Atlanta Trees
   Aug 17, 2005 14:32 PDT 

While Atlanta sprawls over literally hundreds of square miles, many small
parks remain scattered around the downtown area, often dating from the
early 20th century. Not surprising, those parks offer an opportunity to
view mature individuals of an interesting mix of both native and exotic
species in not only open but also forest settings. Now among the best
known of those parks, Piedmont Park began in 1887 as a horse racing
venue, and continues to host a wide variety of public events. Extensive
maintained grassy areas, with scattered trees, occupy most of the park's
189 acres. Some of the trees appear to have been planted as the grounds
were cleared and altered while the form of other trees indicates they
once belonged to the forest that formerly occupied the site. Water oak,
most showing an entirely open-grown form, is likely the most common
species in the park, but tuliptrees, white oaks and pin oaks are also
prominent features of the landscape. (Information from )

30 acres of the park also host the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The Garden
has partitioned that area into 15 acres of mature hardwood forest and 15
acres of maintained and developed grounds. The orchid house now serves
as the largest draw to the maintained section of the gardens. The
building employs a unique humidifier system to support flora from cloud
forests in the Andes, the Lost World region of Venezuela, and high
elevations in Borneo. Outside that building, an intricate train display
incorporating many natural materials and plants from the temperate
regions of the world capture visitors' attention. Among those, deciduous
trees from Asia of familiar genera, such as Styrax (snowbell) and Cornus
(Dogwood) provide an interesting blend of the commonplace and the exotic.
In particular, Giant Dogwood (Cornus controversa) closely resembles our
alternate-leaf dogwood (Cornus alternafolia). The Japanese and Korean
species has alternate, elliptical, entire leaves and distinctive tiered
branches as does the native species, but differs in having leaves broader
in proportion to their length, and far less green on the twigs and
branches. The Asian species also dwarfs its North American cousin; the
individual at the botanical gardens has reached well over a foot in
diameter in only about 25 years.

In contrast to the well cared for and pleasant main grounds, the wooded
section of the property, known as Storza Woods, has been neglected and
abused. The fence that runs around the property and the various human
trash and filth scattered about make one want to frequently look over
their shoulder. The smaller flora of the forest has been similarly
trashed; four of the most destructive exotic vines now spreading through
the southeast, english ivy, japanese honeysuckle, chinese wisteria, and
kudzu, all occupy areas of the forest. Sugar maple, not native to the
Georgia piedmont physiographic province, has invaded the understory, and
the herbaceous layer is a patchy, and bewildering hodgepodge of long
distance travelers.
However, in spite of the genera degradation, the forest canopy is
exemplary for the region. Without any swamps or rugged topography to
slow development, the piedmont of the southeast was quickly stripped of
most of its forest, and agriculture proceeded to strip the topsoil off
vast areas. Yet, Storza Woods has a canopy of approximately 150 year old
hardwoods that suggest the site contains more productive soils than found
in the larger park system along the nearby Chattahoochee River.
Tuliptree dominates the canopy, but several species of oak, sweetgum,
and, at the lower edge of the site, beech and sycamore mix in the canopy.
The understory of primarily american elm and sugarberry also suggest a
relatively rich site. The fertility of the site does not result from
alluvial deposition, but rather seems a consequence of the bedrock and
disturbance history of the area.

Species                        Cbh        Height        Location         
Beech, American          NA        104.6'        Storza Woods
Cedar, Deodar              11'0"      87.9'          Piedmont Park
Dogwood, Flowering   5'2.5"     36.5'          Piedmont Park       
Circumference at 2'
Ginkgo                         13'10.5" 87.3'          High Museum of Art
Circumference at 3'
Hickory, Mockernut    NA        103.5'+      Storza Woods
Lime, Littleleaf             9'10"      66.7'         Piedmont Park      
Tilia contorta (a basswood)
Oak, Northern Red       NA        110'+        Storza Woods
Oak, Pin                       14'1"       92.3'         Piedmont Park   
    104' long spread
Oak, Post                     4'10"       98.1'         Storza Woods     
    Establishes state height record
Oak, Southern Red       NA        108.1'        Storza Woods
Oak, Southern Red       NA        108.8'        Storza Woods
Oak, Water                   NA        94.3'+        Storza Woods
Oak, White                   12'9"     112.9'         Yonah Park
Oak, White                   NA        123.4'         Storza Woods
Paulownia                     13'1"      NA           Atlanta Botanical
Garden   Circumference @ ~3.5'
Pine, Loblolly               NA        118.6'        Storza Woods
Sweetgum                     11'10"    NA            Piedmont Park
Sweetgum                     7'4"        124.7'        Storza Woods
Sycamore                      NA        89.5'          Piedmont Park
Tuliptree                      15'0"      NA            Storza Woods
Tuliptree                      NA        127.1'        Storza Woods
Tuliptree                      12'9"      130.3'        Yonah Park
Tuliptree                      NA        136.6'        Storza Woods
Tuliptree                      NA        ~142.2'       Storza Woods

Storza Woods Rucker Index
Tuliptree        142.2'
Sweetgum       124.7'
White Oak      123.4'
Loblolly Pine 118.6'
N. Red Oak    ~115'
S. Red Oak    108.8'
Mockernut    ~105'
Beech             104.6'
Post Oak        98.1'
Water Oak     ~98
Total              ~113.8'

A handful of other tuliptrees in Storza Woods likely exceed 140', and one
may reach 150'. These are the greatest heights so far found for the
species in the Georgia piedmont. Similarly, southern red oak certainly
exeeds 110' at the site and may approach 120', taller than any individual
of the species so far identified in the state. Many of the canopy trees
at the site are eight to 10' cbh. The pin oak easily out-points the
current state champion; as would the paulownia.

Jess Riddle