Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

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ElijahW
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Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

Post by ElijahW » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:45 pm

NTS,

Tuliptree

161.4' x 9'8"
160.9' x 8'8"

Northern Red Oak

142.5' x 8'9"

Chestnut Oak

125.4' x 6'
118.3' x 8'3"

Eastern White Pine

142.1' x 9'7"

Shortleaf Pine

126' x 5'9"

Virginia Pine

97.5' x 4'5"

RI5: 139.5'

I hesitated to report on this site because I covered so little of it, but my hope is that someone closer than me will pick up the ball and run with it. On 6/17, I spent about three hours walking the eastern section of the Natural Area, which surrounds Ragged Mountain Reservoir, a water source for the city of Charlottesville. The Natural Area is bisected by I 64, which is where I first spotted it from a few years ago.

Land surrounding the reservoir was set aside originally in 1885, and the forest hasn't been logged since 1958, according to a 1998 report available on the city of Charlottesville parks website. Very few trees I saw seemed to date from the 19th century; rather, most probably germinated around 1908, when a second dam was constructed.

The published report states that most of the soils surrounding the reservoir are good to excellent for hardwood growth, and growing is what these hardwoods are doing. I don't think I found the tallest of any species on my above list, except maybe the Shortleaf. Besides these six species, the following were present in the canopy: Black, White, and Scarlet Oak, Bitternut, Red, Pignut, Mockernut, and Shagbark Hickory, Red Maple, Blackgum, and Beech. On the drier ridges, Mountain Laurel grew under the Chestnut and Black Oaks, but I didn't see any Rhododendron.

"Natural Area" doesn't provide a legal prohibition on cutting, but Ragged Mountain is managed by what seems to be a good group of people, and my guess is that the forests will remain as they are for a long time. If anyone is inclined to continue the tree survey, I can provide specific coordinates for the trees I measured already.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu Jun 22, 2017 3:57 pm

Elijah- From your measurement this area looks like a really good area for tall tree potential. Drove through there on the 19th. Larry

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ElijahW
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Re: Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

Post by ElijahW » Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:59 pm

Thanks, Larry.

This site has good soil, plenty of water, and the right terrain features to grow large and tall trees. I think the Virginia Blue Ridge foothills and piedmont have lots of such areas, but just a handful have been looked at. Hopefully someone will show some interest who lives close by.

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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ElijahW
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Re: Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

Post by ElijahW » Mon Dec 16, 2019 7:05 pm

NTS,

Last week I spent a little over a day surveying the remainder of the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. I didn't get to a few of the less- or non-accessible spots, but I'm confident that the best trees at this site have been found and measured. I was able to get a little better idea of the age structure of the different sections of forest surrounding the reservoir on this visit; from a handful of ring counts on fallen trees, I think the oldest trees date to about 1880. Most of the trees I've listed below I believe to be in the neighborhood of 100 years, plus or minus 20 years. Here's what I found:

Tuliptree Liriodendron tulipifera

173.1' x 10.56'
169.7'
168.3'
168.1' x 10.29'
164.5' x 11.02'
164.0' (Tallest Tulip measured in 2017)

Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra

156.0' x 7.90'
151.8' x 9.01' (Tallest measured in 2017)
148.1' x 11.10' (Older tree; may have been slightly taller in the past)
144.3' x 7.32'

Black Oak Quercus velutina

132.0' x 6.98'
128.0' x 8.48'

Southern Red Oak Quercus falcata

114.7' x 6.67'

Scarlet Oak Quercus coccinea

112.0' x 7.91'

Chestnut Oak Quercus montana

141.5' x 7.80'
133.7'
130.8' x 9.15' (Tallest measured in 2017)

White Oak Quercus alba

137.5' x 7.04'
134.7' x 5.87'

Red Hickory Carya ovalis

141.1' x 5.79'
134.4'

Pignut Hickory Carya glabra

132.3' x 7.68'

Mockernut Hickory Carya tomentosa

130.5' x 5.94'

Shagbark Hickory Carya ovata

112.9' x 4.20'

Red Maple Acer rubrum

110.4'

Blackgum

105.3' x 4.10'
92.2' x 5.29'

American Holly Ilex opaca

21.3' x 1.15'

Shortleaf Pine Pinus echinata

137.3' x 6.64'
130.2' x 5.84' (Tallest measured in 2017)
129.7'

Loblolly Pine Pinus taeda

102.1' x 5.60' (May have been planted)

Rucker 10 Height Index:

Tuliptree 173.1
Northern Red Oak 156.0
Eastern White Pine 142.1 (2017)
Chestnut Oak 141.5
Red Hickory 141.1
White Oak 137.5
Shortleaf Pine 137.3
Pignut Hickory 132.3
Black Oak 132.0
Mockernut Hickory 130.5

Average: 142.3'

I have photos, but am having difficulty uploading them from my phone for some reason. I'll have to do that later.

What are the takeaways from this trip? As far as I'm concerned, the overall height of hardwoods of all kinds, especially in the sheltered coves: the tallest trees were mostly in one north-facing cove fairly close to I-64. The vigor of Northern Red Oak was also amazing to me. Other than the trees listed above, I measured maybe a half dozen additional Northern Red Oaks to over 140'. The only real disappointments for me were the near absence of Bitternut Hickory (I only came across a couple of ill-formed individuals) and mature maples. I'm hoping the forest at Ragged Mountain will become more diverse over time, but I'm thankful for what it is right now.

Elijah

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bbeduhn
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Re: Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

Post by bbeduhn » Tue Mar 24, 2020 9:45 pm

Wow! I guess I missed this report. Oaks are killing it there! The red oak is essentially a record height. The Davidson River red oak is 157.0’. The Welch Branch red oak was 156.3’ a decade ago. The Mouse Creek red oak is 155.7’, also likely a bit taller by now. The Coon Branch red oak was 154.7’. The Tamassee red oak is 155.?. Your Ragged Mtn red oak is right in the thick of it!

Virginia hasn’t produced as many high Rucker’s as the states around it but that may be due in part to having not been measured as much for height. For Big Tree points, it has been measured thoroughly.

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dbhguru
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Re: Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

Post by dbhguru » Wed Mar 25, 2020 11:13 am

Elijah,

We need to pass this information to Dr. Eric Wiseman. This is ground-breaking.

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: Ragged Mountain Natural Area, Charlottesville, VA

Post by ElijahW » Sun Mar 29, 2020 11:00 am

Brian,

As regards Virginia tree heights, I agree. That Ragged Mountain is the pinnacle of Virginia tree sites is highly unlikely; if I still lived in the area, I would focus on areas south and probably west of Charlottesville. James Madison’s Montpelier also has a 170’-class Tuliptree and a 150’-class Northern Red Oak, though those trees are older than the ones in Charlottesville.

I was looking at the Big Creek drainage on Google Earth, following your updates on the superlative coves surrounding it. Man, that is some terrain! I really glad that you’re keeping up with these sites. Thank you.

Bob,

I saw that you contacted Dr. Wiseman about Ragged Mountain. Thank you. As the site surrounds a reservoir, I would expect the forest to remain largely intact for the foreseeable future. It’s not formally protected by law, though (as far as I know).

Elijah

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