Big Conifers of the East   Robert Leverett
  Nov 30, 2002 16:36 PST 

    Great information! The distribution of whopper pines in the Northeast may have been much more sparse than the appealing anecdotal accounts of yesteryear suggest. There is, however, a lot of territory in the Northeast occupied by white pines so that the long tail of the upper end of the species size distribution can produce respectable numbers even as a miniscule percentage of the total population.

    On occasion, the right combination of soil type, depth, continuous availability of moisture, and protection may have combined to foster the development of super stands. But I presently believe that the averages were always far more modest. There are plenty of areas in New England where pines have matured to ages of 100 to 150 years of age, yet individual pines that reach 130 feet or more in height and 12 feet or more in circumference make up a tiny percentage of the population of mature pines. Trees that make 150 feet in height and 12 feet in girth indeed form an exclusive club. That is why we created a special list for such trees, but pines that reach 150 feet in height and 13.33 feet in girth, earning 2000 points, form an ultra exclusive club in the Northeast - so exclusive, in fact, that so far we have none confirmed. The huge Tamworth Pine in NH probably does make it now, provided my measurement of a year ago June was sufficiently accurate. Big Bertha has an opportunity to make it in 2 or 3 years. The Anders Run pine has a chance in 4 to 6 years. The Ice Glen pine might make it in 5 to 8 years. Four trees aren't many, though. Elsewhere, the Adirondacks may have 3 or 4 in this ultra-exclusive class. The Grandmother tree in Pack Forest in the Daks may make it, but upward growth probably does not exceed 2 to 3 inches per year for that tree - if that. Making allowances for yet to be discovered behemoths, I think 10 to 15 pines is the upper limit for the Northeast and that is giving every benefit of the doubt. That is an incredibly thin distribution.

    From what Lee Frelich has told us, I do believe that Wisconsin and Michigan once had a large population of behemoth pines, but those states have been so whacked that today huge pines are a rarity. Given all the looking that Paul Jost and Lee Frelich have done, Mid-western giants are for all intents and purposes non-existent. So oddly, unless the Daks have hidden giants, it falls to the mountain south to produce the bulk of the giant pines.

    Next, let's look at the giant hemlocks of the southern Appalachians. To the eight hemlocks that meet the criteria of at least 150-feet tall and 13.333 feet in girth that Will listed, there is at least one more in Joyce Kilmer. I'm sure Will hasn't scratched the surface in the Smokies. There is just so many places to look. I think South Carolina has several hemlocks to add to the club, so that courtesy of the southern Appalachians, Tsuga canadensis is the number one large conifer in the eastern USA.

    This proclamation of Tsuga dominance is a bit misleading, though, if one looks at hemlock and white pine regionally. In the Northeast, white pine definitely achieves larger size than eastern hemlock. That is also true of the Mid-west. Why that also isn't true in the southern Appalachians, I don't know, especially considering that white pine is a very large tree. But measurements are measurements. The figures don't lie.

    It is a lot of fun to profile tree species across their full ranges. One quickly thinks of lots of interesting questions to research. Where does a particular species reach its most impressive proportions? Which species retain significant size over a greater proportion of their ranges? The reverse of that? What were the historical maximums for a species and where were they achieved? Which species have the broadest gene pools that allow them widest variations in size beyond their means? Why does the white ash reach such splendid proportions in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts? Can ENTS data be used to identify prime species habitat? Habitat degradation? Do flood plain species come back better than their upland counterparts? If so, are today's mature cottonwoods and silver maples of the Connecticut River Valley on a par with those of yesteryear? I presume flooding is flooding past or present. Who is interested in answering these questions? How can the data be used?


----- Original Message -----
From: Will Blozan
Sent: Saturday, November 30, 2002 5:31 PM
Subject: RE: Big Pines in the Northeast

Here are some pines from down here. I also included, out of curiosity, eastern hemlock and the great Loblolly in Congaree. Jess could give the stats for the riddle white pine which may just reach 2000 pts. Why doesn't the NE have more 2000 points trees? I thought WP was a northern tree and reached its max in MI and NH!

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Robert Leverett 
    Sent: Friday, November 29, 2002 5:12 PM
    Subject: Big Pines in the Northeast


        Attached is an Excel spreadsheet of big pines around the Northeast listed by location. The largest pine is recorded per site. In the list, missing are the big pines of Pine Orchard and Paul Smith College in the Adirondacks. Gary Beluzo has measurements from Pine Orchard. I don't have data on the Paul Smith pines. If Fred Breglia took the measurements and used a laser-clinometer combination, then the results would be acceptable to ENTS. I'll see the Paul Smith pines in the spring.

        One fact clearly stands out. For forest grown forms, a height x diameter total of 1500 points creates a good club. However, the list would eventually get long with enough looking. The real threshold occurs around 1800 points. A white pine of 120 feet has to have a 15-foot circumference to make 1800 points. But the really exclusive club consists of white pines with point totals of 2000 or more. In terms of exclusivity, this point total probably applies to the species throughout its range.

        How does my favorite haunt MTSF do when point totals are considered? The isolated huge pine in MTSF that we call Big Bertha stands in a class by itself, but three Mohawk pines reach 1800 points, 16 make 1500 points, 27 pines make 1400 points, and 52 make 1300 points. By comparison, in Bryant Woods, 11 pines make 1500 points, 17 make 1400, and 25 make 1300 (there are more). Six pines make the magic 1500 points in Ice Glen, 9 make 1400, and 12 make 1300 (there are more).


RE: Big Conifers of the East    Will Blozan
   Nov 30, 2002 17:37 PST 

I think the Medlin Mtn Monarch (SC) is the biggest hemlock outside of the
Smokies. It scores a hair under 2400 points. Paul Jost and I are spending
Monday, Tuesday and maybe part of Wednesday in Joyce Kilmer this week. We
will finally do it ENTS justice.

Yes, the Smokies has thousands of hemlocks over 2000 points. I just listed
the big ones I could remember the stats for. If I graphed the point totals
for trees I have measured, the peak would drop off quickly probably around
2050 or so. I think the simple index is powerful and very indicative. I will
be looking for the 2000 pointers in JKilmer (the big one in Poplar Cove is
now dead- it scored around 2125 points and was not 176 feet tall as listed
in the old NC state list). I have a lead on a massive white pine that we
will be sure to visit. Michael Davie measured a dead pine that would have
been close to 2100 points. As I look on the topo map, the western Smokies
should have plenty of low elevation habitat that will grow super pines and
hemlocks comparable to JKilmer. I have already measured hemlocks to over 15'
in girth and 160' tall (not same tree) at elevations below 1500' elevation.
The west end of the Smokies is a gold mine of virtually untapped ENTS data.
Pitch and shortleaf pines are very close to the 140' club out there, and
unexplored and uncut habitat exists for 200' white pines. I have measured
second-growth pines to 165' back in 1995. They likely exceed 170' by now. I

Re: Big Conifers of the East    Jess
   Dec 01, 2002 09:00 PST 
Here are the numbers for the biggest white pines I know of in GA. The
Overflow Creek tree and the stouter of Mill Creek trees are over 200 years
old. The Laurel Creek tree is probably 125-130 years old and has had five
growing seasons since it was last measured. The Reed Creek tree may be
under 100 years old and has not been measured in three years. There are
probably some undiscovered giants in the Chattooga watershed and I've seen
another 12' cbh tree on Mill Creek, but was unable to measure the height
at the time.

Jess Riddle
Re: Big Conifers of the East    Lee E. Frelich
   Dec 02, 2002 09:05 PST 
Bob et al:

I have four white pines in my field notes from WI that have 1620, 1670,
1731, and 2124 ENTS points. There are also a number from the Porkies that
score over 1500 ENTS points. I also think that a large number of white
pines in WI will enter the 1500 club over the next 50 years as trees within
reserved forests mature.

The main problem Paul and I have is that two people can't cover millions of
acres very effectively, and we have spent the last two years just trying to
figure out where to measure trees systematically once we actually start
doing that, which I hope will be soon.

By the way, we have recently found 126 foot white pines in the northern
Twin Cities Metro Area at Falls Creek Natural Area. They are 110-120 year
old trees still putting on 1-2 foot internodes, and have made me look like
a fool after I predicted that trees would not reach 100 feet in the Metro
area. I now predict that the Falls Creek trees will top out at 140 feet,
and maybe the trees will make my predictions look foolish again   20 or 30
years from now. We also found some 133 foot white pines at Itasca. Both of
these areas are within 20 miles of large prairie areas (by 'large' I mean
1000 miles across), which makes their height amazing, even though they may
not get near the records from New England or the Smokies.