New England Pine Heights  
TOPIC: The Lee Frelich Pine 

== 2 of 6 ==
Date: Thurs, Mar 13 2008 5:56 pm
From: Larry

Bob, Awesome job on the re-measurement! Did White Pines, Pre-
European reach 200'? How long can they live? I've only seen White
Pine in Wisconsin and Minn., 80 footers. Wow 160! Man thats tall!
Maybe someday I can get up that way and see them! Larry

== 3 of 6 ==
Date: Thurs, Mar 13 2008 6:26 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


Bob will likely answer as well, but it is fair to say that white pines in New England likely never reached 200 feet and likely maxed out at perhaps 175' or so. We have enough measured height numbers for white pine in particular (maybe hemlock by now) to see what size the species is able reach across much of its range. Plotting the numbers we can form beautiful clean tight graphs of height distributions. If the plots were jagged or erratic that would indicate that we do not have good enough quality or amounts of information from which to draw strong conclusions. As it stands white pines can reach 200 feet in areas like the Great Smokies on rare occasions, but not on a regular basis, nor in any other known area of its range.

There is no reason to think that in pre-Columbian times that this height distribution pattern would have been any different from the information we have today. There are enough patches of old white pines in excess of 300 years in a wide enough patches around the eastern US, that the height patterns we can define today would be representative of those from pre-Columbian times.

The oldest documented White Pine in the Eastern Old List had reached an age of 409 years. It is my feeling that this maximum number could be easily be over 500 years, or perhaps even a little higher. I know some older documents (Hough and Forbes, 1943) talk about pines in the 450 year old range - based just on ring counts - but I could not find the original source of the information.



== 4 of 6 ==
Date: Thurs, Mar 13 2008 6:34 pm
From: Larry

Ed, Thanks, I was just curious. Still 175, man I would not know how
to act if I saw a pine that tall! Wow, 500 Awesome! Larry

== 2 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Mar 14 2008 6:17 am


There is little doubt in my mind that white pines occasionally reached 200 feet in Pre-European times. Stands that reached 150 feet were more common in some regions, but probably not in others.


== 3 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Mar 14 2008 6:25 am


Looking at the species geographically, 200-footers in New England were probably scare as hens teeth. A few may have occurred in Massachusetts and Connecticut. There is some evidence of 200-footers in southeastern Maine, but the jury is out on that. Pennsylvania probably had a few more, and the southern Apps had even more.
A white pine in the Nelson Swamp was accurately dated by Dr. Don Leopold in the mid-1990s to 458 years. The tree is now about 468 years old.


== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Fri, Mar 14 2008 6:04 pm
From: JamesRobertSmith

I've been surprised at how fast some trees can attain relatively
impressive heights.

TOPIC: New England Pine Heights

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Fri, Mar 14 2008 4:38 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


I want to hit my main ideas on white pine heights again, and the rest of you can tear them down. If you were to mean "scarce as hen's teeth" literally I might agree, because there aren't any hen's teeth, and I don't believe there are or ever were any 200 foot in New England either. In colloquial usage the term is used to mean rare, and with that I would be forced to disagree. These are just my thoughts, and I am not claiming expertise in the subject.

1) Bob wrote: There is some evidence of 200-footers in southeastern Maine, but the jury is out on that As you all know, historical information that have reported heights of great trees of the past is known to be of unreliable nature. Even if the measurements were taken with great care of standing trees, unless they were cross-triangulated etc., and all the bells and whistles followed, the tree height numbers will not be reliable using standard distance/tangent methods. The taller the tree in fact the worse the errors will be, all else being equal. If the tree was chopped down and then measured and good height value could have been measured accurately. In New England I am sure there was competition between different mills for business for long single lengths - masts etc., which would be a cause for these operators to exaggerate their actual tree heights. (The lengths to produce ships masts would be much smaller than the heights of trees reported - but in a competitive business,bigger is always better, right? I see no reason that Maine would be the holder of a pocket of exceptionally tall trees, other than compared to much of the rest of New England it was a more exotic wilderness. My opinion on 200 foot pine trees in New England - never existed.

2) A god point that can be made is that in the hemlock search project Will "The Lorax" Blozan discovered that most of the tallest hemlock trees are/were located in a small section of the Smokies in the Big Fork Ridge area. So could an area of exceptionally tall trees have been completely logged over and be gone from the New England Landscape? Certainly. The key thing to note about Will's work is that the section of tall hemlock trees found they form a unbroken continuum with trees of the next smaller size. Given the tallest trees documented in NE are at MTSF and Claremont (The tallest white pine in New England (the tallest tree in New England) is a 167.3 foot tall white pine in MTSF Claremont has a 166 foot tall White Pine. These are as of Bob's latest published numbers May 23, 2006. (MTSF Periodic Report). It would not seem likely that not only would all of the trees of the top tier heights, through circumstance would all have been cut down with no remnants left, And in addition that all the populations of trees with potential for all of the intermediate heights would also all have been cut down with no remnants left to represent these populations. So in my opinion, the trees may have had scattered populations marginally taller than are currently known in New England, I do not believe that trees ever had a population of 200 foot tall trees.

3) It doesn't take forever to grow tall trees. In sites across the Northeastern and Midwestern US, even if the tallest trees were cut down 200 to 150 years ago, there would have been time for the remaining trees to have reached heights at least approaching their potential maximum height. I don't have a good feel of how long it takes some of these pines to grow to their maximum height, but evidence seems to indicate that they could be or should be approaching maximum heights in intervals of 150 years or less.

4) You can look at variations of tree heights between sub-sites with in a site and use it as an analogue for variations between populations at different sites. Using a single site there is expected to less genetic variation between the individual trees, so the variations in height should better reflect the variation in height cause by localized environmental conditions. So what do we have at the upper end fro New England? In a private forest in Claremont, NH there are 7 white pines over 160 feet, in Monroe State Forest there is 1, at Mohawk Trail there are 7. Of those at MTSF 2 are in the Trees of Piece Grove, 2 in the Elder's Grove, 2 in the Clark Ridge North Area, and 1 in the Encampment Grove. By this count if all but one of these groves were lost to fire, etc. the pattern of what the top end of the spectrum of pine tree heights looked like would not change drastically. There would be more gaps, but for graphical purposes, in spite of varied locations, they are all but interchangeable. These are just part of continuous spectrum of heights from low to maximum.This suggests that local variation in these growing conditions for trees at these locations are insufficient to really create a separate size category for them. This also suggests therefore that local environmental conditions are unlikely to have created any tree or group of trees with as dramatic of a height differential between the present day maximums and a potential 200 foot tall tree in New England.

5) The question of a hard or fuzzy height maximum for a species. Perhaps a little of both. If tree height was a soft boundary then you might expect the for ever 10 trees of height w, there would be one tree of height x. Then for every 10 trees of height x, there would be one tree of height y, then for every 10 trees of height y, there would be 1 tree of height z, etc. If it were a hard boundary then you would expect that there would be trees of all heights up to some boundary value, then there would be none above that value. It really it seems that tree heights smoosh up against a height value with a few managing to squeeze beyond to greater heights. I am thinking in central New England this leaky boundary would be at around 170 feet, with a few trees occasionally sneaking past by a small margin.

6) Were there groves of 200 foot white pines hanging around to be harvested? No patches of 200 footers found now, nothing even close, only 1 tree found temporarily to have reached 200 feet, I doubt there ever were any tracts of 200 foot pines. Certainly in areas of the Smokies and perhaps in a few other areas with ideal growing conditions a few trees would sneak past that boundary, but I don't see groves of them doing so. Even as it stands, that one tree was not over 200 feet tall for very long before it had its top broken by weather. This is one of the major limiting factors in maximum tree height for white pines. Perhaps Will or other climbers who sees this up close and personal can provide better input on tree top loss.

These are my ideas. I've put into the cooking pot and stirred. Now then rest of you can continue the discussion.


== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Fri, Mar 14 2008 4:50 pm
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Seeing that the "white man" destroyed 99.9999999% of New England's forests, I guess we'll never know for sure. But if I had to bet- and God would inform us, I bet he'd say "sure, dudes, my Earth did wonderful things before the naked apes turned ferociously against it- 200'+, sure, no problemo."


TOPIC: New England Pine Heights

== 1 of 6 ==
Date: Mon, Mar 17 2008 10:05 am


In truth, I wouldn't bet against you on this topic. However, tantalizing bits of information leve the issue unsettled. A professor at U. Maine, I think, did research on mast pines shipped to England on some of the huge sailing ships used for that purpose. He found evidence of pines that would have likely been in the 200-foot class, assuming the unit of measure was sufficiently standardized at the time to mean what it does today. I'll try to find the reference to his work.

If I remember correctly, one of Lee Frelich's students did research on units of measure like the inch, foot, yard, etc. and that research casts doubt on our ability to make comparisons to today's trees using our standardized units of measure.

The pine you listed as the tallest in New England is the Jake Swamp tree - which I measured again on Sunday (3rd trip back to Mohawk). Packed snow and ice around Jake's base made it very difficult to establish the point that I had used before, but the best I could get out of Jake was 168.0 feet, after having settled on 169.1 at the end of last season. The crown now looks a little thinner, so I assume some crown pruning/damage.

I'll add some thoughts on the hard versus fuzzy boundaries that you addressed in a later e-mail. This is a good thread. I hope others will add their thoughts.


== 2 of 6 ==
Date: Mon, Mar 17 2008 5:54 pm
From: Larry

Ed, Bob,Joe,
This thread got me to thinking about something. Since I've been an
ENTS member I don't remember anyone discussing the more oxygen rich
atmosphere pre-industrial revolution. Would the trees then grow
taller and (larger) with no man made air pollution? If so, 200' White
Pines may have been quite common! Would not all of the trees be
taller, larger than today in the oxygen richer atmosphere?

== 3 of 6 ==
Date: Mon, Mar 17 2008 6:18 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


In general I don't think that the amount of carbon dioxide or oxygen was a limiting factor in tree or vegetation growth. The percentages in the atmosphere is small, but the volume of the atmosphere is large compared to the amount a particular tree is using at one time. The flow is continuous as the atmosphere moves. So there is no reason to think that a higher or lesser concentration of one particular atmospheric component would have affected growth. It doesn't matter if you have more or less of something if the excess is all more than you can use anyway.


== 4 of 6 ==
Date: Mon, Mar 17 2008 7:19 pm
From: Andrew Joslin

Or maybe taller now in the more "carbon rich" atmosphere? And the
warmer climate trend could move the 200+ ft. potential further north?
Except that erratic weather and stronger storms predicted with
climate change could keep breaking the tops off and further limit
height in the east. Seems like this is starting to happen in the PNW
the last couple of winters.

Andrew Joslin
Jamaica Plain, MA

== 5 of 6 ==
Date: Mon, Mar 17 2008 6:38 pm

Early on in this discussion (200' +), I mused on whether the current limit we find isn't due to the shorter (post-settlement harvesting) trees around them...if you're supposition were correct, it stands to reason that all trees may have been taller, receiving protection from taller adjacent trees...


== 6 of 6 ==
Date: Mon, Mar 17 2008 6:39 pm


Great question. I hope Lee will weigh in on this one. Ozone pollution definitely has a negative impact on growth, but to what extend we can project back into time impacts and predict what might have been, I don't know.


TOPIC: New England Pine Heights

== 1 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Mar 18 2008 8:54 am
From: "Lee E. Frelich"

Bob et al.:

If anything, trees would be getting taller now (at least in seepage areas
where water is not limiting) because of a longer growing season, so that's
an indirect impact of higher CO2. Areas with chronically high ozone might
see a reduction in white pine growth, but that impact could be minimized on
really good sites with good water supply. Also, human caused ozone is not
everywhere, and there were and are episodes of high natural ozone.

Someone made a comment about oxygen rich atmosphere, and there would
definitely not be an impact from that, since we still have the same O2
levels we had before the population explosion of humans, and plants don't
use O2 anyway, O2 is a waste product for them.

I don't think white pine ever attained 200 foot heights in New England. It
rarely gets that tall in the Smokies, which has the best growing
environments for every species of tree that occurs there. The pines in the
original forest used for masts grew during the little ice age when the
climate of New England was as cold as Minnesota is today.

Regarding masts, very tall masts of 200 feet were exceptionally rare, and a
high price was paid for them. Only a small fraction of ships (flagships of
naval fleets) had masts that tall. Most of these were apparently 'Riga
pine', which was Scot's pine from the Ukraine. The vast majority of ships
were of smaller dimensions with shorter masts. Also, many masts were made
of two pieces of wood, especially during the 1800s, when the Riga pine had
been depleted.


== 2 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Mar 18 2008 8:31 am


Thanks. Also, would you mind saying a few words for our new members about units of measure? Do we know when the inch and foot became standardized at their current lengths in America? I read accounts of how the foot and inch were often defined by township in England, that King Henry's foot may have been used as a standard, that 12 thumbs was more likely the basis for the foot, etc. I presume the English Navy has a more exacting standard, but who knows when it was applied in the Colonies.


== 3 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Mar 18 2008 10:21 am
From: "Lee E. Frelich"


The inch and foot became standard in the U.S. about 1866, when the metric
act was passed. There were a lot of foot measures in the old days,
including 12 thumbs (using the average width of thumbs from a small,
average and large man in the nearest village), the natural foot, about 9.5
modern inches, etc. Several hundred years ago, an official foot that was
close to the modern foot was inscribed in St.Pauls Cathedral in London, but
I doubt that many people in the U.S. colonies worried much about whether
their feet matched that one.

The fact that there is disagreement on how tall existing trees are today,
when we have exact world-wide standards for all units of
measurement, throws a lot of doubt on past measurements of trees. Who was
the Bob Leverett of the 1700s and 1800s, who went around and challenged
people on their tree height measurements? I have not heard of any such person.


== 4 of 4 ==
Date: Tues, Mar 18 2008 10:00 am
From: James Parton

Lee & Bob,

Yes, Will explained to me once that units of measure were often
different in days long past. That may explain 260ft tall White Pines
and 17ft diameter American Chestnuts.


TOPIC: New England Pine Heights

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Wed, Mar 19 2008 2:25 pm


I have a feeling that had an incarnation of Will or myself been loose during colonial times, riding herd on those who might mismeasure trees, that incarnation wouldn't have lived long. We would have been hung from a tall white pine.