunk. This meant standing in the middle of the road at one point, but it seemed to get the job done.

With one state champion shagbark hickory and one massive northern catalpa measured, I decided to end my day of tree measuring by visiting a tree that I planted when I was five. I remember when I could jump over it with enough of a running start. Now I wouldn’t consider trying. It’s 26 years old and 34.4 feet tall. I got it on Arbor Day back when I attended preschool in Westford. Say hello to my Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens).

               
                       
My Colorado blue spruce.jpg
                                       
               

Jared

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#2)  Re: State champ shagbark hickory and northern catalpa conten

Postby dbhguru » Mon May 23, 2016 7:38 am

Jared,

    Great job. I noticed that the measurements for that state champ shagbark in 2001 was (137", 112', 68') for 266 points. Your new 2016 measurements are (146",89.9',85.1') for 257 points. I would guess that they didn't spend much time on crown spread and that they used a tape and clinometer to get their height measurement. So, I'm not surprised about their height, but their 137 inches for girth surprises me. I bet they measured girth from the highest ground point instead of a mid-slope position. I understand that the hickory would have grown in girth over the intervening 15 years, but my experience with the species is that its radial growth is pretty slow. I would expect an increase of maybe a third of an inch per year. I could be all wet too. Thoughts?

Bob
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#3)  Re: State champ shagbark hickory and northern catalpa conten

Postby a_blooming_botanist » Mon May 23, 2016 7:21 pm

Bob,

I can understand how the tree’s height may have been inadvertently exaggerated and how the full extent of the crown spread may not have been accounted for, but an increase of nine inches of girth in fifteen years does seem like a lot for such an old hickory. I wouldn’t be surprised if those 137” were measured 4.5’ from the highest ground point, which is a good 1.5 - 2’ higher than the lowest point.

Using the photos that I had taken yesterday, some of which included my walking stick for scale, I have pieced together exactly where my measuring tape was.

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - CBH.jpg
                       
Note: I discounted .25 inches because of the angle of the claw.
               
               

This next photo should make clear where I called breast height. The red circle on the ground marks where I called mid-slope, and the red circle on the trunk marks where the claw of my tape measure took hold of the bark. The orange dashed line marks where my tape measure was.

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - CBH 22 May 2016.jpg
                                       
               

This photo shows where someone might have measured the circumference in 2001 at 137” relative to where I measured 146” on 5/22/16. My walking stick is standing nearly vertically, and the red star on it marks 4.5’ above the ground. The bottom of my stick is shown with a black horizontal line, and three increments of 2” are marked with green horizontal lines. If the last person to have measured this tree measured 4.5’ above the highest ground point, their tape would have been just below or on the bottom edge of the sign that’s nailed to the tree (the blue markings).

               
                       
Westford Carya ovata state champ - CBH 2001 in blue.jpg
                                       
               

When I’m in Westford next time I’ll try to remember to visit this tree to wrap my tape around the trunk just below the sign and compare that number to 137” to get a better idea of what 15 years of radial growth on this shagbark hickory looks like.

Jared

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