Flat Top Mountain cove, GA   ecri-@juno.com
  Jun 30, 2005 08:16 PDT 

The appropriately named Flat Top Mountain rises to approximately 3720' in
the southeastern part of the Cohutta Mountains in northcentral Georgia.
The level area on top of the mountain was large enough to support a small
community at one time, but the slopes on all sides drop away steeply.
Those features may in part account for the fact that the highest recorded
annual rainfall recorded in Georgia occurred on the mountain, slightly
over 100". That climate and metasedimentary bedrock contribute to the
rich coves that occur on the north side of the mountain. Among those
coves, botanists have recognized Devilsden Branch as an exceptional
botanical site for decades. Another unnamed cove on the north side of
the mountain between Williamson Cove and Postelle Creek may also warrant
some superlatives. Second-growth constitute most of the canopy
throughout the cove, but basswood, white ash, black cherry, northern red
oak, and yellow buckeye are also common. Yellowwood occurs in the
midstory, and much of the area has an unusually dense understory. An
exceptional amount of paw paw mixed with some spicebush forms the
understory in the upper part of the stand giving way to pure spicebush in
the lower reaches. As expected from the composition of the woody layers,
the stand features a diverse herbaceous layer. Unusually widespread pale
jewel weed and sweet cicely associate with foam flower, black cohosh,
blue cohosh, may apple, violets, wild ginger, and other species.

In the middle of the cove at around 2700' elevation, an unusual level
area, perhaps three acres in extent, supports an exceptional stand of
tuliptrees. Not a single individual of another species reaches the
canopy, but a few small basswoods and yellowwoods do pierce the
continuous cover of spicebush on the base of the stand. The composition
of the stand reminds one of old field sites in Smokies, but this stand
presents a much different appeared due to the crown structure of the
tuliptrees, sometimes entirely folded over and consistently asymmetrical.
Those features and bark characteristics suggest the stand originated
about 125 years ago, older than the surrounding forest, but little
thinning has occurred. Consequently, the crowns remain narrow and most
trees in the stands interior only have circumferences of six or seven
feet, although trees around the stands edge probably reach 10 to 11' cbh.
Trees reach much more impressive heights than circumferences with any
tree under about 140' being overtopped and likely dying. The stand
likely contains over a dozen tuliptrees that exceed 150' tall, as many as
have thus far been found in Georgia, and some could exceed the current
state height record of 159'. Due to the high density, basal area
probably around 200 ft^2 per acre, and the great height, this stand may
contain the greatest biomass per unit area of any stand in north Georgia.
The hardwoods in Sosbee Cove might only be slightly lower, and white
pine stands in the Chattooga watershed may be able to reach similar
biomass densities; however, neither likely equals this stand at this

All of the trees listed below grow on the younger, more steeply sloped
parts of the cove with the exception of the two tallest tuliptrees. One
basswood from the stand with, whitish undersides to the leaves, keyed out
as American basswood, but range maps due not show that species as
occurring in the area. Black cherry also reaches approximately 125' in
the cove. The taller basswood is the second tallest of the genus
confirmed in Georgia, and the white ash represents a new state height

Species                 Cbh        Height
Ash, White              7'7"        137.4'
Basswood, ?           6'7.5"      126.5'
Basswood, ?           4'3"         131.3'
Birch, Black            6'6"         100.3'
Buckeye, Yellow     7'4"         115.5'
Buckeye, Yellow     9'0'         ~121.4'
Hickory, Bitternut   NA            100.6'
Hickory, Bitternut   5'10"         102.4'
Oak, N. Red           7'2"          123.4'
Tuliptree                NA           132.7'
Tuliptree                7'2"         139.0'
Tuliptree                4'2"        ~143'        108:1 HDR
Tuliptree                NA           150.9'
Yellowwood            5'1"          NA

Jess Riddle