Colby's 130 club   Colby Rucker
 Friday, June 21, 2002 1:32 AM

So that 62 foot error on a white oak did get your attention! Of course,
we've come across some surprisingly tall trees of various species, so I
always hesitate to say that any reported height is impossible, but various
factors often point to the likelihood of serious errors.

The new Md. champion white oak is said to be 22-4 x 102 x 83, which looks
perfectly reasonable at first glance. We also read that it's 25 feet from a
farmhouse built in 1820. I'd expect an old farmhouse to be on a high flat
piece of ground, with no advantageous topographical or competition
influences. Fallen limbs yielded seven cords of wood, so it's heavy limbed.
The trunk is decayed and leans from the house, but the tree hasn't blown
over. From that, I'd guess the big trunk is short, with a low,
heavy-limbed canopy. Therefore, I'm skeptical about the 102 height.

I recall my father talking about warships. There were three factors:
firepower, speed, and armor. You could have any two, but not all three.
Cruisers and battleships had firepower, but the cruiser traded armor for
speed, etc. The same approach can be applied to trees. The tree can devote
its energies to height, spread or girth, but it usually can't have all
three. Tuliptrees grown in the open can have a trunk four or five feet
thick, and a ninety foot spread, but the height will be fairly constant at
114, with multiple arching down to twig scale all across the top.

Forest-grown white oaks, like northern reds, can have handsome broad tops
dominating a good chunk of woodland atop a big clear trunk, but the height
will be around 98-111, and that's it. Any twig that gets up above his
companions will develop side branches, moderating upward growth, while his
slender neighbors are forced up, and an even top is maintained. With so
many twig ends, the energies of the tree go in many directions, least of all

That 200 foot Alabama basket oak was doubtful, not just because no hardwood
had ever broken the c2 barrier, but because it supposedly had a 148 foot
spread. With that much spread, the tree would have had little competition,
and no reason (or sufficient concentration of energy) to strive for height.

The big white pines on our list are all surprisingly similar, or at least
consistent with the warship example. Within the productive life of the tree
it can lay down a certain number of board feet, either short and fat, or
long and skinny. The one factor that's needed to do better than average is
environment. Chase Creek and Mohawk Trail don't get eighty inches of
rainfall, but soil and exposure can be a big advantage.

Of the tallest ten species at Chase Creek, eight come from site 1, which has
northern or eastern exposures. The soils are shared with glade fern,
maidenhair fern, broad beechfern, Collinsonia, pawpaw, spicebush, black
snakeroot, mayapple, bloodroot, etc. Add what may be the steepest terrain
on the Maryland coastal plain, and you've got a cove hardwoods growing
machine, to use your MTSF phrase.

So, again, things come down to logic and consistency in the numbers. That's
where my title for this e-mail comes in - "130 club." A couple of months
ago I thought CC had a chance to catch MTSF if I could get a better read on
a mid-slope black oak after two years of growth. About then you came up
with another winner, and MTSF went to 130.80, just behind Belt at 130.97.
Cook had 130.03, leaving CC back at 129.48.

Two days ago I walked over to site 1, and ended up at an east-facing terrace
that had oaks and some decent tuliptrees instead of all chestnut oak and
scarlet oak. A small ravine flanked the terrace, and a low slope site on
the north facing side had lots of pawpaw, black snakeroot, etc. An old
black oak on this site was 10' 2.5" cbh. It was impossible to see anything
through the pawpaws, so I ran the pole to 19-9.5, which set up a clean total
height of 135.6'.

The black oak is shorter than that Belt Woods giant that went 143.4, but
taller than the next best at Belt, or anywhere else in the east. Like most
black oaks, the form is more heavy-handed than symmetrical, but it's tall.
That brings Chase Creek black oaks up 7.1 feet for a big ten average of
130.19. That's only third place in the 130 club, with very little chance of
catching MTSF, but it's select company. Most importantly, the matter of
location, location, location holds true, with exposure and indicator species
right on the mark.

I've always thought that our numbers are more than just a fishing contest.
Almost everything we're doing is breaking new ground, but I think we're
starting to see some scientific insights from the numbers. What seems to be
needed is to record more data regarding soils, exposures, indicator species,
etc. This suggests that the sites of many of our old records need to be
revisited, and forest profiles created. I'm not sure how much more data is
needed, but any additional information would allow our numbers to be
evaluated in a more useful context. Creating detailed forest profiles can
be a big order, but I think Jess shows much promise in this direction.

Enough chatter for now.